Who We Are
The following is a summary of events marking significant achievements accomplished as a community, but it does not begin to capture the sacrifices of its early members. These dedicated, eager individuals were the cohesive threads of an expanding community.
Prior to the establishment of a Greek Orthodox Church in Babylon, the Greek families from the South Shore of Central Long Island traveled 18 miles East or West in order to worship and embrace their cultural heritage. Foreseeing the mounting challenges this presented for their young growing families, it was in 1958 when two businessmen, Michael Christopher and his partner George Gabriel, decided it was time to act on their longtime dream of a church closer to home. Confident they were not alone in their longing for an Orthodox Church in the area, they sought the support of a few acquaintances: Nicholas Haldas, Thomas Kavouras and Andrew Loizides.
These five families then gathered one evening in order to plan how they would proceed to fulfill the parameters set by the Archdiocese for the creation of a new Parish. A general assembly meeting was soon arranged at the Sunrise Catering House in West Babylon to include all families ready to work toward organizing a new Parish. Some of the attendees at those preliminary meetings included the families of Alexander, Ardito, Carusos, Economos, Corbett, Cosmidis, Kontrafouris, Mihopoulos, Pappas, Petra, Triculis and Vagelakos.
Shortly thereafter, the petition for a charter was hand-delivered along with the signatures of 80 families to the Archdiocese, and in March 1959 the charter was granted by the Acting Archbishop, Metropolitan Germanos, fulfilling the dream within a year. Pascha was approaching and so began an urgent search for a place for the parish to congregate. The Seventh Day Adventist Church on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon, graciously offered their house to the families of the now incorporated "Babylon Hellenic Community" to celebrate their very first Liturgy. Officiating the services on April 5, 1959, was their first parish priest, Rev. Fr. George Kambanis, newly arrived from Greece. Sacraments began immediately.
Still needing their own house of worship, they quickly secured a temporary location. In September of 1959, two adjoining stores were rented on Little East Neck Road in West Babylon. One store was arranged for the “sanctuary”, while the adjacent store was utilized for both Sunday School and Greek School classes. Mrs. Sophie Sofolarides was the first Sunday School teacher and Mrs. Evanthia Kalis was the first Greek School instructor. That first year was an active year coupled with a learning curve. The Parish Council was formed and elected as their first president, Ilias Tsalikas. It was Mrs. Anastasia Alexander who organized the Ladies Philoptochos Society and served as their first President.
The search for a permanent home for the parish continued. After considering several locations, it was agreed upon to purchase for $27,000 an existing house of worship, the Temple Beth Sholom, located at 54 George Street in the Village of Babylon. This location was ideal, allowing easy access for families residing in the towns immediately to the east, west, and north. On March 11, 1961, the Church Blessing was officiated by Rev. Fr. Constantine Kazanas, along with their new parish priest the Rev. George Papaloukas.
Selecting a name for the church was not until 1962. Since the church was located in the biblically named bayside town of Babylon, it seemed apt that their choice was Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors.
In the next few years, many projects were undertaken. In 1962, the AHEPA was installed in Babylon. Then in 1963, a monthly community newsletter named "The Voice" was created. A community Youth Group was founded by Steve Karas that summer. The Babylon Chapter of the Ladies Philoptochos voted to be known as the "Saint Helen's Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society" that year gifted to the church a Bishop's Throne hand carved in Greece by the noted Demetriou Yatra. The Babylon Chapter of the GOYA was soon introduced by their new priest Rev. Fr. Paul Apostolakos in 1965 who would become the community's longest serving priest at fourteen years.
On March 17, 1967, a fire in the church destroyed the beautiful altar which was the jewel of the church. While this was an emotional and financial setback for all, the community began to entertain the possibility of expanding their church. The next milestone was in 1969 when the George Street church mortgage was satisfied by the Ladies Philoptochos, who donated the sum of its final payment of $10,000. Celebrated 10 years after the birth of the community, the "Burning of the Mortgage" ceremony was performed by then Parish Council President Salvatore Lombardo.
In the years following, the community continued to weigh the decision of whether to expand the existing church or purchase a larger building. On October 14, 1973, the Parish Council explained that it would be impractical to expand the building on the existing site. After all options were debated, they concluded that the community would take its next monumental step to erect a new edifice. Fr. Apostolakos located the future site (current) of St. Nicholas in the neighboring town of West Babylon under the Presidency of George Peros. Three Trustee members — Fred Frouxides, John Geroyiannis, and Mike Halikas — bravely offered their homes as collateral toward the purchase of the new property on Great East Neck Rd. In June 1976, the first Annual St. Nicholas Festival was hosted on the new site. The Very Rev. Fr. Philip Kotoufas was elevated to Bishop shortly thereafter, and the Very Rev. Fr. Maximos Moses was assigned to St. Nicholas and oversaw the building project.
On December 5, 1982 nearly a decade after the decision to build, the St. Nicholas community celebrated the Ground Breaking ceremony for the new church under the auspices of His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos and Very Rev. Father Maximos Moses. Parish Leaders at the time: Nicholas Kazanas - Building Chairman, Former President. Michael Hartofilis - President. Mary Stergakos - Philoptochos President. Harriet Frouxides - PTO President.
In October 1984, the Parish Council & Building Committee selected an architectural firm to design the new church. In 1985, the Very Rev. Fr. Maximos Moses along with Mr. Papadatos, the consulting architect for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, embarked on a fact-finding tour to determine the future church's design. Their tour included Asia Minor and Bari, Italy, where the remains of St. Nicholas rest. In 1989, the Dedication Day ceremony of Saint Nicholas Shrine Church is celebrated on December 3rd with the "Opening of the Doors" ceremony (Thyranixia) with Bishop Athengoras.
In 1992, the Very Rev. Fr. Maximos Moses was called to be the Chancellor of the New Jersey Diocese. The mid to late 1990s were very turbulent years for the community; faced with an overburdening mortgage, lawsuits, and foreclosure threats. Our community with the help of the Very Rev. Fr. Alexander Kile and then President Kyriakos Savva, met these challenges with an untiring zeal.
In 1996, Rev. Fr. Demetrios Calogrides became the new pastor. By this time, the beautification of the Church was well underway and the mortgage was slowly reduced. The once red-carpeted floors became beautiful granite. Mr. Isidoros Sideris generously donated the white marble in the altar, including the floor and the Holy Altar Table. Mr. Nicholas Theodorou donated the entire installation of the granite flooring. The red folding chairs were replaced with beautiful oak pews, which were sold out within a week. The bare white walls of the altar were adorned with beautiful iconography designed by Mr. Eleftherios Gourogiannis. The Platytera was donated by the entire St. Nicholas family. The biggest milestone of the community was the burning of the mortgage at the Annual Dinner Dance in November of 2006, ten years after the parish was faced with the possibility of foreclosure. Those who attended the Saint Nicholas vespers services on December 5, 2006 experienced an unforgettable memory when the newly-installed chandeliers were lit for the very first time by Bishop Savva of Troas. Many had not realized that the chandeliers were installed until that evening when the Bishop proclaimed "Phos Hilaron" ("Joyful Light"), and all six chandeliers were lit for the first time.
From those years, the Greek School and Catechism School program, the PTO, the GOYA and JOY programs flourished. The St. Helen's Ladies Philoptochos Society contributed thousands of dollars, and labored tirelessly toward their philanthropic missions and the community. AHEPA created a scholarship for graduating seniors. The Senior Citizens of our community served as role models for all to emulate. They supported all of the functions, and are always there to guide and support us.
In 2008 the Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos assumed the pastorate of St. Nicholas. During these years the serious discussion of the new Community Center building had begun. The Parish Council along with Fr. Nektarios had numerous meetings with General Assemblies and the Town Zoning Department. The ministries of the church continued to flourish. Fr. Nektarios led two pilgrimages to the Holy land in the three years he served St. Nicholas.
In June of 2012, Fr. Nektarios began serving St. Demetrios, Astoria, and Rev. Fr. Demetrios Kazakis was assigned to St. Nicholas. Within a few weeks of his assignment, the parishioners of the parish endured a great challenge in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. For several months the entire parish gathered to support neighbors and parishioners who encountered severe damage to their homes and property. Fr. Demetrios was able to continue the growth of many ministries with the leaders of the community.
The greatest challenge for St. Nicholas was on July 21, 2015 when an electrical fire tore through the altar and sanctuary of the church proper. Significant damage had been made to the entire church. The following Sunday, the parish gathered in the parking lot and held the first Divine Liturgy in front of the burned Nave. From this moment on, all parishioners rallied and were determined to rebuild St. Nicholas. For 9 months, Liturgies and sacraments were held in the small hall of the parish. St. Nicholas Feast Day took place in a tent with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios celebrating for Great Vespers, with then President Haralambos Panagos. With tremendous courage and resilience, the restoration committee was determined to celebrate Holy Week and Pascha in the Nave of St. Nicholas. Parishioners were overjoyed re-enter St. Nicholas for Palm Sunday in 2016.
For the next 2 years the major discussion was the possibility of expanding the property to include the new Community Center. More meetings resumed between the newly formed Building Committee and the General Assembly. The last half of 2018 was solely dedicated to informational meetings on the Community Center. Several meetings were held to discuss options on the building. On December 2, 2018, the final General Assembly meeting was held to formally vote on taking out a loan to begin the new building. It was an emotional presentation with many presentations and passionate discussion. The parish moved to begin building in June of 2019 following that year’s festival. His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia presided over a Ground Breaking Ceremony on December 12, 2018.
After a successful Festival in June 2019, the demolition of the old hall took place on June 8, 2019. That summer began a fast moving demolition with dirt removal and foundation pouring. Fr. Demetrios and the parish hosted the newly enthroned Archbishop of America, His Eminence Elpidophoros for the Feast of St. Nicholas. Fr. Demetrios led his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and shortly upon their return, the world began to experience the devastation of COVID-19. The Community Center project was halted for 2 months due to covid quarantining. Pascha and Holy Week were celebrated with an empty Church.
On June 14, 2020, St. Nicholas re-opened at half capacity for several months. Sacraments would resume in great number that year. That was the biggest rebuilding year the parish could have experienced. Many ministries were held via virtual meetings. Greek and Sunday School held sessions with all involved over the computer. Although the Community Center was completed in August of 2020, it was not formerly dedicated until the following year. Pascha of 2021 was a beautiful celebration for everyone who was in attendance for the first time in over a year. The parish was able to hold two festivals in 2021. A September festival was a difficult challenge but proved to be very successful in the new Community Center. Sunday School and Greek School continued to grow, the Senior Citizens Group resumed their meetings, and the New Food Pantry was established in memory of Mr. Jordani Salomides. Several fundraisers were held to offset other loses. The Greek Chefs of Babylon proved to be a big success and continues to this day!
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presided over the Divine Liturgy on December 5, 2021, and later celebrated the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the Community Center. The ministries of St. Nicholas continue to thrive with dedicated and loving parishioners.
60 years ago, a group of friends had a dream of building a new Greek Orthodox community for their children and grandchildren. The ministries of the parish continue to grow by God's grace and through the prayers of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. May our Lord and God, through the intercessions of St. Nicholas, always guide and protect our beautiful community.
Past Clergy in the service of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Babylon, New York:
Rev. Fr. George Kampanis: 1958 – 1960
Rev. Fr. George Papaloukas: 1960 – 1963
Rev. Fr. Andrew Vasilaros: 1963 – 1964
Rev. Fr. Nicholas Paleologos: 1964
Rev. Fr. Paul Apostolakos: 1965 – 1979
Rev. Fr. Robert Athas: 1980 – 1981
The V. Rev. Fr. Philip Koutoufas: 1981 – 1982
The V. Rev. Fr. Maximos Moses: 1983 - 1992
The V. Rev. Fr. Alexander Kile: 1992 – 1996
Rev. Fr. Demetrios Calogredes: 1996 – 2008
The V. Rev. Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos: 2008 – 2012
Rev. Fr. Demetrios Kazakis: 2012 - Present