Welcome to the Saint Paraskevi Web site. The members of the community of St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church in Greenlawn, New York feel a tremendous responsibility not only to spread the light of Christ to all who come our way, but also to share with everyone the miracles that take place in our holy shrine, through the intercessions of St. Paraskevi.
St. Paraskevi is the patron saint for health of the eyes, as well as the general health of all. While the saint was being tortured in the later part of the second century, she healed the local ruler of his blindness, the same one who was ordering her to be tortured. After the ruler received his eyesight, he stopped her torture and converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, the next ruler had Paraskevi beheaded. At the place of her martyrdom in Asia Minor, a small chapel was built in her honor, as was the custom at the time. Miraculously, a natural spring started flowing from beneath the church and many who came to drink from this water were healed, especially those with eye problems. Hence, St. Paraskevi came to be known as the patron saint for eyesight.
In the late sixties, a family from our church helped build a grotto-shrine in the saint’s honor and brought back holy water from the holy spring of the original St. Paraskevi Church. The holy water was placed in a mixing tank and constantly runs through a spout in the wall of the shrine. Since the late sixties, hundreds of people have reported to us that they have received miraculous cures as a result of drinking the holy water or sprinkling it in their eyes. We receive requests from all over the world to ship the holy water, and people from as far a California go on pilgrimages to our shrine to receive the blessings, holy water and hope from this holy place.
St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church is more that just a parish community, it is a holy site, and we feel blessed to be the caretakers of this holy place. Our ministries go beyond just our 600 member families, but to all people who suffer and need help of Christ’s healing through the intercessions of St. Paraskevi. If there is anything we can do for you, send you holy water from the shrine, or holy oil from the relics of St. Panteleimon, which are housed in our Church, or to simply include you or your family or friends who are struggling with physical or spiritual ailments in our prayer services, please contact us. We are in your's and the Lord’s service,
Rev. Fr. John Vlahos
HISTORY OF OUR CHURCH
PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS ...
PRESENT DEVELOPMENTS ...
AND FUTURE EXPECTATIONS
Looking back on the history of our Greek Orthodox Community in Huntington, we find that the beginning and the subsequent community growth developed around events which were, at times, dramatic and unexpected, and at other times, opportune and well planned - events which make our community history a most interesting one.
Before the Greek Orthodox families in Huntington had a church of their own, many miles were traveled in opposite directions; west to the St. Paul's Church in Hempstead and east to the St. John's Church in Blue Point, Patchogue, to worship their Greek Orthodox faith. The Huntington area was a logical place to establish another Greek Orthodox Church. It was not until December of 1956, after many alternatives were discussed, that a plan was finally decided upon which the Greek Orthodox families in Huntington joined with those of the St. John's Community to form the Suffolk Hellenic Community.
This organization elected as its first president Mr. James Pappas, and the St. Peter's Lutheran Church on Fairground Avenue and 2nd Street in Huntington Station was purchased; a most beautiful white church of wooden construction with stained glass windows and a high white steeple built in the classic Early American style at the turn of the century. The plan decided upon by the combined community was that Reverend Father Mandakas of the St. John's Church and another priest would rotate and conduct services on alternating Sundays at the St. John's Church and the newly purchased, but as yet unnamed, Huntington Church. The other priest, who was to later become our first parish priest, was Reverend Father Constantine Eliades, Father Gus, fresh out of the Greek Theological Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts, was ordained at St. John's Church, an event which many of our earlier parishioners had the privilege of attending. At that time 25 families from the Huntington area were enrolled members of our church.
After a short interval under this combined plan it became apparent that the religious needs could not be met by this plan. It was then that the Huntington families decided to break away from the Suffolk Hellenic Community organization and form a church of their own. To show the sincerity of their intentions, an initial $1,200 was raised by the original Ladies Philoptochos Society. This was followed by additional funds totaling approximately $13,000 which were presented to the Suffolk Hellenic Community as a down payment on the $25,000 decided upon as the purchase price for the St. Peter's Church in Huntington Station. The Huntington families, which now totaled approximately 100, who generously donated these funds became the charter members of our church.
In June of 1958 our community received a New York State Charter as the Greek Orthodox Church of Huntington with Father Gus as our parish priest and Mr. Nicholas Zarras was elected our first Parish Council President. At that time, the Ladies Philoptochos was headed by Mrs. Ethel Contogine. The first community Mr. and Mrs. Club was formed electing Mr. John Roukis as president. The first community Sunday School and Greek School was started with Father Gus teaching the Greek School and Mrs. Helen Grivas heading the Sunday School program.
Mr. Alex Dakis followed as our next parish Council President, and in July of 1960 our financial obligations of the Suffolk Hellenic Community were terminated in a fund drive which presented Mr. George Sfaelos as the highest contributor. For his great service to our community Mr. George Sfaelos received the honor or Godfather of our Church. He named our church Saint Paraskevi, in honor of his mother.
Our community developed and expanded rapidly thereafter not only through the dedicated and enthusiastic leadership of our young parish priest, Father Gus, but through the combined efforts of all our parishioners. The parish grew to an enrolled membership of 218 families, a Sunday School enrollment of 187 children, a Greek School enrollment of 46 students, with a well organized Ladies Philoptochos Society headed by Mrs. Alice Santon, a Mr. and Mrs. Club headed by Mr. James Rodetis, and a G.O.Y.A., Choir and Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout Troop was well remembered as very well organized with many varied and interesting activities under the leadership of Mr. Steve Stathis.
It was in December of 1963 that a most tragic event occurred which shocked our community and which was to impede our growth for several years to come. The heating system in our church exploded during the night, and the ensuing fire destroyed our church and many of the religious articles and embellishments which took so many years to accumulate.
The community felt a great personal loss with this tragedy. Along with us, our Lutheran friends who had worshipped there before us also felt the loss of the church which contained so many treasured memories. Even though our loss was complete and immediate, our community was quick to accept the challenge of rebuilding and reorganizing our parish. During this interim period our community made these plans under the leadership of Mr. Chris Chion as Parish President, and under the spiritual guidance of Reverend Father Charles Sarelis, our new parish priest.
With no church in which to worship our Greek Orthodox faith, the three Christian churches in the Huntington area, St. Peter's Lutheran, St. Patrick's Catholic and Greenlawn Presbyterian, extended their hands in true Christian fellowship to offer their facilities for our use. Our community will once again express our deepest appreciation and warm gratitude toward the hospitality that was extended to us during these trying times.
These times were indeed trying. Without our facilities, we were losing participating membership and our organizations were becoming less active. However we were planning for our future edifice. In this regard we were most fortunate in having forward looking leadership, particularly in the Parish Council. In the past when our church funds were in excess, a six acre parcel of land on Pulaski Boulevard in Greenlawn was purchased for our future endeavors.
It was then that the architectural talents of Mr. Aristotle Taktikos were engaged for the purpose of designing a church complex on this site which would become our place of worship as well as a facility for conducting our educational and social activities.
The design that was offered and accepted by the community was simple and modern design; uniquely highlighted by an 80 foot diameter, self-supporting, thin-shelled reinforced concrete dome, circled at its base by crescent-shaped windows. Funding to build the proposed church complex began with the land sale and insurance benefits derived from the destroyed church. Personal donations were solicited and collected in a community-wide Building Fund Drive under the chairmanship of Mr. Gus Chtazinakis. At the same time a Church Furnishings Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Mr. Nick Karalekas which was to begin planning for interior decoration of the sanctuary and for procurement of the Church Appointments and furnishings for the church complex. The kick-off dinner for the Building Fund Drive was spirited by the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.
Then, when the accumulated funds together with mortgage financing provided by our local banks, the stage was set and our community, under the leadership of Father Charles and our new Parish President, Mr. Leonard Arnold, entered into negotiations and final contract with our builder, Birchwood Builders, to construct the $338,000 church complex.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the selected church complex were held on December 20, 1964 with His Grace, Bishop Germanos, Metropolitan of Hierapolis, officiating. The ceremony was enhanced by the purchase of the gold shovel by Mr. James Pappas. A short time later, on March 7, 1965, the cornerstone laying ceremonies were performed as officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos. The symbolic gold trowel was purchased by the highest donation of Mr. John Yakovou.
After completion of the Community Hall portion of the complex, church services were once again held on our own ground. Shortly thereafter, the church sanctuary was dedicated most appropriately on the feast day of our patron, St. Paraskevi, July 25, 1966. His Grace Bishop Silas of Amphipolis conducted the First Divine Liturgy and was assisted by Father Charles and other local clergy. The ceremony was enhanced by the presentation of the Holy Light as obtained from Christ's grave at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who had transmitted it to Archbishop Iakovos, and then to Bishop Silas. All parishioners who attended the dedication ceremonies had the opportunity to take the light that emanated from the grave of Christ to their homes. In the feast of celebration that followed in our new Community Center, the symbolic key to our new church was purchased by the late Mr. Stylianos Kambesel.
Once the church complex was occupied, our community under the Parish Council presidencies of Mr. Leonard Arnold, 1966; Mr. John Roukis, 1967; and Mr. George Voucas, 1968, accepted the enormous challenge of completing refurbishment and beautification of the church complex and expansion and development of the church community.
The church Furnishings Committee under Chairman Nick Karalekas has obtained many of the religions articles that are presently being used in the church through personal donations. The 400 blue folding chairs, which were first used for seating in the sanctuary and then in the Community Center, were purchased from Lewisohn Stadium in New York City at a most reasonable cost. The Sunday School desks which were first used and subsequently sold and replaced were obtained from the Nassau County School System. The beautiful parquet flooring in the Community Center was obtained through personal donations and installed by labors of the Mr. and Mrs. Club members. Thereafter, the complete and functional Community Center kitchen was donated by the Ladies Philoptochos Society from funds raised through its annual fashion shows. The fashion shows, which became an annual community event and a tremendous fundraiser, were unique in that they were presented by the outstanding personality in women's fashions, Mr. Oleg Cassini.
The pews, which were used in the interim before pews were purchased, were obtained as a donation from the rebuilt St. Brendon's Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx by Mr. Bill Otto, and reconditioned by the labors of the Mr. and Mrs. Club. The folding tables used for the Community Hall functions were obtained from Mr. and Mrs. Club and Sunday School donations. The church complex parking lot, which was for many years mud and ruts, was installed with church funds through the direction of the Church Technical Committee under the Chairman, Mr. Leonard Arnold, and the assistance of Mr. James Rodetis and Mr. George Capetain. Additional outside cement work, church maintenance, and the seeding of a temporary lawn was completed by the labors of our parishioners under the direction of Mr. Bill Otto and Mr. James Rodetis. Much of the church office equipment and Pastors' office furniture was obtained through personal donations.
For the interior decoration of the church sanctuary, the Furnishing Committee retained the world famous worker in church mosaics, Tonelli, to design and install the Iconistos Icons, the marble altar, the Platytera and many of the accompanying icons. These and many more articles were obtained from funds raised by the church organizations and by personal donations of the parish membership.
In September of 1967, our parish obtained the services of the Reverend Father Nicholas Terezakis, who was a great originator. The original idea for the community Yearbook and Directory was that of Father Nick, as well as the community sponsorship of an Open House where neighboring Christian churches were invited to our Community Center in the ecumenical spirit to listen to our church officials and knowledgeable membership speak about our Greek Orthodox religion and the functioning of our church organizations. With our religious services, Father Nick led the Epitaphio on Good Friday out-of-doors from our church sanctuary in a brilliant candlelight ceremony for the first time. Also during our annual church picnic at Lindbergh Park in Dix Hills, Father Nick conducted our first community sunrise service followed by a pancake breakfast. Later during the day, the church picnic featured (another Father Nick idea) spring lamb roasted on the spit with pilaf and salad, and with dancing and merriment to the strains of a genuine Bouzouki band.
In 1968, our enrolled church membership increased to 250 families, our Sunday School under the direction of Mr. James Andreadis increased to over 270 students, and our Greek School under the direction of Mr. Basil Leftheris increased to over 60 students. Our church membership, Sunday School and Greek School kept increasing into 1969 when Mr. Nicholas Papajohn served as Parish Council President, and into the 1970s under the direction of Parish Council Presidents Mr. James Andreadis (1970), Mr. Paul Pantason (1971), Mr. Theodore Heretakis (1972), Mr. John Douglas (1974), Mr. George Tsaoussis (1975), Mr. John Zarras (1976) and Mr. Eustratios Comninellis (1977-1979). During the early 1970s, the Ladies Philoptochos Society again showed its generosity by pledging funds for the Platytera and the Pantocrator. These two magnificent murals were installed by the mid-1970s.
The creation of a shrine to our martyred saint, Paraskevi, was a tremendous project personally undertaken by an outstanding member, John Yakovou. The shrine was dedicated by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos on the feast day of St. Paraskevi, July 26, 1972. The ceremony was highlighted by the addition to our fountain of the blessed water from the original shrine in Turkey. The Holy Water was brought to us by a special emissary from Patriarch Athenagoras. The shrine, the only one of its kind in America, has been an inspiration and significant religious experience, and the healing powers of St. Paraskevi are attested to by many.
Father Emanuel Vasilakis joined our community as Presbyter in 1972 and served until 1976. He was the priest during the Consecration of our church in 1976 and the ordination of Reverend Father Peter Zois on April 17, 1976. Father Peter Zois then served our community as an Assistant Priest for about a year; the first Assistant Priest of our community. Other Assistant Priests over the years have included Father Anthony Nicklas (1982-1983), Father Basil Arabatzis (1984-1986), Father Pat Legato (1987-1990), Father Demetrios Orfanakos (2003-2008) and Father Elias (Lou) Nicholas (2009 - 2014).
Following Father Vasilakis, Father Nicholas Soteropoulos served as our priest from 1976-1991, followed by Father Theodore Nedelson (1991-1993), Father Maximos Moses (1993-1995), Father Demetrios Orfanakos (1993 and 1996), Father Al Demos (1996-1999), Father John Heropoulos (1995-1996, 1999-2004), Father Dimitrios Moraitis (2004-2014), and Father Elias (Lou) Nicholas (2014 - Present).
We have also had the honor and privilege to witness one of our own parishioners, Mr. Vasilios Courbanou, be ordained to the Holy Deaconate. Deacon Vasilios (Bill) served of our community from 2006 until 2014.
The 1980s saw the leadership of Parish Council Presidents Mr. Gregory English (1980), Mr. George Tsaoussis (1981) during the Silver Anniversary, Mr. Spiro Neokleous (1982-1983), Mr. Costas Psilakis (1984-1986, 1989) and Mr. Michael Love (1987-1988). During the 1990s until 2002, the Parish Council was led by Mr. George Dimitriou (1990-1991), Mr. James Andreadis (1992), Mr. Nicholas Choulis (1993-1994), Mrs. Dionisia Ferraro (1995-2000) and Mr. Christ Theodorakis (2001-2004). As we mark our Golden Anniversary, our Parish Council President is Mrs. Terri Adamo (2005-present).
Some of our church community events which were presented for the first time many years ago and now are offered annually are the Church Bazaar (and now the annual Food Festival) and the White Elephant Sale conducted by the Ladies Philoptochos Society. Another annual church event which bears mention is the most beautiful and moving Christmas Pageant which is acted by the children of the Sunday School under the guidance of the Sunday School teachers. The pageant was directed for several years by one of our most hard working and dedicated parishioners, Mrs. Dionisia Ferraro. Mrs. Dionisia Ferraro has served as National Philoptochos President of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. and Parish Council President (1995-2000).
Major building projects over the years included the addition of classrooms and library, the enlargement of the Narthex, the addition of the Choir Loft, and the addition of air conditioning. In 1997, the community approved the addition of a second floor that contained classrooms and a meeting room dedicated as “The John Heropoulos Youth Room” in 1998. Improvements have included removal of buried oil tanks; conversion from oil heat to gas heat; replacement of the heating system; construction of a new roof over the community center; air conditioning the offices; recoating the church dome; raising the church parapet to build a new roof; installing a new gym floor; creating a patio in the outdoor shrine area; the iconography of The Creation on the inside of the dome, with the Pantocrator as its center; recoating the dome with a permanent finish to protect the iconography; the addition of a gold cross on top of the dome; addition of a new sound system and lighting system to light the iconography on the dome.
In July of 2002, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, rededicated the church and consecrated the finished dome. Through the generous donations of the Charles Tsunis Family and parishioners in memory of Charles Tsunis, a new garden area with fountain and a marble sculpture from the old church alter was built in front of the “Breezeway”.