George Behrakis at the Institute of Medical Research that he established in Boston. (Photo provided by Mr. Behrakis)
BOSTON – George Behrakis, prominent businessman and grand benefactor of the Metropolis of Boston, the Archdiocese, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek-American Community and society at large in the United States and in Greece, spoke to The National Herald on the occasion of the Centennial of the Archdiocese – and emphasized the need for “drastic changes.”
His immigrant parents and relatives who settled in Lowell, MA contributed in many ways to the creation of the Holy Trinity parish and its daytime Greek-American School, as well as to the Archdiocese.
Behrakis spoke about the possibility of an autonomous or semi-autonomous administrative system in the Archdiocese similar to the one in Crete. He also suggested organizing meetings-retreats in local areas throughout the United States in order to strategize about the future, placing the emphasis on the Youth.
In response to a request for his thoughts on the occasion of the Centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Behrakis said, “we have to talk about the future and we need tremendous changes. The first one hundred years we made many strides in this country, but I think we need to continue making strides. We have to take more, I would say, formative action with our families, the children. The last ten or twelve years Greek youth matters seem to be dragging rather than moving forward. We really need to sit down and discuss how can we really make some great strides about how to give back to the Church.”
Behrakis continued: “like everything else, we need to move into the 21st and 22nd century. This is 2022 and maybe we are living in 1960, so we need to make some drastic changes. The Synod needs to make some, I would say revolutionary type movements because if we don’t, we are headed for a semi-disaster in a sense that Christianity in America is really falling off. Not only us, but also the Catholics and the Protestants. I insist that we as Orthodox need to make some drastic changes.”
Behrakis elaborated by saying, “the youth, the School of Theology is very important. We need to look at students who are willing to go not only to Hellenic College but also to the School of Theology. We need to bring in young, talented, intelligent theologians to come to the School and improve the system. One hundred years we struggled, because the first twenty, forty years we were immigrants coming from Greece, now we are in the third and fourth generations and changes need to be made. Our grandfathers and fathers fought for Orthodoxy along with the priests, along with the archbishops, along with the bishops. I grew up when Archbishop Iakovos was a leader and my whole family and the people were very impressed with him. I am from Lowell, MA and we have made many strives, but we need to improve Sunday Schools.”
Speaking about the contribution of his parents and ancestors to the Archdiocese, Behrakis said, “I remember as young man my parents talking about people giving their rings, their watches to build the church. They gave of themselves even though they worked at the mills and they all gave not only money but they gave their valuable things, as I said, to build the church and the school. Fortunately, we have a Hellenic American School in Lowell, one of the oldest, but changes need to be made. We need to strategize, to have meetings, to get together to decide how can we really improve and get the youth involved.”
Asked if the Clergy-Laity Congress is it not the forum for addressing such matters, he said “no, there must be separate retreats locally to sit down and strategize.” He added that, “the West Coast is different from the East Coast and the East is different from the South, and eventually the Metropolitans will all get together in a synod and try to put their heads together.”
When we asked if he is pleased with what was accomplished in one hundred years, Behrakis responded, “I would say that what we have done as a small minority in this country. Our grandparents and parents struggled and they brought the Faith and the Church to a different level, but we cannot flatten or plateau – we need to improve it annually and keep improving. Once we lose our youth, we lose our Church and the future. How can we discuss the Church with the teenagers, with the parents about bringing them to church.”
Asked if he strongly supports the Metropolis of Boston Camp in New Hampshire, Behrakis said, “absolutely! The young people get together, they meet each other from different parts of New England, which is important because they never lose those friendships. They will communicate for life and some of them may marry.”
The final question was about how he envisioned the next one hundred years of the Archdiocese, and Behrakis reiterated that, “if we don’t make drastic changes we will find ourselves in trouble in the next twenty five to fifty years. Regarding the administrative structure of the Archdiocese, I would like to see some kind of autonomous or semiautonomous system similar to Crete which I will support. Not to get away from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but at the same time to be autonomous to decide our administrative issues locally will still having our spiritual connection with to the Patriarchate.”
Biography of George D. Behrakis
George D. Behrakis has been an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, for 32 years. His service to the Mother Church and its Eparchy in America is as extensive as it is distinguished. He has served as president of his home parish of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Lowell, MA. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; was vice chairman of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology; chairman of Leadership 100, a founder of Faith Endowment, and was the force behind the establishment of the of the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center, and Metropolis of Boston Camp and Retreat Center in New Hampshire.
Among Behrakis’ generous philanthropic gifts are the $25 million George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Greek and Roman Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the George D. Behrakis Chair in the Field of Targeted Pharmaceuticals at Northeastern University. He has funded the George D. Behrakis Hellenic Fellowship in Respiratory Allergy at the John Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center and has also established the Behrakis Fellowship in cardiovascular research supporting Greek physicians from Greece at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Behrakis and his wife Margo of fifty years, reside in North Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The couple has four married children, Drake married to Maria, Joanna married to Peter, Stephanie married to Thanasi, and Elena married to David, and nine grandchildren: George, Zoe, and Demetri; Christian and Marissa; Margo and Constantine; and Sebastian and Kaliope.
After several years of renovations and pandemic restrictions, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew returned to the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trabzon, Turkey, on Monday, August 16, 2022, for the Feast Day of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
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