Home Church & Religion Heritage Library Rededication: Continuing A Bibliophile’s Legacy

Heritage Library Rededication: Continuing A Bibliophile’s Legacy

By Sophia A. Niarchos

Oyster Bay, N.Y. – Constance Parsons remembers the concern her family had that the bookshelves in the upstairs bedrooms of her parents’ home weighed more than the floor could bear and would come crashing through the ceiling of the lower level. Her father, Dr. Anthony Vasilas, was always collecting books. This concern eventually led to a new location for his collection. 

Along with Fr. Dennis Strouzas (the then-proistamenos of the parish) and 16 committee members, Dr. Vasilas spearheaded the Heritage Library at Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church when it was located on Warner Avenue in Roslyn Heights, N.Y.

He was “motivated to educate everyone in the church to know our heritage, what we pray for,” Mrs. Parsons said. “There are things we don’t know in our own tradition.”

Well, with more than 1,000 tomes on subjects related primarily to the Orthodox faith and Hellenism, the Heritage Library and Bookstore, as well as a lecture series, offer an antidote to such ignorance as well as a “quiet space to study all these things.”

“Our shelves are full of books covering Art and Art History; Classical Greece including architecture; Modern Greek (History, Culture, and Classics); Travel; Philosophy; Poetry; Literature; Early Christianity; Byzantium; Orthodoxy; Liturgics; Holy Writings; Bible Commentary; Bibles; Faith & Spirituality; World Religions; Reference Materials; Biography and Autobiography; Our Own Authors (works by members of the community); and Fiction.”

Mrs. Parsons, who inherited the Heritage Library and Bookstore project after her parents passed away and is currently working with a mostly new committee, believes it also is valuable for in-person study and reflection. 

“When you go into a library, you get transformed. Even if you’re alone in it, there’s energy from the authors whose works are on the shelves.”

After having been initially dedicated in 1994 at the parish’s first property, the Heritage Library and Bookstore, which has been supported through the establishment of an Educational Endowment Fund established in 1982, will be rededicated in its new location at 100 Fairway Drive, in Port Washington, N.Y., on Sunday, March 20. 

“We wanted to rededicate the library to recognize those who started it, their efforts, and their giving us tools to have a more meaningful connection with our heritage and religion,” Constance said. She recalled the many contributions of Costas Kojes, Tom Gardianos, Dr. Evangelos and Mrs. Gizis, Alexandra Pappas, Mr. and Mrs. Manny Katsoulis, and Mr. and Mrs. Milonas, Penny Kastaris, and Eleni Raptis among others. 

Ms. Kastaris, one of the original committee members, adds: ‘We can never take for granted the priceless treasures of our cultural and historical heritage from the verbal storytelling passed down since ancient times through the books that were hidden readings during the era of the secret schools until Greek independence to the now video/digital platforms equally available to a diverse and greater community. But, most importantly, the library continues to serve as a form of witness to all people for the eternal hope and unconditional love of God to empower us in this life and the one to come.”

Eleni Raptis expressed her sentiments that “it was an honor and pleasure to work with Dr. Vasilas” and, for the last three years, “an honor and pleasure to work with his daughter to continue the legacy Dr. Vasilas left us.”

In conjunction with the rededication, VK McCarty, a prolific writer and theologian who lectures in Ascetical Theology at General Theological Seminary and preaches at St. Gregory’s Orthodox Mission, both in New York City, will be speaking in the Angeliades Fellowship Hall at 11:45 a.m., following the Divine Liturgy, about her latest work, From Their Lips: Voices of Early Christian Women (Gorgias Press). As this is an event during the Lenten season, the anticipated discussion of the hymnology of Kassiani, whose “Lord, The Woman Fallen into Many Sins” is prominently featured on Holy Tuesday evening, is most a propos.

From Their Lips… may be purchased through the Heritage Library by emailing [email protected]