Profiles of Parishes in the Diocese of Toledo
The following parish profiles were compiled between 2008 and 2011. They are archived here in order of publication, most recent first.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13: 34-35.)
St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church is located in Berkley, MI. We are a small community known for welcoming others. We are a family, and as a family care about each other, and are very supportive of one another. For the past fifteen years St. Mary's has been blessed with the ministry of Father George Baalbaki and his wonderful wife, Khouriye Iman. During their ministry the church has grown and been energized.
The History of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of West St. Paul, Minnesota
Adapted from our history compiled by Dr. George Droubie
The first Syrian and Lebanese immigrants arrived in Minnesota in the 1890's. In the St. Paul area they settled primarily on St. Paul's West Side. Dating from the arrival of the first Orthodox immigrants in St. Paul, they were informally organized as a religious group. Visiting priests held services in private homes. St. George Syrian Orthodox Church was formally organized and founded in 1913 on St. Paul's West Side. An Episcopal Church located at Clinton and Isabel streets was purchased and adapted for Orthodox liturgical needs. The church was officially dedicated in 1915 by Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, at which time our first parish priest was ordained. Since then eighteen priests have served our parish, among them, V. Rev. Essa Kanavati and V. Rev. John G. Khoury. As the church building on the West Side began to deteriorate and parishioners moved out of the area surrounding the church, five acres of land in our current location were purchased in 1968 for a future complex. A multi-purpose hall was constructed during 1973 and our first service was held in February 1974.
St. Nicholas Church traces its history back to the early 1900’s, when Orthodox immigrants from the part of the Ottoman Empire then known as “Syria” began to come to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Many of these immigrants made their living initially as “peddlers,” selling their wares door-to-door as the city grew into a center of commerce and industry. As they became more prosperous, they opened stores of their own. Others found employment in the city’s well-known furniture industry.
As early as 1906, the community was visited by traveling priests who served the recently arrived Orthodox immigrants scattered around the Midwest and concentrated in growing cities like Toledo and Fort Wayne. At least twice, Grand Rapids was visited by St. Raphael Hawaweeny, who encouraged the faithful to establish a church and who ordained and trained St. Nicholas’s first pastor, Father Philipous Abu-Assaley. Father Philipous was ordained in 1908. His youngest daughter, Rosemary Sears, still faithfully attends St. Nicholas.
By early 1989, an Episcopalian priest named Father Bill Olnhausen and about twenty of his parishioners had discovered the wonders of Orthodoxy. They left their former church and, guided by Fr. Peter Gillquist, began preparations for a new Orthodox mission in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee. In September 1989, when His Grace Bishop Antoun came to chrismate us and ordain Father Bill, he looked at our little group and whispered to Father Peter, “Is this all?” But we were quickly joined by about fifteen “cradle” Orthodox, and so our Orthodox Mission began.
For five years we rented space: first at a women’s club which was sold giving us only three weeks notice to move out, then since nothing else was available, in a dingy basement in a former schoolhouse out in the country. We had to set up and take down everything each weekend; even drinking water had to be carried in. Our first thought was that we must get out of here quickly; we’ll never grow here. But we did grow. One of our members said, “This basement is more ‘church’ to me than anywhere I’ve ever attended.” During those five years, all of us learned what the Church really is - the people, not the building.
In December 1994 we purchased a spacious old former Lutheran church building in downtown Cedarburg. Saint Nicholas of Myra had been intimately involved in our founding, and as it turned out our first services in the new building were on Saint Nicholas Day. Then, to our delight, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip named us Saint Nicholas Church.
Fr. Thomas Begley offers this account of the community of St. Mary Church in Iron Mountain, MI.
Recently, I traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan for the deanery meeting with the clergy. Our Father in Christ, Bishop MARK, was there as well. His Grace has been with us for at least one of the two deanery meetings we have each year. Having the bishop present was an honor. His wisdom helped guide our discussions giving support to our clergy and our churches. What stood out, however, was His Grace and the clergy came for an additional purpose, which was to bless the soccer field the church built for the community.
St. Mary’s is a small parish in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is an economically depressed area with city and county budgets stressed to the limit. Their priest, Fr. Mark Hagan, saw their parish losing members and unknown in the community. His answer to their dire situation was to reach out in Christ’s love to their community. Fr. Mark looked for a serious need that his church could help address in their community.
Fr. Mark discovered that there were 2,500 kids in and around Iron Mountain who were signed up for soccer. However, there were not enough soccer fields. The fields they used were in poor condition. Some of the kids played on a field given by a local company that had to have toxic gas vented out from beneath the field. Other fields were filled with rocks and had little or no grass. The church’s solution was to give property owned by the church to be leased by the soccer foundation for one dollar!
St. George is a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The mission of St. George Church is to serve God and the Greater Detroit Area by commitment to the Gospel Command and to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ through faith, hope, and love. St. George Church follows the faith and practice of the Apostles and Disciples of Christ handed down by the ancient Christian fathers and twenty centuries of Church tradition. Genuine Christian life nurtures and stimulates our spiritual and moral development.
St. George Orthodox Church of Indianapolis was established and a church building erected and consecrated in 1926.
As a charter member, St. George Progressives contributed greatly to the SOYO movement. St. George parishioners Nick Coba and John Daniluck, who had been founders of the Federation of Russian Orthodox Clubs (FROC), were instrumental in guiding the SOYO movement of their adopted parish and Archdiocese. In the fall of 1947, the newly organized group met in Indianapolis to complete a draft of the constitution and by-laws.
St. George Orthodox Church of Terre Haute, Indiana, was founded by a few immigrants from Syria, more especially from Ein el Charra, a small village which nestles at the foot of Mount Hermon, southwest of Damascus. A constitution was drawn up and notarized on May 6, 1927 under the guidance of our first pastor, Metropolitan ANTONY (Bashir) of Thrice-Blessed Memory. Located seventy miles from any other Orthodox community, the years have allowed for the diversification of our Church. We are a warm and welcoming community made up of many of the original ancestors from Ein el Charra as well as others from Romanian, Greek, Russian ancestry as well as a formidable representation of those who have converted to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Our Church family is loved and recognized throughout our community as being a place where people are welcomed and treated as family. Striving as we are commanded by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'...and to 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Should you ever find yourself visiting the "High Ground" (Terre Haute) come and worship with us!
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
St. Mary’s Church was founded in Iron Mountain, Michigan in the mid 1930’s by immigrants of many nationalities. It is a jewel of the north, in what the Archdiocese could call “America’s Midwest Alaska.” It was visited by St. Raphael himself on regular occasions. It has deep snowy winters, scenic wilderness, unlimited wildlife and short picturesque summers. Our church serves people of all backgrounds and nationalities in a 48,000-square-mile area. Michigan's Upper Peninsula contains almost one-third of the state's land area, but just three percent of its total population. Parishioners travel as far as 100 miles on any given Sunday (even in deep snow) to attend Liturgy.
St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Lexington, KY had its beginnings with 5 pioneering families meeting at a members home on the Feast of St. Andrew Nov. 30, 1979. Later the community asked the Archdiocese for the patronage of St. Andrew due its founding significance. From the beginning St. Andrew has been a Pan Orthodox, multi ethnic, English speaking, and mission minded community desiring to share the Orthodox faith with the greater Lexington area. From its humble origins of 5 families it has grown to serve a community of more than 100 familles with origins in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Greece, and converts from many Western European roots. Its diversity in ethnicity's are united by its Christ centered allegiance and the mission to both live out and spread the teachings of the Gospel.
St. James Church in Loveland, Ohio is composed of several Arabic nationalities. The majority of its congregation are Jordanians. Prior to 1993 the Arabic Christian Orthodox community in Greater Cincinnati attended services at different churches in the area. Following the urge to found their own church, the community sought the aid of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In turn the Archdiocese provided Fr. George Shaheen as a temporary priest. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of the parishioners, the former Branch Hill elementary school was bought in 1995. The school's gym was converted to house the new church and Father Shaheen performed the dedication service in the presence of the parishioners and the media.
Founded by a Saint
The parish of St. George of Cedar Rapids, Iowa has a long and rich history. Started in 1914 by a group of 25 Syrian and Lebanese immigrant families, St. George has evolved over the years into a multi-ethnic parish serving close to 200 families. The founding families had gathered in Cedar Rapids from several nearby farms and small towns and sought to build a church in order to help them raise their children in the Faith. Under the spiritual guidance of our Father among the Saints, RAPHAEL of Brooklyn, who presided at the first Divine Liturgy, those founding families managed to collect $4,000 in donations and borrow an additional $6,000 to finance the construction of their beloved St. George Church. Today, a shrine housing the icon of St. RAPHAEL, along with his Holy relic, stands along the north wall of the church sanctuary in recognition of his role in the founding of our parish.
In 1993 a group of Episcopalians lead by Reverend Father Antony Bell were chrismated in Toledo and soon formed St. Mary’s of the Dormition in Goshen, Indiana. For years the young group of Orthodox converts met in various places, including homes, the upper room of a local funeral home, and store-front rental facilities. The parish grew with their beloved priest Father Antony. Eventually they were able to purchase property in Topeka, Indiana, where they stayed for several years. Many of the faithful drove many miles to attend services out in the country area surrounding the small town of Topeka. The beloved people remained faithful and believed.
Unfortunately, their beloved leader and priest became ill with an aggressive form of cancer. After a long but gracious battle with cancer, the beloved Father Antony reposed in June of 2006. His wife Kh. Melanie moved on to Pennsylvania and settled there with family. Soon after, Father George Smith and his wife Kh. Anna (Charlotte) faithfully pastored the church until His Grace Bishop MARK would appoint another priest.
In the summer of 2003, due to the large number of faithful living in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, Metropolitan PHILIP blessed the faithful in this area to move forward and establish the mission of the Church of the Virgin Mary. In December 2004, we purchased the property where we currently worship, in Alsip, Ilinois. In the spring of 2007, His Grace Bishop MARK assigned Fr. Mousa Haddad as the first full-time pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary in May.
At the Church of the Virgin Mary, our mission is to serve God in all that we do, and to make Jesus Christ a real presence in the hearts of the faithful in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs. The Virgin Mary is our protector, and she intercedes on our behalf to her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She stands as our example of faith and commitment to serve the Lord. As she received the calling of the angel Gabriel to bear the Son of God, and to commit her life to the Lord, so we too must receive the word of God, accept His Will, and serve Him to the best of our ability. As we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us!”
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois began in 1988 through the mission work of Fr. William Caldaroni, who during his seminary years became committed to the fullness of the Faith in the Orthodox Church. Under the guidance of Fr. Peter Gillquist, Mission Director of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, and Fr. Nicholas Dahdal, pastor of St. George Orthodox Church in Cicero, Illinois, the work of establishing a parish in the Wheaton, Illinois area began. From the first location rented on the campus of Wheaton College to our present location in Warrenville, Holy Transfiguration has offered the vision of the salvation through Jesus Christ to hundreds of people: some who came without faith, some who were Orthodox from infancy and some who came to Orthodoxy from Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions.
All Saints Orthodox Christian Church traces its roots to the early 1970s and the pioneering effort of a small group of Orthodox Christians to bring a place of worship to their home in Bloomington. Greeks, Arabs, Russians, Romanians, Serbians and Americans met together in rented rooms on Saturdays to continue in the tradition of the Faith. The Antiochian Archdiocese welcomed the worshipers as a mission in 1989 and as a church in 1997. That original handful of families has now grown to over 187 members.
While various priests and deacons have served the community on a part time basis since its inception, in 1994 V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius Wilson became the first full-time priest. Fr. Athanasius served faithfully until his retirement in the summer of 2006, when Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist was assigned to pastor All Saints. The community has continued to grow and develop under Fr. Peter Jon’s leadership.
St. Nicholas Church in Urbana, Illinois began in 1995 with the chrismation of two families who wanted to be Orthodox Christians, share the faith with others, worship in English, and not have to uproot their families to do it. We began meeting in a living room with priests visiting us, initially for catechism and later for Sunday evening liturgies. We moved first to a rented chapel on the University of Illinois campus, and three years later to our present location, a remodeled existing church building.
An astute observer of church growth once noted that planting a church is a lot like life as a pioneer in the American West. First the explorers come, the individuals who are venturing out into areas where no one has been before. Then the pioneers who move into unsettled territory and have to establish the initial structures that support those who will hopefully follow. And then the settlers come, the ones who turn a wide place in the road into a place to live and work for generations to come. Our experience was not unlike this. Two families who wanted to be Orthodox because they believed it to be the fullness of the faith but really didn’t know what they were getting into came first. Then a few others joined them who could see the outline of liturgical life because of the priests that traveled through and who could tolerate the conditions of inconsistent pastoral care, no choir music, no one to teach church school, or bake the bread except them. They did the work of setting up and tearing down while we met in temporary space. They dealt with dance music blaring in the next room while we sat in the dark, hoping the secular party would end, so we could start the Paschal Nocturnes. And now those who are more like settlers, with the gift of a place to meet, teach, and worship are being added to our number. There are those who are drawn by the ancient worship and centuries-old doctrine, who are working to establish a more complete witness to the kingdom of God. There are those who come from traditionally Orthodox lands, yet because of conditions there have had little opportunity to know why they believe and worship the way they do. God-willing these will become our teachers and singers and servants as God entrusts with even more good work which He has prepared for us.
From the Holy Resurrection web site:
The faithful of Holy Resurrection Antiochian Orthodox Church now worship at the corner of 6th and Water in Hobart, Indiana, under the loving care of Fr. Gregory Owen. In this story, our former pastor, Fr. Gregory Rogers (St. Catherine Mission) recounts a time when we worshipped at 45th and Harrison in Gary, Indiana. We thank God for those early years and the love and dedication that Fr. Gregory displayed for his parish.
On the outside the building wasn't beautiful. It looked like an old brick warehouse, having gone through numerous incarnations and transformations. Originally built as an auto repair garage, it became a printing business, a hot dog stand and video arcade, a warehouse for storage, and finally, an empty and vacant monument to a more prosperous era. The brick didn't match, old with new, white with red, in spite of the tuck pointing and repair that had been done. The neighborhood itself was dreary, across the street to the north, a cemetery, to the east, a convenience store with its transient clientele, to the south, an eighty year old house long past its prime. Like most early spring days in Gary, IN, this one, March 21, 1987, was chilly and overcast, and a trifle gloomy.
Inside, though, was a different story. The building had been stripped to the walls and redone...new studs, new wiring, new drywall, painted, carpet on the floor, new furnishings, redone windows. The accoutrements of worship had been added - a wooden altar, a cross suspended on the wall behind it, huge icons of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God. In the rear of the church an old Russian icon of the Resurrection of Christ hung, candles burning before it, calling down the grace of God upon the people gathered there.
From the St. George Church web site:
Orthodox Christians from the Middle East began to arrive in Illinois in the early part of the 20th century. At first, they were served by itinerant priests from Michigan City, Indiana, and later from Spring Valley, Illinois. However, for decades, there were never enough families in Chicago to constitute their own parish. Many in the Chicago area worshipped in the local Greek Churches or belonged to the common Melkite/Maronite parish of St. John the Baptist.
In 1960, several families petitioned the late Metropolitan ANTONY (Bashir) to send them a priest to serve the Divine Liturgy. Services were held at the Syrian-Lebanese Club House on Washington Boulevard and Laramie Avenue on Chicago's West Side or in rented quarters. Among the first priests to serve on a weekend basis was the Rev. Fr. Philip Giffin, who commuted from Buffalo, New York. Later, priests from the Greek Diocese of Chicago served periodically at St. George. The Rev. Fr. John Newcombe served as the first resident priest for the parish from 1965 to 1966.
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Founded by St. Raphael of Brooklyn in the early 1900’s, St. Elias Orthodox Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, is a parish renewing, rebuilding, and seeking to grow as vital Orthodox community in the scenic “God’s country” of southwestern Wisconsin.
Originally a parish comprised of immigrants from the Middle East and Greece the community, which went without a resident Priest for decades, was reborn in the 1970’s through the care and devotion of Orthodox Christians who desired to see the Faith reestablished where three rivers meet and over 100,000 people work and live.
While we cherish our heritage and the distinct honor of being founded by a Saint of the Church we believe the best expression of that heritage is to be a living, thriving, and life giving Orthodox Church. To that end we are currently repairing and expanding our facilities and seeking, as well, to grow in our Faith in preparation for inviting our friends and neighbors to experience the joy and life of Orthodoxy.