From Rev. James Coucouzes to Archbishop Iakovos

Editor’s note: The following article was written by Christopher Tripoulas of The National Herald, the leading Greek-American newspaper. It was originally published on The National Herald‘s blog on October 27. (Click here to view the original.) Many thanks to Mr. Tripoulas for allowing us to reprint the article.

During an age when the “what have you done for me lately” mentality reigns supreme, the Annunciation Cathedral of New England is undertaking a very auspicious project that pays tribute to one of its greatest ever memorable benefactors and stands as a very positive example within the Greek-American community. The Cathedral’s decision to adopt a proposal by its dean, V. Rev. Cleopas Strongylis, to: a) compile its history during Archbishop Iakovos’ deanship, b) create a digital archive of the Cathedral’s historical files, and c) establish a Research Center in the Cathedral Mansion for the promotion and preservation of the Cathedral’s history, is an initiative that definitely deserves to be commended. Like the old Greek saying goes, if you don’t praise your home, it will fall and crash down upon you… and what better way to praise and celebrate the history of this 100-year-plus-old community than to commemorate its most celebrated period: Iakovos’ tenure – then known by most as Archimandrite James A. Coucouzes – as its dean.

This historical study is particularly poignant today, and not just because it coincides with the 70th anniversary of Iakovos’ appointment to the Cathedral or his centennial of birth, but also because it comes at a time when there is an apparent leadership crisis plaguing society in general. The late archbishop has sometimes been characterized as “larger than life.” His decisions, like those of every great leader, sometimes sparked controversy and remained under the historical microscope for years to come. But whether you agree with of all his decisions or not, there’s no debating Iakovos’ leadership qualities and ability to inspire.

What makes this particular work all the more interesting is that it provides a closer look at one of the most significant ecclesiastical figures of the Twentieth Century, before he put on the Archbishop’s miter. It will provide information that will help to reveal the qualities, passion, and mentality that played a key part in transforming this dynamic Boston area priest, Archimandrite James Coucouzes, into national Church and ethnic leader: Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America.

The early years and priestly ministry of the man who went on to lead the Church in America for four decades naturally never gets as much attention as does his high-profile career as archbishop and particularly his storied trips to the White House. But the humble confines of his office on Parker & Ruggles Streets in Boston have just as much to do with the making of this legendary leader, because it was there that he first laid the foundations for his later work and came of age.

There is a real potential for this study to provide a wonderful inspiration and serve as a great resource for clergymen and laypersons alike, possibly even encouraging them to explore the histories of their own communities or organizations. By researching precisely what it was about Coucouzes’ tenure that helped to lay the groundwork for the Boston Cathedral’s “Golden Era” and its dean’s subsequent astronomic rise in the Church’s ranks, it might be possible to redefine our own expectations for what we envision our future “golden era” to be.

Coucouzes’ deanship simply was prolific. He worked endless hours dedicating his attention to every aspect of the community life – spiritual, educational, and social. In addition, he showed particular interest in Hellenic national issues and care for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Those are just some of the aspects that the study promises to bring to the forefront, thus better acquainting us with the iconic figure that would go on to leave an indelible mark in the Greek Diaspora.

But the Cathedral’s initiative is also important because in addition to enriching history, it will use this work to enhance and beautify its facilities and services in a rather ingenious way. This project hopefully will speak to the minds and hearts of prospective donors to relive history while renovating the community as well. And in doing so, it will provide readers with a look at how some of the pioneering Greeks and their ever-memorable spiritual leader chased progress, while helping inspire today’s generation of church and lay leaders to recapture some of that all important ingenuity.

This work was made possible thanks to the commendable efforts of Nikie Calles, Director of Archives at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Anyone who has ever visited the Archives can plainly see what a superb job Calles has done capturing and organizing the history of not just the Church, but of the entire Greek-American community. In addition, the generous support of noble contributors like Stephen and Catherine Pappas and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation should also be recognized, as their financial assistance was essential in helping Calles to apply her many talents and compile this tremendous didactic and informational resource.

And so, whether based on donations from philanthropists like the Pappases or the Foundation, Calles’ invaluable work, or the “philotimo” shown by the Boston Cathedral, the encouraging sign is that the Greek-American Community still loves its history, and as long as there is genuine love for the past, there is all the reason to hope for a brighter tomorrow. Because in a true community of persons, the dreams of the previous generation are perpetually being realized by its successors.

This article was written by Christopher Tripoulas of The National Herald and has been reprinted with permission from the author. To view the original article, click here.

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