The day before Kyriakos Mitsotakis made history as the first Greek prime minister to make a presentation before a joint session of the US Congress, with the elaborate ceremony afforded US presidents, he was introduced at Georgetown University by Michael Psaros. Some in Greece and some in America who are not involved in our national Church may have asked, “Who was that fellow given the honor of introducing the prime minister?”
The answer: He is a unique Hellene who has raised the bar for us in America. Last October, at his alma mater Georgetown University, he created the $3 million Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Endowed Orthodox Chaplaincy and, more recently, the $11 million Psaros Center for Financial Markets and Policy. And while these achievements are truly extraordinary, they are not the primary reason Psaros stands out.
When Psaros entered the picture, our best and brightest had accomplished phenomenal things for the Archdiocese of America. Unfortunately, the Archdiocese had become functionally insolvent. Its expenses exceeded its revenues until it ran out of funds. In addition, the construction of our St Nicholas National Shrine at Ground Zero had failed; there was a crisis at our seminary in Brookline regarding financial and accreditation problems; there was a shortfall in our priests’ retirement fund; and the issue of lifting the operation of our Archdiocese out of the red needed addressing. Although our Archdiocesan Council was made up of eminently successful people deeply committed to the Church, its years of efforts to reverse these problems showed little results.
Among those who have made our Church great, a small number of non-clerics and many clerics contribute enormous amounts of their valuable personal time and talent to the effort. Psaros did exactly this and brought with him powerful capabilities. First is his ability to manage a group of giant global manufacturing and industrial companies (today with $20 billion in combined revenue and $13.5 billion in assets under management, operating 233 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries). Second, a commitment to the Church and community that moved him to roll up his sleeves and dive for days, weeks and months into the nitty-gritty of our problems and personally pay for whatever outside expertise was needed to move forward. And, third, as should probably be expected from a man who rose from a small town in West Virginia to the top on Wall Street, when he encountered “insurmountable” roadblocks that would stop almost all the rest of us, he surmounted them. As an Orthodox Christian Psaros did this while adhering to the qualities enumerated by the ancient Greek historian Polybius, who said, “They have customs and institutions which promote a deep desire for noble acts, a love of virtue, piety towards parents and elders, and a fear of the gods.”
Following Psaros’ work on our most complex problems and under the leadership of Archbishop Elpidophoros, the Archdiocese is in the black, controls and procedures were implemented, and a top-of-the-line audit firm reached a virtually unheard-of conclusion – they had “no management comments.” This was music to the ears of seniors who remember incidents over the decades when numerous parts of our community had far too many shady problems. This clean bill of health for Church matters may well have played a major role in mobilizing subsequent steps forward for the Church. In another miracle, the Friends of St Nicholas, under the leadership of Dennis Mehiel, Michael Psaros, and Father Alex Karloutsos, completed the construction of the National Shrine, which was consecrated on July 4, 2022. The National Shrine is the most visible symbol of Hellenism in the United States, it is America’s Hagia Sophia.
Among those who have made our Church great, a small number of non-clerics and many clerics contribute enormous amounts of their valuable personal time and talent to the effort
The trajectories of each of the problems mentioned above are now moving in the right direction. And, thanks to Father Alex and Dr Anthony Limberakis, the leader of the Order of St Andrew, the decades-long dream of an endowment to support the continuation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was established and it is already up to $20 million. Archbishop Elpidophoros has done a magnificent job keeping the previous matters of concern under control and expanding the optimistic future of our National Church.
Our Church has always been the glue holding our community together. Today’s strong base benefits the spiritual life of us all in many ways. It also strengthens our lives as Hellenes – here in America, in Greece, and in Cyprus. Our strong Church is essential to our being one of only two nationalities able to meet and present our issues at the White House to each US president each year. Without that base many positive US policies for Greece and Cyprus would not have occurred.
Michael Psaros has been a truly exceptional positive addition to our national community. His involvement and that of the other stalwarts involved in the Church bodes well for our Church, our community and US policy toward our issues for the foreseeable future.
Andy Manatos is CEO and Mike Manatos president of Manatos & Manatos.