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Although our St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of St. Louis, Missouri celebrated its first Divine Liturgy on October 21, 1917, our history of Greek Orthodoxy in St. Louis dates back to 1904.
The following is a chronology of Church events taken from St. Nicholas Church records:
1904: A group of prominent St. Louis Hellenes organized Aghia Trias (Holy Trinity) as a Greek Church-Community.
1906: Rev. Panageotis Phiambolis was assigned by the Holy Synod of Greece as pastor of Holy Trinity Church. The first permanent Greek Orthodox priest in St. Louis, he brought his family with him, and served here until 1918. Shortly after the arrival of Father Phiambolis, a former Protestant church located at 19th and Morgan (now Delmar) Streets was rented for $50 per month.
1910: As a result of disagreements among parishioners, the Church of Evangelismos(Annunciation) was founded.
January 1, 1911: The Rev. Vassilios Avramopoulos celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in a rented church at 17th and Olive Streets.
Palm Sunday, 1917: A general meeting was held to resolve differences between various factions. Charges and counter-charges were presented; letters and Greek newspaper clippings were brought forth in evidence. The basic differences were deeply-rooted and reconciliation seemed impossible. However, the two factions came together and voted to organize a new church-community, which later was named St. Nicholas. A temporary committee of 16 was elected to obtain the services of a Greek Orthodox priest.
September 29, 1917: The Rev. Constantine Liakopoulos arrived in St. Louis to assume his pastoral duties at St. Nicholas. At the time, there was no central ecclesiastical authority, so the committee sought a prospective parish priest by letter. The propriety of this action was in question since it did not have the approval of the Holy Synod of Greece. This matter, however, was later resolved.
Sunday, September 30, 1917: Father Liakopoulos performed his first Sacrament at St. Nicholas - the marriage of Kalliopi, the daughter of Naoum Sramatis Karandzas, to John Kiortsy.
October 3, 1917: In Druid's Hall at 9th and Market Streets, the new community held a general meeting at which the congregation was officially named "St. Nicholas." Father Liakopoulos was confirmed as Presbyter and temporary chairman of the community.
October 14, 1917:At a general assembly held at Henneman Hall, a motion was passed to purchase an existing church and residence at Garrison and St. Louis Avenues for $15,000. The lot size was 100 x 127¼ feet. The residence had eight rooms and was renting for $40 per month.
October 21, 1917: St. Nicholas parish celebrated its first Divine Liturgy at Henneman Hall.
December 22, 1917:St. Nicholas Church was officially opened with a Hierarchical Liturgy celebrated by His Eminence, Germanos, Archbishop of Antioch, assisted by Father Liakopoulos. The Liturgy was celebrated in Greek and Arabic.
In a sign of the times, it is interesting to note that discussions at several parish council meetings during this era involved the place of women in the Church: Woman's place, they decided, was in the balcony - unless it was full - in which case they would be permitted to sit on the main floor. Needless to say, the fairer sex was not amused. However, the Council stood by its decision. A few years later, a new seating arrangement evolved with women sitting to the left of the main aisle and men to the right. By the 1950's, families began to sit together in worship.
December 29, 1919: After a brief and dedicated period of service at St. Nicholas, Father Prousianos left St. Louis (due to a heart condition) and returned to Greece. He was replaced by Father Mark Petrakis, who arrived in St. Louis early in 1920. Father Petrakis introduced chairs for parishioners in the nave. This became a controversial matter because parishioners were accustomed to standing during the entire Liturgy, with a few "stadia" (wall stalls) provided for the elderly.
Another burning issue of this time was the division between parishioners who favored the King of Greece ("Royalists") and those who favored Prime Minister George Venezelos ("Venezelikoi"). This created an issue as to whether or not the King's name should be commemorated in prayers in the Church.
Other 1920 events: Presbytera Stella Petrakis and a group of parish ladies organized the Greek Ladies Benevolent Society "Elpis."
1922: Greek National political antagonism continued to be reflected in the operation of St. Nicholas Church. As members of the community took sides, their opinions also were reflected on various church boards. Church recognition of the damaging influences of Greek politics on the religious faithful in America led to the transfer of ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox churches in America to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, thus alleviating this problem.
September 29, 1927: A catastrophic tornado reduced St. Nicholas Church on Garrison and St. Louis Avenues to rubble.
The very existence of an organized Greek Orthodox Church in St. Louis became a challenge once again, and families set out with renewed determination to rebuild their church.
December 14, 1927: Parishioners submitted an agreement for approval on rental of a church building located at the southwest corner of Kingshighway and Enright for $100 per month for one year with an option to buy the property for $190,000.
July 1928: Reverend Spyropoulos was succeeded by Rev. Dimitrios Vainikos. The question of renting or building a new church persisted. Because the property on Enright had served as a Jewish synagogue and thus was not of traditional Greek design, the parish decided to seek a new location. The community also decided to sell the St. Louis Avenue property for $27,500.
March 1, 1929: After investigating prospective sites on LindeIl, Kingshighway, West Pine and Laclede, the present location on Forest Park Boulevard was selected.
February 19, 1930: Chicago Architect Ernest K. Eugene was selected to prepare plans for the new church. The plans were approved in October 1930, and the Welch Construction Co. contracted to build the church.
January 11, 1931: The new St. Nicholas Church cornerstone was laid. The Right Reverend Philaretos, Bishop of Chicago, officiated at the ceremony, which was attended by about 350 people. Collections for the day exceeded $2,400. Because actual construction began in December 1930, the cornerstone bears the 1930 date.
Sunday,September 20, 1931: The opening of the new St. Nicholas Church was officiated by the Right Reverend Kallistos, Bishop of Chicago, assisted by Rev. Dimitrios Vainikos, Rev. P. Komnenos of the Archdiocese staff, and the priest of the East St. Louis parish.
June 7,1942: The Rev. James Coucouzes replaced Fr. Vainikos as pastor at St. Nicholas. During his short tenure, Fr. Coucouzes conducted Monday evening Bible classes which were attended by over 200 persons; inaugurated a class in Greek; and increased the enrollment of the Greek School to 125 children.
St. Nicholas parishioners were saddened when Fr. Coucouzes left St. Nicholas to become Dean of the Cathedral of Boston a few months after his arrival at St. Nicholas. He later became Dean of the Theological School at Brookline, MA, then ordained as Bishop and assigned to represent the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. On February 14, 1958, he was elected Archbishop of North and South America, succeeding the late Archbishop Michael. His Eminence also has served several terms as President of the World council of Churches.
1942: Rev. Erineos Angelides and his family arrived at St. Nicholas from a previous assignment at Birmingham, AL. Fr. Angelides continued and expanded the programs of his predecessor. During this period, St. Nicholas ladies formed Red Cross units for the preparation of surgical bandages, while others served in mobile transport units. Community luncheons were served to visiting servicemen after church services. Fr. Angelides served St. Nicholas until his death in 1950.
1950: The Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos became pastor at St. Nicholas, serving until 1953, when he became Dean of Holy Cross Theological Seminary, Brookline, MA. Father Patrinacos died in 1990.
26 - Dec. 1, 1950: The Tenth Ecclesiastical Congress of Clergy and Laity was held in St. Louis, under the chairmanship of His Eminence, Archbishop Michael. Major decisions included the adoption of the “Dekadollarion” (a $10 per member payment to the Archdiocese), and approval for the establishment of a National Youth Organization under the supervision of the Archbishop.
1951-52: Other accomplishments of this era were the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Church Federation in 1951, and the St. Nicholas Greek Ladies Philoptochos Society on May 11, 1952.
1953: Fr. George Mastrantonis ("Father Masters") followed Fr. Nicon Patrinacos ("Father Pat") as pastor at St. Nicholas. Soon after his arrival, Fr. Masters recommended enlarging the church and building a new community center. Later, he became an active member of the Metropolitan Church Federation of St. Louis. As a result, approximately 115,000 people (including confirmation classes) have visited St. Nicholas and learned about our Greek Orthodox Church since that time. Father Masters served the parish until October 1959, when he went on leave of absence due to illness. He remained at St. Nicholas as Pastor Emeritus until his death in August 1988. He and Presbytera Paraskevi, who was a dynamic Sunday School superintendent, built church school enrollment to 300. Presbytera Paraskevi served in that capacity until her death in 1968.
1954-55 events: A committee was appointed to study the future needs of St. Nicholas. After rejecting the idea of moving the church to a new location, the committee recommended that St. Nicholas be enlarged, that an adjoining community center be built and that additional ground for parking be obtained. The property at 4937 Forest Park was purchased by St. Nicholas for $42,500, and ultimately was converted into a parking lot.
Rev. Constantine Andrews assumed duties as pastor of St. Nicholas. His Presbytera, Joy, perpetuated the dynamic tradition of the St. Nicholas Sunday School.
May 1, 1960: The Building Committee was authorized to construct the new community center and enlarge the church. The committee also was authorized to borrow $150,000 to complete these structures.
28,1960: Ground was broken for the new community center, and His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, officiated at the Divine Liturgy and ground breaking ceremonies. Raymond E. Maritz & Sons, Inc. drew up the architectural plans, and Guttman Construction Co. was the building contractor. Final cost of building the community center and expanding the church was $490,000.
1973: Fr. John Geranios, former Archdiocesan Vicar, succeeded Fr. Constantine Andrews as Presbyter at St. Nicholas Church. During his tenure, the Fr. George Mastrantonis Library and the Stewardship Program were inaugurated, and the new Church organ was installed.
1977: Rev. George Nicozisin arrived as priest at St. Nicholas, replacing Fr. John Geranios who was assigned as General Director of all programs at St. Basil's Academy, Garrison, NY. Fr. George had previously served as Archdiocese Religious Education Director at Holy Cross Seminary where he also taught, and served a parish in Manchester, NH.
October 1, 1977: The St. Nicholas Philoptochos Society celebrated its 25th anniversary with a banquet at the Breckenridge Pavilion Hotel.
September 1978: Sunday Chapel Liturgies for children began, during which Sunday school pupils and teachers sang responses and received Holy Communion.
A.H.E.P.A. Chapter 53, under Chapter President Leon Spanos, began Phase I construction of 117 apartments for the elderly in St. Louis County. This project was the forerunner for similar A.H.E.P.A. construction in 16 other locations in eight states. In 1987, under President Dino Benos, Phase II provided for construction of an additional 63 apartments.
MORE TO COME!!!
MORE TO COME!!!
|Special Thanks to parishioners George Souris and Diana Ott for contributing and editing this article.|