Greek Orthodox church marks 100th year
YOUNGSTOWN — The family-themed congregation of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church plays an active part in the local community, offering an annual summer festival and other events.
The church located near downtown Youngstown is marking its 100th anniversary milestone this year and held a four-day celebration with special services, a banquet and dance.
The church began in 1919 in Youngstown and has been at its current site at 220 N. Walnut St. since the early 1960s.
Guest speaker at the event was Metropolitan Savas of Diocese of Pittsburgh who is the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, who oversees 53 parishes and six monastic communities in Ohio and most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“I am honored to be the metropolitan bishop for this area which has some of the oldest Greek communities,” he said.
Savas said the archdiocese will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022 and by then more than 30 if the parishes he oversees will also have celebrated their centennial anniversary in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“These parishes are still growing strong after 100 years which is testament to the faith and sacrifices they have made for their families and their community,” he said.
“I am grateful to the clergy who have faithfully served you over the past century, to the members of the parish councils, and various organizations who have served Christ and the church selflessly and to the parishioners — past, president and future — who call St Nicholas home. It is my prayer that you continue to reach for even greater accomplishments in the future so the next 100 years may be as radiant as the first,” Savas said.
Socrates Kolitsos, parish council president, said the celebration also included a celebration of St. Nicholas Day last Friday.
“Through God’s help, the parish members and the community we have been here for 100 years,” Kolitsos said.
He said the anniversary dance was the first in many years and well attended as were the worship services.
Several priests from the area and past priests who served the parish including Father John Karabatsos attended.
Kolitsos said the parish building the congregation is currently in was a former Welsh church building purchased by the congregation. The church was remodeled.
This year the sanctuary was remodeled extensively including new pews.
“We may be a smaller congregation but it is truly a family. Otherwise, we would never have survived. The congregation is very tight knit. The church members work constantly for the church and do a lot of work. We had church members who helped with the sanctuary,” Kolitsos said.
The church has about 100 members.
Kolitsos said the biggest fundraiser for the church is the four-day summer fest held in July the same weekend as the Youngstown Festival of the Arts allowing for the public to attend both events. This was the 35th year for the festival.
“If it wasn’t for the community attending the festival we would not survive. We are thankful for the community’s support,” Kolitsos said.
Father Joseph DiStefano, who has been at the parish for the past four years, said it is inspiring to see the love and devotion from the people.
“A lot of work and remodeling of the church was done this year and made possible by the people,” he said.
Angela Mikulka, chairwoman of the 100 anniversary celebration, said in addition to the four-day celebration the centennial was also marked at the summer festival and a wine tasting in October.
Mikulka said the current church had not seen any major renovations of the sanctuary this year which was the first since it opened in 1961.
“The pews and other parts of the sanctuary are irreplaceable. The iconostat which houses the icons in the sanctuary were hand carved by a man in Greece,” Mikulka said.
She said the Greek culture is very church-centered with everything happening in the church from the time a baby is born and introduced to the congregation and as that child grows up and then becomes an adult in the church learning of the church’s heritage.
Mikulka said many people who attended the celebration were very glad to see how the church sanctuary had been remodeled and enhanced this year.