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Fr. Romanos Karanos with Metropolitan Methodios of Boston in front of the entrance of the Annunciation’s nave in Brockton. (Photo provided by the Brockton parish)
BOSTON – Fr. Romanos Karanos, the presiding priest of the Annunciation parish in Brockton, MA, and also professor of ecclesiastical music at the Holy Cross School Theological School and Nicholas Babanikas, president of the Parish Council, spoke to The National Herald about the course to success and future of their historic parish.
Fr. Romanos, who has been pastoring at the parish for just about a year, said that “we have started the new year with great enthusiasm. The volunteers in the various ministries of our church are working tirelessly, our Ladies Philoptochos Society is offering significant philanthropic service, and our youth have started to reconnect with the community after the ‘hiatus’ that was caused by the pandemic. Our extremely successful festival of last September contributed to an already healthy financial condition. Also, in a few months the iconography of the church will be completed. In terms of the spiritual life of the parish, I am happy to see an increase in the number of congregants during Sunday services and a greater participation in the sacraments and the weekly Bible study sessions. In order to further enhance the spiritual life of our parishioners, we intend to organize pilgrimages throughout the country and in the Holy Land.”
Babanikas said that, “in the past, our community consisted of over 600 families. Due to the demographic changes in the area, the increase in mixed marriages, and the pandemic, we currently have about 350 families. Nevertheless, the Annunciation parish continues to be a dynamic, well-organized community with a multitude of activities and ministries for its members and the wider Brockton population.”
Regarding the financial condition of the parish, Babanikas noted that, “as Fr. Romanos said earlier, our financial situation is very healthy. Over the past seven years, our generous parishioners have made donations of over $750,000 for renovations and the beautification of our church, as well as $550,000 for our iconography project. The suggested stewardship amounts are $600 for families and $300 for individuals. However, a parishioner with limited financial capabilities can contribute the ‘two copper coins of the widow,’ which the Gospel tells us have a greater value.”
When we asked Fr. Romanos, what kind of questions about the Orthodox faith and the Orthodox Church he receives from people, especially from the youth, he said that, “we live in an age of utter spiritual confusion. The social media promote a type of person whose primary goal is the instant gratification of every kind of individual needs and desires and that ‘cancels’ people with different values and beliefs. This type is the opposite of the role model presented in the Gospel, which is the person who sacrifices his individual desires for the sake of others, in accordance with Christ’s divine example. I think that the existential agony of contemporary young adults can be summed up in one question: ‘Who is Christ, after all?’ The authentic answer to this question can be found only in the Orthodox Church.”
Regarding the Greek and Sunday Schools and other programs of the parish, Babanikas said “our Greek School currently has 14 students and our Sunday School has about 55 students. Our youth groups are very active, with several children serving in the altar and participating in GOYA, Hope, and Joy, the dance groups, and our basketball team. We have a robust musical ministry with beautiful chanting from our choir and chanters, as well as a vibrant OPA ministry, which serves our seniors. We are certainly still experiencing the negative side effects of the pandemic in this area of our community’s life. The numbers I mentioned are rather small in comparison with the past, but we are making an intense effort to see them rise, but especially to strengthen the bond of our children with the church.”
Fr. Romanos responded to question about the greatest challenge currently for the community, he said, “in my estimation, the greatest challenge for all the communities of our Archdiocese is the cultivation of a liturgical ethos. For our ancestors the church was the beginning, the center, and the end of every activity and every aspect of life. I believe this was true of the first immigrants who came from Greece. Today the average Greek Orthodox American has placed the church in a neglected corner of his life or views it as primarily an ethnic or social club. We have a tremendous responsibility as priests to re-evangelize our people, to remind them that in our churches and especially in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist they will find the Truth and the Life. Another significant challenge is our opening up to non-Greek Americans. We have a duty to proclaim everywhere that while we are proud of our ethnic and cultural heritage, we are not a closed club. We are the Church of Christ, in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek.”
When we asked what is the priesthood for him, he said: “The late Metropolitan Dionysios of Servia used to say that every time a priest serves the Divine Liturgy, he is judged, but the people are saved. St. Paul expresses the meaning of the priesthood when he writes: ‘I wish I could be condemned and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren.’ A friend of mine, also a priest, phrased it aptly when he warned me a few days before my ordination: ‘Be careful because God will give you an altar and a knife. With this knife you can either sacrifice others, so that you can live, or sacrifice yourself, so that the world may live.’ Self-sacrifice so that the world may live: that is the priesthood.”
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