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 long time 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, Conomos, 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. Easter was approaching and so began an urgent search for a place for the parish to congregate. The Seventh Day Advent 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, Father George Kambanis, newly arrived from Greece.
Still needing a home of their own in which to worship, they quickly secured a temporary location. In September of that year, two adjoining stores were rented on Little East Neck Road in West Babylon. One store was arranged for the laity, 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 their first Greek School instructor. That first year was an active one 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 Father 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 Father 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 is satisfied by the Ladies Philoptochos, who donated the sum of its final payment of $10,000. Celebrated ten 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. Father Apostolakos located the future site 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 property. In June 1976, the first Annual St. Nicholas Festival was hosted on the new site.
On December 5, 1982 nearly a decade after the decision to build, the Saint Nicholas community celebrated the Ground Breaking ceremony for the new church under the auspices of His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos and Very Rev. Father Philip Kotoufas.
The Very Rev. Father Philip Kotoufas was elevated to Bishop shortly thereafter, and the Very Rev. Father Maximos Moses was assigned to St. Nicholas and oversaw the building project.
In October 1984, the Parish Council & Building Committee selected an architectural firm to design the new church. In 1985, the Very Rev. Father 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. Father Maximos Moses was called to be the Chancellor of the New Jersey diocese. The mid to late 1990s were very turbulent years for our community, faced with an overburdening mortgage, lawsuits, and foreclosure threats. Our community with the help of Spiritual Very Rev. Father Alexander Kile, met these challenges with an untiring zeal.
In 1996, Father Demetrios Calogrides became our new pastor. By this time, our beautification was well underway and our mortgage was slowly reduced. Our 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. Elephtherios Gourogiannis. The Platytera was donated by the entire St. Nicholas family. The biggest milestone of our community was the burning of the mortgage at our Annual Dinner Dance in November of 2006, ten years after we were 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.
Over the years, the Greek School and Catechism School program, the PTO, the GOYA and JOY programs flourished. Our 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 serve as role models for all to emulate. They support all of the functions, and are always there to guide and support us.
Fifty years ago, a group of friends had a dream of building a new Greek Orthodox community for their children and grandchildren. Fifty years later, we have a new dream of building a Community Center for the young and old. On October 11, 2009 with the spiritual guidance of our new pastor, Very Rev. Father Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, it was voted unanimously to begin exploring the possibility and functionality of this dream. The first fifty years taught us that with love, dedication, and faith anything can be accomplished. The foundation of the Community Center that we hope and dream of building, will not only be a "cement" that will be poured, but will be a foundation for another fifty years.
Since October of 2012, our parish has been blessed to have Fr. Demetrios Kazakis and his family within our parish. In the time that Fr. Demetrios has been ministering to St. Nicholas, the parish has recovered from an electrical fire in 2015, the building of the Community Center beginning in 2019 and completed in late 2020. Our ministries continue to grow by God's grace and through the prayers of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Fr. Demetrios continues to serve our community with zeal and faith.
May our Lord and God, through the intercessions of St. Nicholas, always guide and protect our beautiful community.