NEW YORK — The summer of 1965 ushered in a tumultuous time in American history, sparked by the then-peak civil rights movement, national division over the Vietnam War, and rapid social change. Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America had recently returned to New York after marching alongside Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama – a moment that provided a spiritual challenge to American Orthodox Christians in the face of moral necessity , now widely regarded as one of the iconic symbols. moments of Orthodox Christianity in the United States, if not the world – and was preparing to travel to Vietnam where he would visit Orthodox Christian troops and celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
It was during this time that Fr. Angelo Gavalas, a priest at the Church of the Three Hierarchs in Brooklyn, encouraged a young parishioner to apply for a recently vacant position at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
“I planned to work for the Church for only one year,” said Paulette Poulos, sitting in her office where a collection of icons and awards attest to nearly sixty years of selfless commitment and distinguished service to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. “I could never have imagined the wonderful life that Church service has given me. I have never regretted the choice I made.”
Charismatically humble and warm beyond comparison, the inimitable Executive Director of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 fund is an institution in her own right in the Orthodox world. Former Archbishop of America Demetrios put her in charge of the organization in 2011 after years as director of development. Since that time, she has continued to expand the Fund’s membership and lead its vast philanthropic endeavors. Paulette’s authentic, human-centered approach, her deep Christian conviction and her ability to forge meaningful relationships were deeply effective. His work creates space for congregants to express the gospel commandment to love one another as it connects ministries to the resources and support they need to function. It can be said without exaggeration that there is no one in the American Orthodox community for whom the work of Paulette and her team has not had a significant impact.
Following in the footsteps of her mentor, the ever-memorable Archbishop Iakovos, she has dedicated her entire professional and personal life to the service of the Church. Her career began in 1965 when she was assigned to the Archdiocesan Laity Department, where she remained until 1970. After a brief assignment as Deputy Director of the National Youth Office, she was transferred to the Department of Development in 1972 where she was appointed director of the LOGOS fund, successfully raising over ten million dollars.
1984 marked a turning point in his career. That year, Bishop Iakovos chose Paulette as administrative assistant in the Archbishop’s office. In this role, she worked closely with His Eminence, traveling to parishes throughout the Archdiocese and abroad. While Paulette listened attentively to Archbishop Iakovos imparting his invaluable knowledge to her, forming her spiritually and professionally. It was during this time that Paulette became one of the most visible, respected and admired Orthodox women in the Church. Paulette believes that the major criteria necessary for this work are that you must love the Church and you must love the faithful.
Archbishop Iakovos offered his retirement in 1996, but that did not mean his work with him would end. Paulette established a working office at his personal residence, where he had the opportunity to personally greet the many visitors who stayed near him.
Like her mentor, Paulette is committed to vocational discernment and training the next generation of American church leaders. She is a strong supporter of Hellenic College Holy Cross and its mission to train men and women for ministry. Since 1989, Leadership 100 has distributed $25 million in scholarships to theological school students preparing for ministry and priesthood. Always true to the personal touch she always brings, Paulette takes the opportunity to personally meet each of the women and men of the senior class of Sainte-Croix during their annual visit to the Archdiocese for a week of orientation. . “I am moved to tears when young men come up to hug me and say, ‘Thank you and Leadership 100 for the support you provide.’ When students ask Paulette what they can do to show their gratitude, her answer is always the same, “Just be the best priests you can be.” Paulette is unwavering in her advocacy for the clergy and lay leaders of the Archdiocese and strongly believes that they are the Church’s most vital investment.
While sharing the joy of the Hellenic College Holy Cross Annual Graduation Weekend is always a highlight for Paulette, this year’s 80th Commencement exercises were especially special for her as the Board of Trustees awarded her an honorary doctorate. The official citation states, “You embody the highest virtues espoused by our faith, our Hellenic heritage and the society in which we live. In her acceptance speech, she expressed her thanks to many, including her parents for their sacrifice and for teaching her by example, Archbishop Iakovos for his immeasurable impact on her life, Archbishop Demetrios for the supported as Executive Director of Leadership 100 and Archbishop Elpidophoros for his dynamic leadership and vision to lead the Archdiocese into the future. Addressing the graduates, she urged them to seek to serve the Archdiocese of America, assuring everyone that there is a place for their talents to be used to serve Christ by positively impacting the lives of people. others.
On the first day of this year’s 46th Biennial Convention of Clergy and Laity, currently underway in New York, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America recognized Paulette, along with longtime colleague Niki Calles, as a Centennial Laureate during the opening of the Archdiocesan Historical Exhibition for her. life of devotion and dedication to the church. The Archbishop explained that Paulette “embodies what this centenary exhibition represents”. Indeed, Paulette represents a large part of the institutional memory of our Archdiocese. “I can’t thank [Paulette] enough for what [she] has offered to our Church over the decades. [Her] our efforts were heroic, and even our tributes [Her] is now largely overtaken by [her] contributions.
While countless people look up to Paulette as a role model, she sees herself as a team member working for the Church—a team she believes has a place for all who desire to serve. His hope for the future is for the younger generation to play a more active role locally and nationally.