by Aphrodite Kotrotsios, Publisher

This September, I had the opportunity to visit St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, NJ. Rev. Protopresbyter Father Bill Gikas is the priest of St. Nicholas and is now in his seventh year at the parish.  Prior to St. Nicholas, he served at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Hamilton, NJ.

Father Bill shared with the HNA all of St. Nicholas’ exciting initiatives.  “Here at St. Nicholas, we are trying to cater to the next generation, the millennials, and also to those who have not yet been transmitted to faith.  We have initiated new ministries like our Sharing and Caring group for those who grieve, a Young Adults Emerging group, a Men’s Reading Fellowship and a Woman’s Reading Fellowship.  We are constantly curating to meet the needs of our parishioners, we want to know what they are interested in order to bring them back to the church.  It is a very big challenge.  Language is not the big challenge anymore.  The millennial is the biggest challenge,” said Father Bill.

St. Nicholas also has a very active Greek School, with approximately 120 kids.  Their newest endeavor, thanks to AHEPA, includes a Greek School for adults who want to learn Greek.  “We have about 20 adult learners in this program,” shared Mr. Vogis.  Father Bill, as well as many members, are working hard on organizing ministries that will get all involved and active in their community.  St. Nicholas has over four hundred and ten faithful families that are members of the church.

“God loves you, come to him as you are. Don’t be a stranger and don’t be prevented from something you have done or from something someone has told you,” said Father Bill.

What caught my attention at the St. Nicholas Wyckoff Church was the beautiful Ekklisaki that was built and dedicated to all mother’s who have lost children just as the Theotokos lost her son.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The entire Ekklisaki was made out of mosaic stones.  The Ekklisaki was built in the 1980’s by two Italian artisans.  John Spilio outlined the iconography and Bruno Salvatore was the mosaicist.  Father Bill informed me that they have a Ladies Prayer Group that meets in the Ekklisaki twice a month that pray for the sick.

As we walked through the crowds of the festival, we were greeted by the lovely volunteers who dedicated their entire summer to making the festival a success.  Kalliope Melissas shared with us that she has been a parishioner of St. Nicholas for over fifty years.  She and her parents were founding members of the parish.  “I am a proud member of St. Nick’s.  Every year I am involved in the bakery.  We start in June and finish in September.  It requires our full dedication. Everything is homemade and baked on premises.  People keep coming back for our delicious mbougatsa and koulourakia,” said Mrs. Melissas.

Mr. Vogis stated “As you know, we do a lot of charity work and this is one of those programs where we encourage our parishioners to get involved and volunteer so we can pass this beautiful program on to the next generation.  Festivals are in our DNA as Greeks. We are proud of each and every volunteer and thank them for the involvement.”

Ted Vittas, Youth Advisor to the Sons of Pericles, feels that many organizations are involved with the festival’s festivities.  Organizations involved include the Parish Council, AHEPA, Sons of Pericles, Daughters of Penelope and Philoptochos.  “This year, the Sons of Pericles are in charge of running the carnival games.  We have been voted one of the best events in Bergen County. We hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come.”