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United States

Archon Michael Psaros and the Rebuilding the Church of Saint Nicholas

September 13, 2023

BOSTON – The 22nd dark anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, on the twin towers of New York City, the product of extremist and fanatical religious beliefs of radical Islam, led to the death of approximately three thousand innocent and unsuspecting people and reduced the buildings to rubble, including the church of Saint Nicholas. Today, rebuilt as the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, it stands today as a magnificent bastion of the Church and the Greek-American community in America.

The small, humble church of Saint Nicholas, the work of pioneering Greek immigrants, especially the sailors who dropped anchor in the American metropolis city of New York, lighting the candle of their faith at the icon of their patron saint, Saint Nicholas, has been replaced today by a magnificent church, after more than twenty years of delays, obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks.

Michael Psaros with his wife Robin at the ‘lighting’ of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. (Photo: Michael Psaros)

The combination of strong faith in Orthodoxy and the magnitude of Greek philotimo once again worked its “miracle,” as cleverly characterized by the leader of the Saint Nicholas rebuilding effort, the prominent global entrepreneur Michael Psaros, a man devout and wholeheartedly dedicated to the highest and essential values of the Church and the Genos – the Hellenic nation.

Of course, many contributed to the realization of the ‘miracle’ of rebuilding Saint Nicholas, for which a special non-profit organization, Friends of Saint Nicholas, was established under the presidency of Dennis Mehiel, vice presidency of Michael Psaros and the participation of Father Alexander Karloutsos, John Catsimatidis, and others. However, Psaros bore the weight of continuous responsibility, which he still carries today even after the completion of the church, as he considers it a lifelong mission. Psaros dared to dream, but he also gave substance, flesh, and bones to the dream, moving from words and good intentions to action. That’s why he rightly boasts, as he stated in an interview with TNH on September 10, 2021:

“The National Shrine is our ‘American Parthenon’, the most visible symbol of Hellenism in the United States of America. The National Shrine is our American Aghia Sophia. It is a modern version of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople. As we all know, the Turkish government disregarded global opinion and its own history when it converted Aghia Sophia from a museum into a mosque. The National Shrine is the daughter of Aghia Sophia and will stand as a testimony not only to our living Holy Orthodoxy but also to America’s dedication to religious freedom. It will be a symbol of resistance against the forces of intolerance worldwide.

Greek-American Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Michael Psaros with his mother Mary Ann and his late father George Psaros. (Photo: Courtesy of the Psaros family)

“For future generations of Greek-Americans, it will be a living example of what we can achieve through prayer, faith, and the goal of elevating our Faith and Genos to unimaginable heights. The National Shrine is proof of what we can achieve with virtuous leadership, a capable organization, and vision. When the Greek-American Community is united and acts in the name of our Faith, we can accomplish anything. The National Shrine has been built to stand for thousands of years. Long after we are gone, the generations that follow will worship God within it, gaze upon the Justinian Cross on its dome, and feel pride in their predecessors.”

On another note, it’s worth emphasizing once again that Psaros played a crucial role in the financial purge of the Archdiocese, which had found itself in a state of dire financial crisis, even leading to virtual bankruptcy, to the point where it had to mortgage its twin office buildings in Manhattan to a bank with Greek-American interests in order to secure a seven-million-dollar loan.

Presiding priest of the St. Nicholas WTC community Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas and Friends of St. Nicholas Chairman Michael Psaros greet each other at the Ecumenical Prayer Service. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

And to call things by their proper name, as always, if it were not for this organization, Friends of Saint Nicholas, and Mr. Psaros nothing would have happened, and we would have lamented and complained about an incomplete project for a whole two decades, as if a ghost had haunted the building that caused so much pain and sorrow to the heart of the Greek Orthodox Church and our Greek-American Community in the United States, and beyond.

I must also emphasize that the Church of Saint Nicholas is also rightfully given the name ‘National Shrine’. While it is primarily and above all a Place of Worship of the Living God, just like all churches and their altars where the name of God is hymned, glorified, and worshipped, and where the faithful gather to become a Church, at the same time it is a point of reference for the entire American Nation, as it will remind them forever that it is a holy and sacred place, saturated with the blood and tears of three thousand ‘neo martyrs’. These were people who went to work in the morning to provide for their families’ food and survival but never returned.

U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy receiving a commemorative gift from Michael Psaros, left to right: Fr. Elias Villis, St. Nicholas Parish Council President Demetri Papacostas, Rep. McCarthy, Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas, and Psaros. (Photo: TNH/Christodoulos Athanasatos)

For this very reason, this sacred building is truly invaluable and cannot be measured in dollars, even if it amounts to many millions, because there are certain values in life that are “more precious than silver and gold.” Psaros took this value very seriously and devoted himself wholeheartedly because projects like these require soul. He truly invested his soul with all its consequences: donations, countless hours, personal on-site supervision, meetings, public relations, interviews, announcements, and keeping everyone informed about the progress of the work, down to the smallest details.

Vespers for the Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated on Monday evening, December 5, 2022.
(Photo by TNH/Christodoulos Athanasatos)

Psaros never refused to inform the vast Church and Greek-American community in America through interviews with The National Herald – in both Greek and English editions – about the progress of the fundraising and construction, which continued despite the adversities that eventually included even the emergence and threat of the coronavirus.

In the same interview, when we noted that “The National Herald has been following your tremendous efforts and three year-long hard work for the completion of Saint Nicholas,” and asked, “how did you manage to achieve this while handling all your significant responsibilities with your businesses, your travels, your family, your children, your social and church life?” Psaros replied: “Mr. Kalmoukos, one word, ministry. This was the most significant undertaking of responsibility in my life, beyond being a father, husband, son, and brother.”

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