Thoughts and Suggestions of George Behrakis on the Centenary of the Archdiocese

BOSTON — George Behrakis, a prominent businessman and great benefactor to metropolitan Boston, the archdiocese, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek-American community and society at large in the United States and Greece, is addressed to the National Herald on the occasion of the Centenary of the Archdiocese – and underlined the need for “drastic changes”.

His immigrant parents and relatives who settled in Lowell, MA contributed in many ways to the establishment of Holy Trinity Parish and its Greek-American Day School, as well as the Archdiocese.

Behrakis spoke of the possibility of an autonomous or semi-autonomous administrative system in the archdiocese similar to that of Crete. He also suggested holding retreats in local areas across the United States to strategize for the future, with a focus on youth.

George Behrakis during his visit to Trikala, Greece, promoting his anti-tobacco campaign in Greece focusing on children and young people. (Photo provided by Mr. Behrakis)

Responding to a request for reflection on the occasion of the centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Behrakis said, “We need to talk about the future and we need significant change. In the first hundred years we have made a lot of progress in this country, but I think we have to keep moving forward. OWe need to take more, I would say, formative actions with our families, the children. Over the past ten or twelve years, Greek youth affairs seem to be dragging rather than advancing. We really need to sit down and discuss how we can really make big strides on how to give back to the Church.

Behrakis continued: “like everything else, we have to move on to 21st and 22ndn/a century. It’s 2022 and we may be living in 1960, so we need to make some drastic changes. The synod needs to make moves, I would say revolutionary type, because if we don’t we are heading for a semi-disaster in the sense that Christianity in America is really falling apart. Not only us, but also Catholics and Protestants. I insist that we as Orthodox must make drastic changes.

Behrakis clarified by saying: “the youth, the school of theology is very important. We have to look at students who are ready to go not only to Hellenic College, but also to the School of Theology. We must bring talented and intelligent young theologians to come to the School and improve the system. One hundred years we struggled, because the first twenty, forty years we were immigrants from Greece, now we are in the third and fourth generation and changes have to be made. Our grandfathers and our fathers fought for orthodoxy with the priests, with the archbishops, with the bishops. I grew up when Archbishop Iakovos was a ruler and all my family and people were very impressed with him. I am from Lowell, MA and we have made many efforts, but we need to improve Sunday schools.

George Behrakis addresses visitors to Hellenic Heritage Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
(Photo: TNH Archives/Theodore Kalmoukos)

Speaking about the contribution of his parents and ancestors to the Archdiocese, Behrakis said, “I remember as a young man my parents were talking about people giving their rings, their watches to build the church. even though they worked at the mills and they all gave not only money but they gave their precious possessions, as I said, to build the church and the school Luckily we have a Hellenic school American at Lowell, one of the oldest, but changes need to be made. We need to strategize, have meetings, get together to decide how we can really improve and involve young people.”

When asked if the Clergy-Laity Congress is not the forum to address such issues, he replied “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 come together in a synod and try to come to an agreement.”

When asked if he was satisfied with what had been achieved in a hundred years, Behrakis replied: “I would say that is what we have done as a small minority in this country. Our grandparents and our parents struggled and they took the Faith and the Church to a different level, but we can’t flatten or plateau – we have to improve it every year and keep improving. Once we lose our youth, we lose our Church and the future. How can we discuss the Church with teenagers, with parents to bring them to church. »

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis honored George Behrakis in Washington, DC for his many donations to the Greek Orthodox Church and Omogenia in America, as well as his anti-tobacco campaign in Greece.
(Photo by Dimitris Papamitsos/Eurokinissi)

When asked if he was a strong supporter of the Metropolis of Boston Camp in New Hampshire, Behrakis replied, “Absolutely! Young people come together, they meet 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 last question was how he envisioned the next 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 semi-autonomous system similar to Crete which I will support. Not moving away from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but at the same time being autonomous to decide our administrative issues locally will always have our spiritual connection with the Patriarchate.

Biography of George D. Behrakis

The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Athens awarded George Behrakis an honorary doctorate.
(Photo: TNH Archive)

George D. Behrakis has been Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, for 32 years. His service to the Mother Church and her eparchy in America is as extensive as it is distinguished. He served as president of his home parish of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; was Vice President of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology; president of Leadership 100, founder of Faith Endowment, and was the force behind the establishment of the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center and the 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, Boston and the George D. Behrakis Chair in Targeted Pharmaceuticals at Northeastern University. He funded the George D. Behrakis Hellenic Fellowship in Respiratory Allergy at the John Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center and also established the Behrakis Fellowship in Cardiovascular Research to support Greek physicians in Greece at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Behrakis and his fifty-year-old wife Margo reside in North Tewksbury, Massachusetts. The couple have 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.

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