By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the Philoptochos Opening
Centennial Clergy-Laity Congress
Marriott Marquis (Westside Salon – 5th Floor)
New York, New York
July 5, 2022
Most Honorable Delegation of the Mother Church of Constantinople:
Your Eminence Elder-Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon,
Your Eminence Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos, and Very Reverend Grand Ecclesiarch Aetios,
Your Grace Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos, Spiritual Advisor of Philoptochos,
Esteemed President of National Philoptochos Arlene Siavelis Kehl,
Dear Sisters in Christ of the Philoptochos Societies from across our Sacred Archdiocese,
I greet all of you this morning with the love and joy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Following yesterday’s consecration service at Ground Zero, please allow me once again to express my profound gratitude to the Philoptochos for their constant support of our National Shrine. You stood by the Church of Saint Nicholas and gave from your hearts for its resurrection. May the Lord bless all of you, your Chapters and your members for the faithfulness that you have shown time and again to support our Church.
Philoptochos is the single greatest Church Organization that exists in our Archdiocese, and you are all so very special and important to our Church.
I would like to speak to you today about our shared mission – you, the nurturing mothers, daughters and sisters of our Church. When I think about you and all that you do, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazaros. In the Gospel of Luke we read:
Later, as they were traveling, Jesus entered a certain village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Now she had a sister, named Mary, who used to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to His discourse. However, Martha was busy with all her preparations and serving. So she went right up to Jesus and said, “Lord, are You not even interested that my sister has deserted me to do all this serving by myself? Well then, say something to her so she will help me!” But Jesus replied to her and said, “O Martha, Martha... you worry and fret over so many things, but only one thing is essential. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”1
In this wonderful story, we see the two aspects of Philoptochos – action and contemplation. Martha is all abuzz with activity, serving everybody and taking care of everybody – just like you, the Sisters of Philoptochos. But there is another side to the coin, too. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, drinking up every word. Here is contemplation and rest in God.
My beloved Sisters: We must have both. We must nourish ourselves even as we nourish our communities. Your ministry to the Church must be balanced with a ministry to your yourselves. Martha and Mary – the holy sisters of Lazaros – are our best inspiration.
* * *
As our Archdiocese celebrates one hundred years, you are celebrating ninety. The accomplishments of Philoptochos are everywhere throughout our Church – on the National, Metropolis, and parish levels. You have truly been champion “Marthas” for the sake of our community. And here are just a few of your amazing accomplishments:
Hellenic College and Holy Cross Scholarships and Funding for its Press and so many other worthy needs;
St. Basil Academy from its inception to this very day;
Social Services – the beating heart of Philoptochos, providing comfort to the homeless, the hungry and the neediest among us.
Support for those with cancer, major illnesses, autism and so much more;
Support of our retired and widowed clergy and Presvyteres;
The Children’s Medical Fund, which helps meet medical needs and funds hospital grants throughout the United States;
Unwavering support of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, both through direct support and as founding members of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation;
Support of worldwide missions, most recently in Korea;
Close collaboration with the Archdiocese and IOCC to provide meaningful, transparent aid to Greece after the devastating fires in Evoia and Attica last summer;
Support for our suffering brethren in the Ukraine, again in collaboration with the Archdiocese and the IOCC.
You should be so incredibly proud of all that you have accomplished. Your “Martha” energy is truly transformative!
But we are moving into our second act as a Church, and so Philoptochos is as well. Your legacy is as deep as any in the Church. But now, if we are going to experience renewal in our communities and Chapters, we must exercise the Mary in each of us – that is, the experience of sitting at the feet of the Lord, of hearing the Word of God and having it transform our hearts and minds.
Our theme for this Clergy-Laity Congress and National Philoptochos Convention is “Legacy, Renewal, Unity.”
We know the names and the record of our Sisters in Christ who came before us and built up Philoptochos as a superb organization and a truly national ministry. That Legacy and that history will never be forgotten. But if there is going to be a Renewal of Philoptochos, we are going to have to minister to ourselves as well. I say this because all of you give so much in so many ways. The Sisters of Philoptochos never say “No” to the Church. But I want you to also say “yes” to yourselves.
The renewal that will come from self-care, from sitting at the feet of the Lord, from nourishing yourselves, will be even more powerful, because it comes from a place of devotion – devotion to Philoptochos, but also devotion to yourselves.
And so, my beloved Sisters in the Lord,
You, the women of our Church, are numerically half of the Body of Christ. But I think we all know that you do much more than half of the work.
Your “Martha” energy has brought our Archdiocese and our parishes tremendous success – such that we are an established Faith in this blesséd country of ours. Now, it is time to invest that energy in yourselves. This is how we prepare for the next ninety and, indeed, one hundred years. With such renewal, we will reinforce the unity of Philoptochos, the unity of the Archdiocese and the unity of our Church.
As we begin to apply ourselves to this noble and spiritual endeavor, then, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize – as Centennial Honorees – two women among you who exemplify every member of Philoptochos: your National President, Arlene Siavelis Kehl, and your Second Vice President, Anita Kartalopoulos. In them, all of you are being honored today.
Every one of you has my eternal gratitude for your contributions to the life and health of our Archdiocese. Philoptochos is the very soul of our Archdiocese, and you fill every aspect of the Body of Christ with your love, your faith and your boundless energy.
May the Lord ever bless you and every member of Philoptochos, together with your service in Christ and all of your loved ones.
Here is to the next ninety and, indeed, one hundred years!