Our Parish History
Even though Orthodoxy is as old as the Christian Church dating back to the Holy Apostles, it has a relatively short history in the Western world.
A Timeline of Church History
Our roots are in the old world. In the 18th century, Russian Orthodox Missionaries brought Orthodox Christianity to Alaska and California. History also records that on June 1768 the first Greek colonists landed in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. Today, the "Avero House" where colonists worshipped has been restored and houses our St. Photios National Shrine. The first Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas was founded in 1864 in New Orleans, Louisiana by a small colony of Greek merchants. It was not until 1892 that the next two communities were organized, one in New York (today's Archdiocesan Cathedral) and one in Chicago. At the turn of the century, the wave of Orthodox immigrants began the increase of Orthodox Churches.
Locally, the first known Greek to arrive in Manatee County, Florida was Theodore Monokandilos (father of Anna Sarafis of Palmetto) from Kalymnos. Mr. Monokandilos came to Ellenton from Boston in 1906 and worked at the Fuller's Earth Plant. Later, he opened a shoe repair shop with his brother in Ellenton and Palmetto. In 1920, he returned to Kalymnos to bring the rest of the family to the United States . In 1909, Mr. Demetrios Peter Petroutsa purchased land southeast of our present airport and developed it for farming. Later he brought Greek immigrants he met at Ellis Island to help him on his celery farm. Most of these men were bachelors who left lmvros and Lemnos, Greece to escape serving in the Turkish Army. Greek immigrants who came to the new world in search of a better life lived with the hope of returning to their homeland someday; but, as such, it was not to be their destiny. Most were buried in their adopted country.
By 1925, there were approximately one hundred Greeks in the Sarasota / Bradenton area, some of whom had brought their families from Greece. The Petroutsa brothers of Jacksonville bought land around Main Street. It was then planted and developed as a subdivision in downtown Sarasota, then known as the Petroutsa Subdivision.
The Greeks of Manatee and Sarasota counties would gather in the atmosphere of the old country, visiting and discussing politics, world events, and enjoying Greek fellowship. Although a sizeable number of Greek immigrants were living in the area, no serious thoughts were given to establishing a permanent church at that time. In a letter dated June 24, 1948, Father Theophilos Karaphillis of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs, Florida, indicated the establishment of an organized Greek Orthodox group where liturgical services were conducted periodically by visiting Orthodox clergymen.
In 1957, through the persistent efforts of Mrs. Eleftheria Gianiotes, a group of women met at the home of Mrs. Despina Daniels in Palm View, and organized the group of ladies known as the "Saint Barbara's Circle." They adopted the following prayer and pledge:
Shed the bright rays of thy light, O Father, upon the Sisterhood of St. Barbara, that every member of this circle, made confident by Thy guidance, may fulfill her daily duty with pure motives and a gallant heart. Be close to us in times of stress and strain, that our courage and our hope may never fail. Let thy sheltering arm protect us, that we may be valiant in all peril. Turn for us sorrow into joy, darkness into sunshine, death into life; so that when the evening comes and our work on earth is done, we may pass triumphantly into the uplands of fellowship in thy family above; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMENThe first officers of the Saint Barbara Women's Circle were: Mrs. Mary Kluver, President; Mrs. Kathryn Kermode, Vice President; Mrs. Pauline Kamberis, Secretary; and Mrs. Ann Miras, Treasurer.
The second group included both men and women of our area, who under the spiritual encouragement of Father Nick Harbatis of the Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, decided to legally organize an Orthodox Community. It was March 31, 1959, that a charter was granted to the newly formed Greek Orthodox Community of Manasota by the State of Florida. The first officers were: Mr. Chris J. Georgiades, President; Mr. Victor Kostecos, Vice President; Mr. George Pappas, Secretary; and Mr. John Miller, Treasurer. Board Members: Mr. George Harageones, Mrs. Nick Poulos, Mr. George Kamberis, Mr. Chris Harritos. The community struggled to stay alive. The faithful would attend services at the Saint Stefanos Greek Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg, at the Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, and at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs. Emergency services for the faithful were met by area clergy. In 1970, services were periodically conducted by Father Sam Kalamaras of Tampa at the Saint George Episcopal Church on 63rd Avenue in Bradenton.
With the efforts of Mr. Peter Kargas, John and Sophie Pappas, and the good fortune of Mr. William Chaltis in finding the Jehovah Witness Hall on 22nd Avenue West in Bradenton for sale, it was February of 1973 that the community was reorganized. The building was purchased and renovated to serve as the first Greek Orthodox Church which welcomed the Eastern Orthodox faithful of the area. During this reorganization period officers were: Mr. Peter Kargas, President; Mr. Nick Poulos, Vice President; Mrs. Maurine Poulos, Secretary; and Mrs. Thelma Kostecos, Treasurer. At various times, the community was served by the following clergy; Fr. Sam Kalamaras, Fr. Gavalas, Fr. Stephanos Vlahopoulos, Fr. John Glaros, Fr. John Liades, Fr. George Stephanopoulos and Fr. Eliopoulos. His Grace, Bishop Theodosios, held Easter Services for the faithful in 1974 and 1975. On Easter Sunday of 1975, the mortgage of the church was burned at a gathering at Pete Reynard's Restaurant in Holmes Beach.
The Official Charter for the Church was granted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and signed by Archbishop Iakovos on June 14, 1976 and in 1979, the name of "Saint Barbara" was chosen and approved by the congregation. Serving as Chairman of the Nominating Committee for the naming of the Church was James Hariton.
With time, it became apparent that there was a need for additional space for the growing church membership. The General Assembly voted down a motion to purchase a home directly across the street from the old church on 22nd Avenue in Bradenton. Consideration was also given to purchasing a small four room house adjacent to the old church for use as a parsonage. However, there was no sufficient support for this venture. With the need for larger church facilities for the Bradenton/Sarasota Community, the General Assembly encountered the challenge as to where a new site would be located, whether in Manatee or Sarasota counties.
A Site Committee was appointed and a decision was reached at the Assembly that the committee should look for a site either 5 miles north or 5 miles south of University Parkway (County Line Road). Chairman of the Site Committee was Mr. Ben Aclin. Dhimitra Louloudes, a member of the committee, located the five-acre tract on Lockwood Ridge and Tallevast Road (Manatee County). The land was purchased in 1979 and with the blessings of the parish priest, Father Theodore Kyritisis and His Grace Bishop John of Atlanta, construction began for the Community Center on the corner of Lockwood and Tallevast in 1982. Serving on the Building Committee for Phase I were: Chairman: George T. Hayes, Vice-Chairman: Chris Angelidis, also: Angelo Berbatis, Alan Johnson, Dean Mason, K. K. McRoyan, and Nicholas Poulos. With God's blessings and the financial support of the parishioners and friends, the mortgage was burned in November of 1984. This building served as our place of worship and our community fellowship center from 1983-1991.
Also, in the early 1980's, under the guidance of Father Theodore Kyritsis, the St. Barbara Circle became the Saint Barbara Philoptochos Society, a Greek Orthodox Ladies Auxiliary. On the first Sunday of October in 1983, Father Frank M. Kirlangitis, was assigned to our parish as our first full time priest. From 1983 through 1990, all the energies of the church community were focused on organizing the full administrative and ecclesiastical structure of the church. Through the generosity of the many parishioners and friends, many religious appointments were added and additional property next to the church was purchased.
On June 1984, the first Greek Glendi Festival was organized on our church grounds with Tom Danson as the first Chairman. This activity served as one of the main annual fund raisers toward the accumulation of funds for the construction of our new church edifice. With events such as our Greek festival, we not only have had the opportunity to share our culture and traditions with our community, but the monetary value has helped our parish to grow.
Under the leadership and persistence of Father Frank Kirlangitis, a Planning Committee was appointed by the General Assembly to study the growth trends and economic overview of the Manatee and Sarasota County area and particularly the parish membership trends. Their extensive report was presented to the General Assembly by George Yeonas and Paul Yeonas on Sunday, February 22, 1987 and accepted. As a result of their findings and projections, the committee recommended that the community plan for a Church Building to accommodate a minimum seating for 350. Specific details would be the responsibility of the New Church Building Committee (Phase II).
The Ground Blessing Service was held on December 4th, 1988 and construction of our new church building, and edifice reflecting the Greek Orthodox architectural and liturgical tradition, began on March 25th, 1990. Within this beautiful structure the Chapel of Prophet Elias (Feast Day July 20) is found where week-day and Vesper Services are conducted. The road to this milestone has been long and challenging. With the expert advice of our church architect, our Building Committee labored hard and conscientiously to include in the plans the needs of all of our parishioners. Serving on the Building Committee for Phase II were: Dean Mason, Chairman; Chris Angelidis, Vice Chairman; Paulene Soublis, Secretary; Spiro Chaltis, Dr. A. Kyriakides, William Trifiatis, and Louis Vose. Mary Manos served as Building Fund Committee Treasurer. Angelo Berbatis, Alan Johnson and Paul Yeonas served during the initial planning stages of Phase II.
With Christian love, patience, monetary resources and much labor the building was completed. On December 7th, 1991, following the transfer of the eternal light and essential religious articles, the ancient and venerable service of the Thyranixia, the "Opening of the Doors" was celebrated by His Grace Bishop Philip of Daphnousia. His Grace was assisted by Father Frank Kirlangitis, and past clergy: Father Theodore Kyritsis, Father Sam Kalamaras, as well as several Orthodox clergy from the Tampa Bay area. Hundreds of our faithful and friends attended the beautiful Vespers and First Divine Liturgy in our new church, "This is truly a house of prayer". Thus, a new era has begun in the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.
"And behold the glory of the Lord filled the house" - Ezekiel 43:5
On Sunday, October 16, 1994 at a special service the Memorial Wall in the exo-narthex with the names of our donors and generous contributors was dedicated. With the guidance of Fr. Frank Kirlangitis, and the assistance of our Ecclesiastical Fine Arts Committee and its Chairperson, Archon Louis Vose, Mr. Sirio Tonelli was commissioned to do the mosaic iconography. Through the generous donations from many of our faithful parishioners and friends the installation of the beautiful icons and appointments were completed in 2010. CURRENT ICONOGRAPHY
With the dawn of the new millennium, our young parish was selected by His Grace Bishop Alexios of Atlanta, to lead the way and host the "2001 Atlanta Diocese Clergy-Laity Assembly and Philoptochos Conference ( July 5, 6, 7, 8, 2001). Hundreds of delegates gathered and rejoiced with us. Under the guidance of Fr. Frank Kirlantitis, our parish family joined hands and presented a conference full of God's love and with a spirit that brought honor to this humble community. Truly one of the highlights of the Conference with His Grace and many of the Diocese Clergy, was the Elevation of our beloved pastor, Fr. Frank Kirlangitis to Archimandrite of our Holy Orthodox Church. This was held at the end of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday July 8th. Fr. Frank's spiritual leadership, dedication and labor in God's Vineyard has inspired our community in true synergasia--"God's gift of working together. Fr. Frank retired as our pastor in June of 2010, and we welcomed Fr. Peter Andronache to our parish.
It is not possible to give credit to all those good Christians who labored under trying circumstances to create a viable Greek Orthodox Community which we enjoy today. Their works more than words, are a living proof that they succeeded.
Our Saint Barbara is a progressive and rapidly growing parish seeking to serve the spiritual needs of all of its parishioners in Manatee and Sarasota Counties (from Palmetto to the Englewood area). Our membership is no longer exclusively Greek, the majority of our Parishioners are American born and many of our faithful are from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The strength of our St. Barbara Parish is now, as it always has been, dependent on our Christian love for each other and the desire to pull together as an Orthodox Christian parish. Our views and dreams are diverse, but our goal is to instill a love for Orthodoxy to our children, to foster a pride for their ancient heritage and instill in them a love and respect for their elders and peers. We have no alternative, we must succeed in these precepts for ultimately they "...SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH." As we build upon the rich heritage of this parish, and as we continue to do His work, may God always bless our efforts.