[  A letter from Michael George Monos
to H.E. Archbishop Spyridon
regarding Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology  ]

July 11, 1997

[ ... ]

Your Eminence,

I am writing to you to briefly relate my experience as a student of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, in the hope that the experiences of students such as myself may assist you in your holy mission to guide it and its members in their service to Christ and his Holy Church. For this is the reason we have come to this school, to serve the Church, and its members.

I began my studies at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in January, 1996 in response to the sacred calling which I received. My decision to be attentive to the sacred calling was not impulsive, but the result of prayer and discussion, both with my priest, Fr. John Orfanakos (Clifton, New Jersey) and my wife. At the time that I received the calling, I was enrolled in a doctoral program in Theological Studies at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. I had recently completed a bachelors degree in Religious Studies in California and was preparing to pursue a career as a professor. But, in time, it became clear to me, that the Lord was calling me to serve His Church, and I felt that my primary responsibility was to respond willingly. After completing my doctoral coursework and language requirements, I actively sought admission to Holy Cross, so that I might fulfill the requirements for ordination in the archdiocese.

During the period preceding my application to the school, I was communicating with Holy Cross both in writing and via telephone, in order to ascertain how long I would be required to remain at Holy Cross since I had done extensive study previously, much of which overlapped with the program at Holy Cross. While I was told that my program would be shorter, no one could ever give me a clear answer concerning my tenure at the school, even though I provided them with my previous courses of study. As far as I was concerned, my most important tasks would be to learn modern Greek and teleturgics. When I actually made my application to the school, I was told by the then director of Admissions, Fr. Demos, that I would be granted a scholarship of at least 50% because of my previous academic work. Because I am married, and have a child, the financial concerns of attending the school were great. With the promise of the scholarship, I felt that my family would be able to survive, albeit with difficulty, and we decided to begin in the Spring semester 1996. We moved to Boston in mid January and began residing in Dendrinos Village.

My first shock occurred when I obtained a schedule of classes and discovered that Introduction to Modern Greek 1, the class I needed more than any other class, was not offered in the Spring semester. I had been told by both Fr. Demos and Agnes Dessis on a number of occasions that it was offered in both the Fall and the Spring semesters. The second shock I received occurred when I went to the Financial Aid Office and was told by Ms. McGinnis that I had not been given any financial assistance, scholarship or otherwise. Assuming that it was a simple mistake, I told her to check with Fr. Demos. She told me she would speak with him and get back to me. Since students are required to receive financial clearance before being allowed to register, I visited the Finance Office. Anne Marie informed me that I owed the school a full semester's tuition, the rent for our apartment for the next six months, and a large health insurance fee-I was told to pay in full. Of course, we did not have the money to pay, and I told her I would have to arrange something, but asked her to wait until my financial aid had been cleared up. Weeks passed and I received no word concerning my scholarship from the school. I called Ms. McGinnis a number of times, only to be told that Fr. Demos has not responded to her memo concerning my case.

When I visited Fr. Demos and reminded him of his promise to myself, and my family, for financial assistance, he apologized and told me that he did indeed promise me a scholarship, but that there simply wasn't any money to give-the school was having financial problems, they had tightened the purse strings for scholarships, and therefore there was a very good chance I would get nothing. He told me he would speak to the President, Fr. Alkiviadis Calivas about my situation. I was then summoned by the President's office for a meeting. At that meeting Fr. Calivas asked me what the problem was, and I related the whole story concerning my academic history and the promises made by Fr. Demos. Fr. Calivas then asked me whether or not I had received anything in writing from Fr. Demos concerning this "alleged" scholarship, and when I answer negatively, he asked how he or the school was supposed to know whether or not I was telling the truth.

This conversation was a watershed, and an indication of things to come, because it brought to light, for me, the disfigured nature of the school. I had just moved myself, my wife and my one year old son to a new city, hundreds of miles away-given up jobs and security, and put ourselves into the merciful hands of the Church, in order to prepare for a life of service, but the hands we were received by were not merciful, but rather cold and dispassionate. This cold and dispassionate reception I received would continue and escalate, as I became friends with, and began working for, Fr. George D. Dragas.

From my first meeting with Fr. Dragas he treated me as his son. He took an interest in who I was, what I had done, and what my intentions were, now that I was attending Holy Cross. But above all, he respected me as a human being, with a mind, with experience, and with something to offer the Church. I had not found this in anyone else up that point-not in the administrators, office help or professors. Fr. Dragas asked me to work as his assistant, and from that time on, my problems at the school intensified.

  • I was told by the President that, despite previous correspondence and my doctoral coursework, that I would be required to attend the school for at least three years, if not four, and re-take courses at Holy Cross which duplicated work I had already done at the doctoral level.
  • I was accused by the then Provost, Fr. Karahalios of being a troublemaker.
  • My wife was accused by the President and Leon Zaimes and Fr. Stylianopoulos of using a membership card at a warehouse store with the school's name on it to purchase things for my family tax-free.
  • I was accused by Leon Zaimes of adding extra hours to my time-sheets in my work for Fr. George.

I could list many more incidents and accusations. Throughout all of these problems, Fr. Dragas stood by us (and countless other students who have been treated as I have). He has written many memos on my behalf, refuting accusations he knew to be untrue, and demanding that we be treated justly.

In all my years of schooling, both as a youngster, in college and later in graduate school, I have never been accused of wrongdoing or disciplined in any way, and my academic records prove this, but I am not writing this letter to you in order to vindicate myself, since I have every faith in Our Lord, and place myself and my judgement in His hands. I am also certain that all of what I have written up to this point does not surprise you, but simply confirms what you already suspect concerning the way in which the school has been operated in the past, and the source of its sickness.

The school's center has been lost because its members have not been attentive to Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our great traditions have been ignored, if not rebuked. As future priests, we are not given examples of love and care, but suspicious distrust and backbiting. What could be a well-spring of Orthodoxy in America has become a stagnant lake of mediocrity. Therefore I pray you remain firm on the foundation of Christ and His Holy Church, and that you do not lose your footing as you begin your sacred task of rebuilding this Holy institution, with the goal of educating and forming priests who are able to proclaim the gospel and the saving work of Christ with conviction, strength and courage to all who will listen.

May the power of Christ and his Holy Cross always be your well-spring in your sacred ministry, and may God grant you many years.

I Remain Your Spiritual Son,
Michael George Monos