Spring Archdiocesan Council Meeting Convened
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened the Spring Meeting of the Archdiocesan Council on April 28, 2022. The meeting, held virtually, began with remarks by His Eminence, who discussed the Hundred Year Anniversary of the Archdiocese and the many planned activities including His Archpastoral visits to Metropolises across the country. A highlight of the Centennial that will be conducted as part of the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress is the consecration of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero on the Fourth of July. His Eminence also highlighted the service of the Co-Chairs of the Clergy-Laity Congress, Chrysanthy Tsakopoulos Demos and Nick Karacostas, as well at Argyris Vassiliou, the former Chair of Leadership 100, who is chairing the overall Centennial Anniversary activities. Commenting on the Charter, His Eminence indicated that the Mother Church decided to place the Charter in abeyance while allowing the Archdiocese to proceed as before until the new Charter is granted. There will be a thorough and comprehensive discussion at the Clergy-Laity Congress about the Charter with the expectation that a final proposal would not be available for consideration until the 2024 Clergy-Laity Congress. His Eminence also welcomed the new Chancellor of the Archdiocese, V. Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, and highlighted that one of his important responsibilities will be to elevate the National Ministries to be able to serve all our parishes across the Archdiocese. Lastly, His Eminence commented on the positive developments regarding fundraising for the new St. Michael’s Home, the only one of its kind in our Archdiocese, and the progress made at Hellenic College Holy Cross in achieving financial stability.
Treasurer Elaine Allen presented on the finances of the Archdiocese for 2021 indicating that this was the fourth consecutive year where revenues exceeded expenses and the budget had been met. The financial condition of the Archdiocese continues to improve as she shared that the liquidity of the Archdiocese was $8.7 million in 2021, up from $4.6 million in the previous year and a positive swing of almost $12 million from 2017, when the Archdiocese was illiquid by $3.3 million. She highlighted the strong contributions from the parishes under the Total Commitment program that exceeded budget and the transformative impact of large bequests that the Archdiocese was fortunate to receive in 2021. The Archdiocese continues to meet its obligations in a timely manner and has provided the funding to the Clergymen and Lay Employees Pension Plan as committed to during the Clergy-Laity Congress of 2020. Ms. Allen also commented on the first quarter of 2022 financial results which continue the positive trend seen in 2021. She attributed the strong financial results to strong leadership, planning, fundraising, cost controls, financial oversight and monitoring. Chair of the Audit Committee Maria Stefanis presented her report stating that the audit had been completed and was issued by our auditors, BDO, at the earliest date in recent history. Demonstrating the Archdiocese’s commitment to best practices in financial controls, the auditors had no recommendations for improvements in internal controls or business processes.
Mr. Lazaros Kircos, Chairman of the Finance Committee, reviewed the proposed 2023 and 2024 Archdiocesan budgets in detail, after which motions were made to approve both budgets and present them for adoption by the delegates of the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress. These budgets adhere to the core principles of balanced budgets that include realistic revenue projections, priority funding of Hellenic College Holy Cross and the Pension Plan and controlled expense funding. The Total Commitment revenue from parishes in the 2023 and 2024 budgets has been increased by 2.5% and 2%, respectively, and is at levels significantly below anticipated inflation. A third motion was made recommending that the benefits funding by parishes to the Pension Plan remain flat in 2023 and that funding for 2024 to be reviewed and determined at a future date.
Mr. Dennis Mehiel, Chairman of Friends of St. Nicholas, provided an update on the progress of the completion of construction of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, plans for installation of the iconography and having St. Nicholas ready for the consecration services. He also commented on the goal of raising additional funds to serve as an endowment for the future financial needs of the parish and Shrine.
The newly appointed Chancellor, V. Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, discussed the plans for the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress and the agenda that will be distributed to all parishes.
President of Hellenic College Holy Cross, Mr. George Cantonis, offered his report stating that he has focused on three key building blocks – finances, accreditation, and academics. Regarding finance, the School is more secure than at any time in recent history. He stated that debt has been reduced from almost $20 million four years ago to less than $5 million, with no sale of assets. $5.3 million of that reduction was due to a generous donation from Mr. Michael Huffington, a matching grant from the Archdiocese from the bequest received from Suzanne Mados and with assistance from Connie and Charles Cotros. In addition, financial management systems and budgeting processes are in place. Mr. Cantonis also stated that fundraising plans are progressing. With respect to accreditation, the School’s probationary status with an accrediting agency was eliminated and preparations are in place for a 10 year self-study. Regarding academics, a learning management system has been put in place to align with the increasing importance of on-line learning and he also reported that the Malliotis Cultural Center has been transformed into a vibrant venue hosting major exhibitions and events. In closing his report, Mr. Cantonis stressed the importance of introducing the School to prospective students across the county to increase enrollment which is vital to our Church.
The Director of St. Michael’s Home, Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, discussed the progress of the St. Michael’s Home expansion project and move to a newly renovated facility estimated to cost $48 million of which $39 million has been contributed or pledged. His Grace announced a historical $15 million grant through the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and other grants from the Archdiocese and Leadership 100 that are pivotal in providing the funding needed for the successful completion of the Home. The new Home will be a continuum care facility and is anticipated to open in early 2024.
Legal Counsel George Tsougarakis provided a report on the updated Sexual Misconduct Policy instituted in March which can be found on the Archdiocese’s website.
Remarks were also offered by Secretary of the Archdiocesan Council Honorable Judge Theodore Bozonelis; Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council John Catsimatides; Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Charter Michael Psaros; Rev. Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne and Archiepiscopal Vicar of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine Andreas Vithoulkas and Chairman of the Centennial Celebration Committee Argyris Vassiliou.
The meeting closed with a reminder for parishes to select their delegates for the Clergy-Laity Congress and register online at www.clergylaity.org.