I had written in the past about the subject of parishes that this analysis deals with, because the parishes are the basic and essential foundation of the ecclesial and, for the most part, community life of Greek-Americans.
The reason that I revisit it today is because of the painful events that are unfolding at the historic parish of Holy Trinity in Chicago, which was the fruit of the labor of the faith and ethnic consciousness of the early Greek immigrants 121 years ago.
The Church nave, the Socrates school’s building and the entire complex will be taken by the bank on December 14, 2018, just days before the great feast of Christmas.
A study of the history of the Greek-American community reveals that when the early Greek immigrants arrived in the United States they did something basic but essential: they established ecclesiastical parishes – communities that became the centers of their lives.
Many communities began as Hellenic cultural societies or Greek schools, and gradually developed into parishes, with organizers bringing in priests from Greece for a few months at a time, paying them nominal compensation in exchange for liturgizing on Sundays, performing Holy Week Services, and conducting the sacraments. Those priests who stayed here permanently had to get jobs in factories and other places, because they could not live on the meager amounts the parishes were able to afford. The process of establishing a parish was as follows: a group of faithful, dedicated laypersons created a committee to create a parish, communicated with the Archdiocese or its local representative, and proceeded with the ecclesial formation of a parish, which is actually a local church.
That same process is followed today, except once the parish is established, the local metropolitan or the archbishop blesses the new congregation and immediately asks the new parish to join in paying an annual allocation to the Archdiocese. It is a franchise mentality, as if it were McDonald’s or Starbucks.
Far from actually helping parishes in need, the Archdiocese or Metropolis does the opposite: they seek these payments from the parishes, perpetuating the myth of “ministries,” and do not even ask the parish if it is in a financial position to afford it. They have established a mindset that parishes are obligated to pay this annual tax, which is increased just about every year, all in the Holy name of Christ, but actually to perpetuate the hierarchs’ lavish lifestyles.
Rather than being grateful, in many instances certain hierarchs embarrass the laity with despotic, bullying behavior. I wonder how many current bishops could actually make it as priests in the parishes.
When parishes finally reach the point at which they tell the Metropolis they can pay no more, that’s when the threats begin: “We are going to remove your priest, we won’t issue permits for your weddings, we won’t validate your elections,” etc.
Well fine, let the Metropolis recall the priest, but then pay it should pay his salary and his benefits. And let the metropolis invalidate the parish council. It is that invalid parish council that sends the checks to the Archdiocese every month.
What these hierarchs don’t get is that they work for the Body of the Laity, which is the Church. It is as simple as that.
Attention! The naves are empty. We are losing our people. The young men and women turn their back and leave. Death is near and the process is unfortunately beginning in Chicago, at the historic parish of the Holy Trinity. It is a very sad sign in this case as well of a total lack of leadership on Archdiocesan and Metropolis level.
The new Metropolitan Nathanael has not even completed one year of archpastoral ministry at the Chicago Metropolis. He inherited the situation. It is true that he is trying to effect a rejuvenation, but unfortunately the case of Holy Trinity destroys his image. Things shouldn’t come to the point of repossession of the nave and other buildings. Our pioneer Greek immigrants will be turning in their graves.
Regarding any help from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, these things are of no interest to them. It recognizes privileges but not responsibilities. And now, somehow, Archbishop Demetrios has become some sort of acting Patriarch, as was exhibited recently by the meeting in Geneva.
From the moment The National Herald published the drama of the Holy Trinity parish of Chicago, soon to be shuttered by the bank, we have received and continue to receive hundreds of telephone calls and messages from all over the U.S. along with many expressions of fear that Holy Trinity is not the only parish which is bankrupt and will be taken by the banks – others will follow. I hope and pray that doesn’t happen.