Gifts of Christmas Remind of Philoptochos Giving


The Divine Love that is at the core of our Christmas celebrations is reflected throughout the year by the women of the Philoptochos. The philanthropic spirit of the Holiday season reminded me of some remarkable women who were honored last summer at one of the most inspiring events I experienced in Nashville. .  


Inspired by the theme “All Generations Accomplishing Philanthropic Endeavors,” members and friends of the Philoptochos Society gathered at the Clergy-Laity Congress for the Agape Award breakfast.

Established in 2008, the award “affords us the opportunity to honor and recognize nine outstanding” Philoptochos women “who embody the true spirit of Philanthropia..and have inspired their Chapter members,” according to the program.

National Philoptochos President Maria Logus.

Jeannie Ranglas, Agape Awards Co-Chair served as emcee and invited Metropolitan Methodios of New England to offer the invocation.

The guests were thrilled at the stirring rendition of the song “I Dreamed a Dream“ from the musical Les Miserables performed by Miss America, Greek-American Betty (Baciliky) Cantrell.

When Archbishop Demetrios followed Cantrell at the podium, he wondered “Following such a voice I don’t know what to do,” evoking appreciative laughter.

Inspired by the spirit of the award and nature of the gift - a beautiful icon created by the nuns of the Monastery of Aghia Paraskevi in Washington, TX – the Archbishop declared “This is a celebration of love and beauty, of Church and art” and offered a moving mediation on Beauty, which he said “is a central phenomenon in the Church.”

He cited the church’s architecture, its music - developed to a sophisticated level by Byzantine civilization and the complement of wonderful secular offerings like Cantrell’s - and its icons which “express high artistic value,” accenting the point by noting the icon the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought for $44 million.

The high art which hints at the even higher spiritual beauty was then blended by the Archbishop with agapetic love. “We do not only produce love in the Church; we produce beauty – it is part of our mission.” In the Church, he said, “we are disconnected from the ugliness of sin, and any ugliness,” and then said “The Church is a non-stop factory of love.”

The beautiful love produced in the Church is unlike objects on the art market. “It is free. It is given freely…the only competition is in how to give and do more,” for humanity he said, before concluding with a quote from the sublime First Epistle of St. John:

“Let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God…for God is love...God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him…Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

When speaking of the lifetime of philanthropic love of the recipients, the Archbishop said “We are so thankful to God for them – so proud. We are filled with hope when we see this kind of activity,” and marveled at the enthusiasm with which they undertook work he said was sacrificial and sometimes painful.

The honorees, escorted to the stage by representatives of their metropolis’ Philoptochos, included, Chistina Vasilakos from St. Basil of Troy, NY; Ismine Arges from St. Demetrios of Hammond, IN; Catherine Bibilos from Annunciation of Woburn, MA; Eleni Kyriazis from Annunciation Cathedral of Houston, TX, Catherine Stuman from Dormition of the Theotokos of Greensboro, NC; Tessie Lekas from St. Paul of North Royalton, OH; Elaine Sotiropulos from St. George of Fresno, CA; Maria Antonakas from St. Demetrios of Parkville, MD; and Nia Cortese from Holy Trinity of Carmel, IN.

Cortese was unable to attend due to health reasons and has the prayers of all present.  In her behalf, her friend Diana Dine accepted the award.

Ranglas and event Co-Chair Martha Stefanidakis of Houston’s Cathedral of the Annunciation alternated reading the honorees’ biographies.

National Philoptochos President Maria Logus congratulated the honorees and the friends, family members and Philoptochos sisters who supported their endeavors before offering her own meditation on agape, the word “used by early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity,” and which she noted Philoptochos members “are committed to reciprocating and practicing towards God and each other.”

The Archbishop expressed his appreciation for Logus’ remarks and for the work of the event’s co-chairs and organizers.