The news that a total of ninety-five million dollars ($95,000,000) has been raised for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at New York's ‘Ground Zero’, of which $55 million was raised from January 2020 onwards, was most optimistic and hopeful news after the maelstrom and pain of the coronavirus that tormented us for a year and a half.
The credit for this feat belongs to the organization named Friends of Saint Nicholas, which, as is well known, has taken the responsibility of completing the Church of Saint Nicholas. And to put it bluntly, as always, if this organization had not been set up, and had not three pioneers and leaders – Michael Psaros, Dennis Mehiel, and Protopresbyter Alexander Karloutsos – taken the initiative, nothing would have happened, and we would be mourning and grieving over the construction of a church that remained incomplete for twenty years, a haunted building that so damaged and harmed the reputation of our Greek Orthodox Church and the Omogenia in the United States and beyond.
I must say that the call of Archbishop Elpidophoros from his speech during his enthronement almost two years ago, on Saturday, June 22, 2019, to which I refer once again, has been heeded.
Here is what he said, among other things: “It is our duty and our responsibility as Orthodox Christians – but also our obligation and commitment to God and His people – to complete and open the doors of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine as a witness and vision of what is best and what is beautiful in all people of faith and religious conviction. I assure you that my heart is ready and steadfast in this task as well.”
The collection of the required amount for the completion of the Church of Saint Nicholas is undoubtedly another sign of departure from the gray gloom and misfortune that had befallen the Church and our Greek-American Community in America. It proved once again what I emphasize often in my articles, that our Omogenia has inexhaustible strengths and capabilities, which with the appropriate clerical and lay leadership and vision are released and truly work miracles, as we are experiencing at this time with the reconstruction efforts for the Church of Saint Nicholas.
And a personal confession: I have not had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Mehiel in person, but as soon as I saw the names of Michael Psaros and Fr. Alexander Karloutsos associated with the organization, I said to myself that Saint Nicholas will finally be completed, and, in fact, quickly, as they represent ability and efficiency in everything they undertake.
And now, the vision is being realized despite the persistence of the stubbornness of some representatives of a pessimistic narrow-mindedness and pettiness, who are not absent from any society, and who in the end are forced into silence, because the facts speak their own language that cannot be disputed or doubted in any way. After all, what can one say when the work speaks for itself by its very presence?
Let me also say that the Church and Shrine of Saint Nicholas will be essentially and primarily a place of worship of the Living God, like all churches and their holy altars, in which the name of God is praised, glorified, and worshiped, and in which the People of God gather and become the Church, but it will also be a sign and a point of reference for the entire American Nation, as it will forever remind us that it is a holy and sacred place because it is watered with the blood and tears of three thousand ‘new martyrs,’ people who set out the morning of September 11 to go to work to feed and maintain their families, and never returned.
That is why the value of this sacred building is really priceless, and you do not count its value in dollars, even in the millions, because there are some values in life that are "more valuable than silver and gold." And this is exactly the value that the Friends of Saint Nicholas Organization took so seriously, and the people in charge of it made a gift of their souls, because such projects need a soul to be completed. And they really did give their souls