The Hellenic News of America visited Saint George the Cathedral of Philadelphia and talked Past President and Chairman of many fundraising events that contribute to the Greek Orthodox Church in the heart of Philadelphia.
The Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral is a historic Cathedral located in downtown Philadelphia, under the spiritual auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The original structure was built by the famous architect John Haviland in 1821, and served as an Episcopal Church for the first100 years of its existence. In 1922 the Church was acquired by the Greek Orthodox Community of Philadelphia for its own spiritual needs, and after only a few years, was elevated to the rank of the Cathedral, by Archbishop Athenagoras of North and South America, and later Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Cathedral of Saint George is the mother Church of all the seven surrounding newly established Greek Orthodox Communities in the greater Philadelphia area.
For the last 91 years, the Cathedral of Saint George has served not only the Greek-American members, but also the faithful members of the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions in the area, by providing an environment for Orthodox Christian worship, religious learning and Hellenic culture, where traditions are proudly cherished. Over the years the Cathedral’s ministries have grown to include various orders and societies, educational and cultural programs, and a senior living facility – all developed to cultivate fellowship in an Orthodox Christian community. However, the Cathedral’s most important role is the role it has assumed since the time of the Apostles: to belong to the body of Christ, and be a beacon of salvation, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the V. reverend Ambrose Bitziadis, Said.
Paul Kotrotsios: I understand now that October 4th is your big fundraising dinner where you are donating something that you already have in Aruba? What is the plan for the event and funding?
John Sarkioglou: I found someone to contribute a Time Share. Aruba is a beautiful island. It’s very safe. We’re trying to generate income to repair the Rectory, which is the Church offices. When Father moved in and we started making modifications to Father’s office, we found out we do not have enough office space, we really don’t have enough space at all in the Church, and reviewing the history of the Church, we knew that Haviland was the architect of the Cathedral and now we found out that Frank Furness, a renowned architect, was the designer of the Rectory. The commission told us that if we fix the outside of the building with another plaque, that will give us the opportunity to be part of the walking tour that’s given throughout the City between May and October.
Paul Kotrotsios: This is a historical Church.
John Sarkioglou: Of course it is. Beside the walking tour, we’ll have people here talking about the Greek influence and history in Philadelphia and this will be good for us.
So we’re having a fundraiser dance. We’ve picked a convenient date, before we get into a Lenten period, and we have eleven or twelve benefactors, who are contributing fifteen hundred dollars to help underwrite the event. We need about twenty to break even, but we’re not finished asking people for help.
Father Abrosios has been an inspiration. He comes to all the meetings and participates in all the functions we have and it’s nice to have the head of the Church involved.
Paul Kotrotsios: So the event is October 4th. Where will it be held?
John Sarkioglou: The Adelphia restaurant in the Penn Athenian Ballroom, we’ll have a silent auction and a raffle for a trip to Aruba sold there as well in the invitations we’ll send out to the people.
The money we collect will go specifically toward the restoration here in the Church that is approximately 90% completed, and has not been started in the Rectory next door. That’s going to cost about two to three hundred thousand dollars. We are also planning a golf outing on September 30, which will also contribute towards the renovations.
Paul Kotrotsios: Father, what would you like to add?
Father Ambrosio: I have to complement John, because it’s not only the Father who was the inspiration for the project, because this project has been going on for many years now. I just wanted to pull the project together because it was neglected for many years.
John is not only the inspiration but is the heart and soul of this project. He cares for the Cathedral. I ask him many times, in spite of all these difficulties, he has persevered and worked hard for this edifice, for this legacy in the city of Philadelphia. He said to me, “this is the place I was born raised and God willing to die here.”
John is one of the great founders of this Cathedral. He was not here at the very beginning, because this Cathedral is over one hundred years old, but for the last fifty years, he is the heart and soul of this church.
We’re trying to reform and to restore the rectory of the cathedral which is the offices. It will take some time to collect at least a quarter of a million dollars. This is the amount we will need at the present moment to start the restorations.
We try though different fundraisers, functions, and donations from the people, to generate a response to our goals, because it is an effort within a community that is not as strong as it was years ago. We don’t have the number of congregants or participants as we had twenty to thirty years ago, so we try to strive and at the same time to make something with a lot of effort. This is not an effortless situation and task. We need people to support us, even if they don’t directly belong to this community. We need them to give us some of their time and their wealth to accomplish this project, and hopefully, with the grace of God, to finish it in a few years.
Paul: The Hellenic News of America with social media and digital will be honored to assist you to help in this endeavor.