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Analysis: The Greek Festivals, and a Suggestion

We have entered Greek Festival season, and in every parish the festivals will continue through the summer to late September or early October.

It is a decades-long tradition that on the one hand provides tasty Greek food and fun for young and old alike, and on the other hand substantially contributes to the parishes’ economic support or, more aptly, their sustenance.

After all, is it a “common secret” that the parishes cannot make ends meet financially without the festivals. I am in a position to know that many parishes would have closed without them. I can testify about it in the New England area where I live and have firsthand knowledge about the situation, conditions, and persons in many parishes. We are talking about tragicomedies.

The festivals and all that goes with them are based on the parishioners’ philotimo and volunteering. The system is structured in such a way that most of the festival proceeds to go the obligatory contribution to the Archdiocese. From there, the proceeds go do the so-called ministries and to the Metropolises and all who comprise them.

This is the unacceptable reality, that many of those who lead lavish lifestyles – metropolitans, archimandrites, priests, Archdiocesan high-profile directors – do so from the efforts of the church, which means us, the laity, and yet they behave arrogantly and demandingly, acting as if we, the faithful, owe them something. They don’t think twice about the faithful volunteers who roast while slaving over the grills cooking souvlakia, lambs, and pork in order to make some money for the parishes.

It seems to me that we parishioners are the ones at fault because we do not demand financial audits and reduction of expenses for salaried church employees, including of course clergy of all ranks.
The money parishes give to the Archdiocese very much concern the parishioners, who pay everything with contributions, candles, and through donation trays during liturgy.

Week after week, the faithful are bombarded with constant begging from the Archdiocese, the metropolises, and the parishes to give more and more, to the point that they have grown sick and tired of it.
I vividly remember the 2014 Clergy Laity Congress Finance Committee meeting, during which delegates from New York asked why their allocation in their parish, St. Nicholas in Flushing, had increased by 40 percent even though the parish’s expenses had not increased. The Committee did not actual have an answer, and tried to pivot by blaming the diminishing of other parishes. The same problem occurred in other parishes, in the name of the well-portrayed myth of the “ministries.” These are tragicomedies that, little by little have begun to unravel.

Some parishes have resorted to taking on bank loans to pay their allocations to the Archdiocese. This is the bitter reality. And despite all of that, the Archdiocese is on the verge of bankruptcy nonetheless.

We are a church of Dionysism (the Ancient Greek god of wine) regarding the festivals. Our parishes have turned into Greek restaurants in order to survive. The parishes’ biggest expenses are priests’ salaries and benefits, and allocations. These absorb all the funds with virtually nothing left, not even to restore their buildings.

The clergy and lay employees of all ranks at the Archdiocese and metropolises sit in the comfort of their offices and from their computers, with everything paid by parishioners, increase the allocations, without asking anyone how and where the parishes and the people will find the money.

Some of them, including metropolitans, tell the parishioners instead of drinking a cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, to give that money to the parish. But why don’t they cut out their own expenses – pricey dinners, wines, luxury cars – and give that money to the Archdiocese instead?

The time has come for an “overthrow,” because we are on the verge of total collapse. The Archdiocese is begging a New York bank for a loan. My God, what a shame! Let every parish decide how much to give to the Archdiocese. Enough of this “ministries” myth, and all these years of wining and dining in the name of Christ and His Church.

The reality is that a system has been created to sustain the lifestyles of the ecclesiastical employees – clergy of all ranks and laity. So, let the parishes give what they can, and say: “take it or leave it, because we can do better things with our money.”

And if the local metropolitans begin threatening the parishes that “if you don’t pay a certain amount we will take your priest away,” the answer should be: “go ahead and take him, and then you pay his salary and benefits.” If 300 parishes give that answer, things will begin to turn around.

When the Church, meaning the People of God, realize that Archbishops metropolitans, chancellors, priests, and deacons, are essentially “employees” of the people (the laos), it is then that the big change will start: the cleansing of our Archdiocese, which was created with the blood and sweat of our pioneering Greek immigrants.

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