Saturday, December 26, 2009

The forgotten saint of the forgotten church on the forgotten island

This picture of The Right Reverend, Most Venerable Archimandrite, Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides is the only one I am aware of. He was the first Orthodox Priest in Texas. The picture did hang with Honor in the Church Congregation Hall of Saints Constantine and Helen Church in Galveston, Texas. It has been saved from “Hurricane IKE’s Destruction” (September 12, 2008), and will hang there again when the new hall is constructed soon. I live in Galveston, and I have been a part of the Church congregation since Baptism. My Mother was baptized by Arch. Fr. Theoclitos and was very proud to tell people of that fact until her death in 2001. I have studied everything I can find on this wonderful Priest over the years, including his Last Will, the Galveston Daily News archives, Immigration Records, the Rosenberg Public Library of Galveston, the Church records (Slavonic, long-hand written in Cyrillic), the Internet and greatly on the local “folklore” stories told of him.


“Guided by Saints”, “Priest of Three Kings”

and the History of Saints Constantine and Helen Church Galveston, Texas

Work in Progress by Layman,Milivoy Jovan Milosevich
Aka: MIMOSerbian Christmas….January 7, 2010

His father was an Athenian Greek. When the first outbreaks of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire started on the Peloponnese Peninsula, his father, a fisherman crossed onto the peninsula to join the forces of famed Greek General Theodoros Kolokotronis, also an Athenian. Eight years later, when Independence was achieved (with great help from the Allied Russian, English and French Forces); he settled in Egio (one of the oldest cities in the Balkans), Peloponnese Peninsula, Greece
Born in November of 1833, young Theodoros was named for the famed Greek General. They called him “Theos” and he celebrated his Name Day each September 22nd (Julian Calendar in the 1800’s), on the Feast Day of St. HieroTHEOS, the Student of Saint Paul, the Apostle, who in 53 A.D. became the First Bishop of Athens. Theodorus grew up fishing with his father, and spending time around the port; while his mother (a native of the Peloponnese Peninsula) pushed him to the Church. The era after Greek Independence was wrought with economic problems and the Armenians and Bulgarians had replaced the Ottomans as bankers and merchants, allowing our young Theos to become ever more acquainted with other cultures. Two-thirds of the population had vanished and the land was devastated.
His early schooling was in the Church of Panagia Trypiti that is built inside a cavity of the cliff just 150 stair steps above the Port of Egio and he helped the Priests with all their duties, occasionally traveling into the local mountains to visit Agia Lavras Monastery, about 20 miles south and up in the mountains. Greek Independence had started there with Bishop Germanos Declaring Independence with his blessing of the troops. Later the Ottomans burned the Monastery, but it was reconstructed with help from the Russian Orthodox Church. Many of the Icons there were gifts from the Russian Monastery Panteleimon on Holy Mt Athos and the Be-jeweled Gospel in the Monastery was printed, signed and given by Catherine the Great of Russia. History and multi-ethnic cultures literally surrounded him. As a young adult, he was Tonsured a Monk and was given the name Theoclitos. He soon traveled to Mt Athos where he was accepted as a resident of the Panteleimon Monastery, where he became fluent in Slavonic and studied Russian language and customs; and made regular visits to the Serbian Monastery Hilandar learning the Serbian language and customs. He had become fascinated with languages.
He was invited to complete a formal education and become a teacher at the Slavic Greek Latin Academy and Theological Seminary at Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Monastery, better known today as the Moscow Theological Academy, just outside Moscow, Russia. After under-graduate, a Graduate Degrees in Theology and a few years of teaching; he was called upon by the new Danish born King of Greece, George I, to tutor his son Prince George. Later, the King’s brother-in-law, Tzar Alexander III of Russia called upon him to tutor the Royal Family’s 6 children specifically in other Orthodox cultures including the Greek language. So, he became a Greek cultural teacher to the future Tzar Nicholas II of Russia, who was Canonized a Martyr Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991.
It is also said, Fr. Theoclitos was one of the 30 or so clergyman serving at the wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna, who was Canonized a Martyr Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.
The Parishioners of Galveston would later call him …“The Priest of Three Kings”
It is known that with the outset of the American Civil War, a group of multi-ethnic Orthodox Christians were having regular prayer meetings in Galveston, as early as 1861, and they called themselves “the Parish of S.S. Constantine and Helen”. Galveston is a seaport, and its citizens were accustomed to our Eastern European and Mediterranean People. Our Eastern Orthodox Christians were always around the port. There were those that came, returned home and came back again. The first known Serbian in America lived in Galveston for a long time; his name was Djordje Sagic (aka: Djordje Ribar and/or George Fisher). He came to Texas in the late 1820’s after “jumping ship” (because of indentured servitude) in Philadelphia, and became the first Port Director of the Port of Galveston under the Mexican Government. He then became a Major in the Texas Revolutionary Army under General Sam Houston. He served in public office as City Councilman in Houston, Texas and Justice of the Peace in Harris County after the Texas Revolution. Sagic had studied for the Priesthood in Karlovci Serbia, but left the seminary to join the last efforts of the first Serbian uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1813, lead by Serbian leader, Karageorge Petrovitch. He left the area in 1850 to ultimately retire in San Francisco, California as a Justice of the Peace and retained the status of the Official Greek Government Consul there until his death, in 1873. He knew 13 languages.

The First known Greek in Galveston participated in the Parish Church group. He called himself only by the name of Captain Nicholas. Captain Nicholas joined the notorious Privateer Jean Lafitte in New Orleans, when Lafitte sailed for Galveston, as Capitan of Lafitte’s prize schooner the Mirabella. Captain Nicholas sailed away from Galveston with Lafitte after burning everything they left behind. Captain Nicholas returned to Galveston after Lafitte’s death, becoming a farmer on west Galveston Island and recounting old pirate stories at the waterfront. He lived more than 100 years and is believed to have died in the Hurricane of 1900. Some have said that with Lafitte came the first of many nationalities to Galveston, but I am unable to corroborate any other Orthodox Christians. During the late 1880’s and early 1890’s these Orthodox Christian Serbian, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, and Arab (Lebanese) immigrants to Galveston had organized and started gathering moneies for a church. Aside from the religious group, they each started several individual nationalistic groups. Each had separately written many petitions to their former Bishops back home for a Parish Priest and had received only denials; justified by the facts of distance and costs, but these denials were in some cases including the suggestion that they petition the Russian Orthodox Mission Diocese in North America. So the culture in Galveston was ripe for the addition of an Eastern European & Mediterranean Priest of Arch. Fr. Theoclitos’ stature.

Nicholas II became Tzar of Russia on November 26, 1894. The Romanov Royal Family had created and supported the Russian Orthodox Mission into North America through Alaska since 1784.


So, the Slavs, headed by Risto Vukovich; and the Greeks headed by Athurs Menutis gathered and decided to petition the Russian Mission Diocese. They sent three telegrams written in Cyrillic and signed by Vukovich, Christo Chuk, and Milosh Porobich which explained the diversity of the parishioners to; (1) the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, (2) Tzar Nicholas II personally, and (3) His Grace Bishop Nicholas in Sitka, Alaska. A short time later the parish board received a telegram personally from Tzar Nicholas II, stating his acceptance of their plea. The Tzar had a large Gospel Printed, all the Vestments and Liturgical necessities including a signed Antimins, and all the Icons for an Iconostas painted and assembled including the icon to be used for the name day of the future Church (His own Namesake, Saint Nicholas); and he chose his teacher Fr. Theoclitos to go to Galveston, telling him “Let there be an Orthodox Church in Galveston”.
By this time, Fr. Theoclitos was 61 years of age, was a well traveled man and spoke more than a dozen languages; Greek, Russian, Serbian, Slavonic, Latin, Bulgarian, Arabic, Hebrew, Danish; and some Spanish, English, French, German, and Romanian. The Ambassador of Russia to the United States acquired U. S Citizenship for him even before he left Russia. Prior to leaving Russia, Fr. Theoclitos was given the heavy cross he always wore by Tzar Nicholas II and he was elevated to the rank of Right Reverend Archimandrite, because he would soon be the Priestly leader of a flock of Christians so far away with little known chance of a visiting Bishop anytime soon. His journey to the far off land of Galveston, Texas began with six companions. With him were; the Very Reverend Archimandirte Rafael Hawaweeny (Glorified a Saint in March of 2000 by the Orthodox Church in America) and his three Deacons Constantine Abu-Adal, Istvan Moldowanyi and John Shamie (later Shame was a Priest in Galveston); and Archimandrite Fr. Theoclitos’ two Russian Deacons, Theodore Pashkowsky and Joakim Zubkowsky, and his Romanian Deacon Pavel Grepashewsky; and Fr. Peter I. Popoff. First leg of the trip was by train to Berlin, serving liturgy there at the Russia Embassy Church; then on to the Port of Bremen. Next leg was by passenger ship to Southampton for a change of ships, then on to New York aboard the passenger ship, S.S Havel out of South Hampton, as a United States Citizen. Only 82 passengers sailed that day. Although a group of Priests were at the port of New York to greet them on the Morning of November 14, 1895, they were required by customs to spend one night in Quarantine. The Next Morning, they were joined in New York by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov of the Russian Orthodox Mission in America to consecrate the First Arab-Syrian Orthodox Church in America under the Russian Mission’s jurisdiction, and to install Archimandrite Rafael as Pastor, with his three deacons. A few days later, Arch. Fr. Theoclitos, his three Deacons; and Fr. Popoff traveled with Bishop Nicholas by train to Washington D.C., then to western Pennsylvania, where Fr. Popoff was to serve and then on to Kansas City. At this point, it was decided that only the Romanian Deacon Grepashewsky would travel to Galveston with Arch. Fr. Theoclitos; and Bishop Nicholas and the other two Deacons would go on to San Francisco. Arch. Fr. Theoclitos stopped in Hartshorne, American Indian Territory, Oklahoma to have Liturgy for a group of Russian Miners, just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma before reaching Galveston.

The distances from Galveston to either San Francisco or New York are about 1600 miles. Although his rightful rank was high, which gave him the right to consecrate his own chapel including the right to wear a Mitre (Crown, but with a flat, not standing Cross on top) and carry a Pastoral Staff (Bishop’s Staff); he lived his life in Galveston as a meager Monk, teacher, and Pastoral Priest. The Church Congregation never paid Arch. Fr. Theoclitos, because he received his pay directly from the Tzar (1500 rubels a month and 500 rubels as expenses; about $120 total, at that time) until Arch. Fr. Theoclitos passed away in 1916, a year and a half before Tzar Nicholas II and his Family were murdered.
The Trustees of The Existing Congregation Board (Chris Vucovich, Chris Chuoke, Athurs Menutis and Mitchael Mihaloudski) formally received their State Corporation Papers on January 13, 1895 and subsequently purchased a 43’ wide x 120’ deep property that is at 4107 Avenue L, Galveston, Texas on December 15, 1895. They started to build a rectangular wood frame Orthodox styled Church, and when Arch. Fr. Theoclitos arrived, in January of 1896, he directed the finishing of the Church. The congregation was astonished to be blessed with an Archimandrite and a Deacon, not just a Priest, and best of all he was somewhat of a linguist.

In Galveston, all properties faced either North-west or South-east, so they had chosen property that leaves our Church unusually facing South-east. And, although the Icon of Saint Nicholas was placed in the Iconostas to Honor Tzar Nicholas II as the Patron of the Church; it was Arch. Fr. Theoclitos’ decision to use the name S. S. Constantine and Helen Church, because the congregation that started on its own should be remembered. Bishop Nicholas was invited and he accepted; and the Consecration of our church occurred on June 3rd 1896, the feast day of Sts Constantine and Helen. Arch. Fr. Theoclitos’ decision on the name of the Church, was not unusual with him. He was known to have baptized children with names other than their parents had asked for. My mother’s name was to be Ruza, Serbian for Rose, but he baptized her as Sophia which her parents accepted without question, and gave my mother and others an unusual lifelong connection to their Archimandrite. But then, his guidance and decisions were always accepted by his congregation. There have never been any questions of his guidance that were ever passed down through the years even though we Eastern Europeans have always loved a good argument. He had services in the Slavonic, Greek and Arabic languages. It was as though his congregation was standing with a Saint.

In 1897, Arch. Fr. Theoclitos purchased a 36 plot track in the Lake View Cemetery as a gift to his Congregation. He buried his flock in the next consecutive plot, without regard to couples or children or any Relationship, because he saw them as one congregational family.

In early 1897, Bishop Nicholas replaced Deacon Grepashewsky with a young Russian Monk, Fr. Mikhail Kurdinovski to allow Arch. Fr. Theoclitos time to travel and invited Arch. Fr. Theoclitos to San Francisco to speak in the Greek language on the mounting losses of the Cretan insurgents in their revolution against Ottoman rule. Bishop Nicholas had to be acutely aware that his Archimandrite was the highest ranking Greek born Clergyman in America. While in route, we know that he also served Liturgy again in Oklahoma; and in Denver, Colorado. After his sermon in San Francisco he was asked to traveled with Fr. (later, Archimandrite) Sebastian Dabovich (currently being considered for Canonization as a Saint), to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, where they served Liturgy in Slavonic, Greek and Arabic in both cities. He again traveled to San Francisco in 1898, to participate in the installation of Bishop Tikon Belavin, as the new Bishop, replacing Bishop Nicholas of the Aleutians and Alaska (Diocesan name was changed in 1900 to Diocese of the Aleutians and North America). Although little is known about it, Bishop Tikon visited our parish in 1899, for the first of two visits.

It’s known that Arch. Fr. Theoclitos traveled extensively on the Gulf Coast going as far east as Mobile, Alabama, as far south as Corpus Christi, Texas, and into the interior north to Ft. Worth, San Antonio, San Angelo and Austin Texas, performing Marriages and Baptisms and serving Liturgy where ever he found our Orthodox Christians. In 1897, The Wiemar, Texas newspaper had an article about him; where he borrowed the local Catholic Church in LaGrange, Texas to perform the wedding of a Greek Couple. The writer (obviously Protestant) posted the short article that follows.

Weimar Mercury, 29 Jan 1898
LaGrange, Tex., Jan. 25, --Married today, Mr, Abraham John to Miss Zeche Nemer, both Greek, at the Catholic Church by Rev. Theoclitos (Archimandrite of the Orthodox Church), Galveston, Tex. A very large crowd attended the ceremonies, which were “somewhat of a novelty”, no such ceremonies having ever been performed here.

Our Church Board additionally purchased a like adjoining property west of the Church doubling the size of the property in early 1900. But, in his 66th year, on September 8th 1900, Galveston Island was hit by the greatest natural disaster in United States history when the massive Hurricane of 1900 came ashore. The Island was almost totally destroyed (est. of 8,000 to 12,000 deaths of a population of 30,000, which included 24 members of the congregation. Arch. Fr. Theoclitos and Fr. Mikhail spent 30 hrs in the church praying and giving refuge to parishioners and neighbors that sought safety in the church. After the storm had passed, the Church structure was still standing although it had floated to the west about 10 feet partially onto the additional property just purchased. Those that were with him in the church believed Arch. Fr. Theoclitos and his church had truly saved their lives. The congregation gathered and raised the Church, repaired the damage and early in 1902 petitioned Bishop Tikon, who had since moved the headquarters of the Diocese to New York, to visit and Re-consecrate their repaired Church. Bishop Tikon accepted and arrived shortly before services on June 3rd 1903. This event made Arch. Fr. Theoclitos and his congregation’s church not only patronized by, but also consecrated by future Saints of Orthodoxy. By order of Tzar Nicholas II, Bishop Tikon bestowed on Arch. Fr. Theoclitos the Royal Honors of (1) the Order Of St. Vladimir and (2) the Order of St. Anne (in his picture, the ribbon and cross like medallion around the neck to his right side is the order of St. Vladimir, the ribbon and medallion around the neck to his left side is the Order of St. Anne and the necklet with the large medallion was awarded him upon attaining his Graduate Degree in Theology from the Moscow Theological Academy.

While in Galveston, Bishop Tikon visited the cemetery, and became aware that it was filling fast. As a gift to the Congregation, Bishop Tikon,who was later made Patriarch of Moscow, purchased 27 additional plots next to the original cemetery track. Arch. Fr. Theoclitos and the Church continued with a new influx of immigrants coming to Galveston each year, even purchasing another 21’ to the west of the Church. Although he did keep constant communications with the Diocese, it is not clear whether he ever met with Archbishop Platon of New York, who replaced Bishop Tikon.

He was known to include the Romanov Royal Family each week in the Liturgy, as: (1) word of Tzar Nicholas II’s son, Alexander’s affliction with hemophilia began to spread, (2) World War I was building and (3) talk of revolution against the Tzar was in the news from time to time. Also, because of our multi-ethnic culture in Galveston, the shot by Serbian Gavrilo Princip that assassinated Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, (believed to be the shot that started World War I, was heard loudly in our Church making the War and the assassination more than an important issue.

On weekly trips to the business district, the neighborhood children would gather on the church steps and wait for his return. He would always have a large bag full of fruit and the latest sweets for them, saving a large portion for his parish children. He became acquainted with many people during his years in Galveston and was thought of respectfully, while they became somewhat enchanted with his customary meager but stoic Orthodox Monastic ways. He was a constant visitor to St. Mary’s Infirmary (the local Catholic Hospital) and John Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Following his heart, as the Apostle St. Paul guided him through his Name Day St. Hierotheos, he was known to give Confession, Baptizism and Communion to anyone who professed to be Christian. He truly became a friend to many families, who felt his visits to their loved ones in the hospital made those loved ones better. He converted to Orthodoxy many of these families: the Dambido family, the Matthews family and the Lelirra family to name a few.

In 1911, the Galveston-Houston Inter-Urban Train was instituted, allowing many of our Orthodox Christians in Houston (50 miles north and largely Greek and Lebanese) an ease of access to Galveston for Sunday Liturgy. The trains were one or multiple electric cars that ran from downtown Houston to downtown Galveston, and you could get on or off at any time. So, our members could get off, then on again, less than 800 feet north of the Church on the main road into Galveston. It was still a 75 minute trip, one way, but it was an inexpensive way for our Houston parishioners to get to church from time to time. It was later discontinued in 1936.

And then, in his 81st year, the Island was hit by another devastating Hurricane in August of 1915. Again, Arch. Fr Theoclitos and others prayed in the Church. This storm was even more tenuous for them, but never was anyone in the church lost in any storm. The Church floated to the north about 50 feet into the street, and the front wall was torn open and the Gospel given by Tzar Nicholas II was found by parishioner George Mandich another 200’ away in the city cemetery across from the Church, miraculously with very little water damage. The congregation repaired the Church and moved it back into place with mule and muscle.

The parish again, needed more future graves. This time, as a religious benevolent society, they purchased their own private Cemetery in the western part of the city, about a quarter mile from the other cemetery. The land was far larger (would easily accommodate about 300 graves) and would meet their needs for long years into the future. But they also divided it into two sections, the Greeks to one side, and the Serbians and other Slavs on the other.

Later in the following year, the Church was hit by the loss of their 21 year life with Arch. Fr. Theoclitos, just short of his 83rd year, on October 22nd 1916. He had become gravely ill six weeks before. He somehow knew his time was near, and had the Diocese notified of his illness, and he asked parish leaders to find a way for them to bury him under the Altar of the Church. It was his belief that his grave would, by its nature, cause the Church to continue at the location for centuries into the future. He passed to his Creator at 8:15 in the evening, in St. Mary’s Infirmary Hospital. With the help of Church leaders, his body was prepared by Malloy & Sons Funeral Home, but the parishioners then took the body to the church and stood vigil over his remains continually, until his Funeral. The New Archbishop Evdokim of New York ordered his Diocesan Secretary, Archpriest Fr. Peter I. Popoff (who had been one of Arch. Fr. Theoclitos’ companions on the trip from Russia), and two others of his Diocesan Council members; Fr. Louniky Kraskoff of Denver, Colorado (whom he had visited with on trips to San Francisco) and Hieromonk Fr. Paul Chubaroff of Hartshorne, Oklahoma to immediately travel to Galveston so that Our Beloved Archimandrite would be religiously cared for. They finally arrived in Galveston six days later, on the morning of October 28th. Hierarchical Funeral Services were held that afternoon at 2:00 P.M. During the six week wait, the Parish Board had received permission from the County Judge to place his remains under the Church’s Altar and workers prepared the Concrete Vault that was required by the Judge for his casket to be encased, where it remains today. As Arch. Fr. Theoclitos requested in his will, his Cross and Medals were all taken to Archbishop Evdokim by Archpriest Popoff.
+Memory Eternal+

In the following years our Church was served by numerous short-term or as they were called in those days, traveling Priests. In 1929, the parishioners, spear-headed by Petar B. Kovacevich, built a wood frame Hall (32’ X 75’) with a parish home above, in hopes of having a Priest and his family, stay in Galveston. It helped, but, in 1933, our Greek brethren gathered and purchased their own Church, The Assumption of The Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church. Our parishes have helped each other thru the years, whenever either was without a Priest or there was a time of need, as our Arch. Fr. Theoclitos would expect of us.

The Hierarchs of the Church in those years were Archbishop Alexander,Metropolitan Platon, and Metropolitan Theophilus

In 1934, Fr. Alexis Revera and his family arrived in Galveston and stayed for 27 years. In 1948, the parish decided it was time for the Church to receive some upgrades, mainly in the form of cosmetics. Wing additions were added to the elevated Altar area, the interior was totally painted, Stain Glass windows were added, hard wood flooring, a new roof coving, and the old siding was covered with a light brown brick; work was completed in 1949. The parish petitioned the Diocese, and in 1950, the newly elected Metropolitan Leonty, traveled to our fare city to re-consecrate the Church. Air-conditioning was added in the 1960.

In 1962, it had become apparent that the community was almost totally made up of Serbians. Metropolitan Leonty and Bishop Dionisije (right) of the Serbian Diocese met and sealed an agreement that put our beloved Church under the Serbian Diocese, while the Russian Diocese would receive under its control the Church in Billings, Montana, which was started by Serbian Bishop Nikolai (Canonized a Saint by the Serbian Orthodox Synod in 2003,) and Archimandrite Fr. Sabatian Dabovich; but had over the years become almost totally Russian. They further agreed to guide these two parishes to remain multi-ethic and services were to be in both English and Slavonic and should include a litany of any other languages when needed for other ethnic parishioners.

In 1964, the Texas Highway Department was working on plans to expand the street next to the cemetery into a 6 lane highway. They were intending to put an over-pass over the Serbian Section. Two parish leaders, Ilija P. Kovacevich and John N. Milosevich went to the highway department with their plan to move the Serbian Section at the Highway Department’s expense. The Highway Department agreed. So, it became the work of parishioners; lead by local Constable and parishioner Sam Popovich to get every relative of a loved one in the Serbian section to sign the necessary papers. The highway department would provide 6 times the land they were taking and would bare all expenses of exhumation and reburial; where a solid caskets or a vault was not found, the earthen material would be placed in a vault to be transported; and the Priest would attend and be paid for a service of exhumation and re-burial for each grave. The new cemetery is much like a Church with a center aisle and rows of graves to each side; with small side-walks between the rows and an Alter table at the front.

In 1978 our Parish came under the Jurisdiction of one of it’s own, Serbian Bishop Christopher. The First American Born Bishop to serve an American Diocese. He was born and raised in Galveston and had been ordained a Priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1949. With his leadership, the congregation has prospered through the past 30 years, with him becoming Metropolitan in 1991.

Now we have been hit by another devastating Hurricane “IKE”, which came ashore on September 12th 2008. Our Church sustained minor damage with only a few inches of water inside and some wind damage (no doubt that our Arch. Fr. Theoclitos mystically was riding out the storm in his Sanctuary). But our Hall was in 3 feet of water. The old wood frame structure was left structurally unsound. The Parish decided to fix the Church first. We then had the old hall destroyed, and are planning to break ground on a new hall in early 2010. Our Greek Brothers and Sister, didn’t fare as well, their beautiful Church was inundated with 8 feet of sea water. The masonry Church and hall structurally survived, but the interiors didn’t make it. They are without a Priest, but have managed to somewhat re-do their Church and are working to completion. During this time, they have attended Liturgy on Sundays with us, and now that their Church is presentable, our priest Fr. Srdjan Veselinovich has liturgy on Saturdays for them.

In 2009 our parish was placed under the jurisdiction of His Grace, Serbian Bishop Longin, ending an over 40 year schism in the Serbian Orthodox Church in America. Interestingly, His Grace Bishop Longin and Arch. Fr. Theoclitos, both received Graduate Degrees in Theology from the Moscow Theological Academy at Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Monastery (name changed to Zagorsk Monastery in 1930).

And so,168 years after the first parish meeting in Galveston, Texas, we beseech Our Archimandrite Father Theoclitos Triantafilides; his friends Archimandrite Saint Rafael Hawaweeny and Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich; Our Patrons Saints Tzar Nicholas II and Saint Trazistza Alexandra, Our First Metropolitan and Patriarch Saint Tikon Belavin, our first Serbian American Bishop Saint Nikolai Velimirovich and all those who with the Saints have guided our Parish in their goodness, to intercede on our behalf for yet another Century of existence.

From 1895 -2010, the Church-School Congregation of SS. Constantine and Helen was served by the following priests:

Archimandrite Theoclitos (Greek) 1895-1916
Father Michael Andriates (Greek) 1916-1918
Father John Shamie (Lebonese) 1918-1920
Father George Palamarchuk (Serbian 1920-1925
Father Marko Dimitrieff (Greek) 1925-1926
Father Pavel Markovich (Serbian) 1927-1928
Father George Milosavljevich Serbian) 1928-1929
Father Joakim Tkoch (Russian) 1929-1934
Father Alexis Revera (Russian) 1934-1961
Father Damaskin Susjnar (Serbian) 1961-1965
Iguman Mitrofan Kresejovich (Serbian) 1965-1968
Father Jovan Trisich (Serbian) 1968-1969
Father, Dr. Tihomir Pantich (Serbian) 1969-1971
Father Constantine Pazalos (Serbian), (Greek Born) 1971-1982
Father Svetozar Veselinovich (Serbian) 1982-1985
Father Zarko Mirkovich (Serbian) 1985-1987
Father Dragan K. Veleusic (Serbian) 1987-1992
Father Oleg Vifliantsev (Serbian), (Russian Born) 1992-1994 Father Dane Popovich (Serbian) 1994-1994
Father Dejan Tiosavljevich (Serbian) 1994-1995
Father Srdjan Veselinovich (Serbian) 1995-Present

Marriages, Baptisms and Celebrated Liturgy in the following locations in America.
City/Town Aprox. Distance
from Galveston
New York, New York 1416 miles
Washington, D.C. 1213 miles

Hartsborne, Oklahoma 380 miles
Dallas, Texas 269 miles
Ft. Worth, Texas 281 miles
San Angelo, Texas 363 miles
New Braunfels, Texas 199 miles
La Grange, Texas 132 miles
Galveston, Texas 0 miles
Houston, Texas 50 miles
Beaumont, Texas 90 miles
Eagle Lake, Texas 93 miles
Seattle, Washington 1937 miles
Portland, Oregon 1881 miles
San Francisco, California 1686 miles
Denver, Colorado 928 miles
New Orleans, Louisiana 287 miles
Lake Charles, Louisiana 117 miles
Mobile, Alabama 414 miles
Biloxi, Mississippi 362 miles
Port Lavaca, Texas 122 miles
Polacios, Texas 86 miles
Corpus Christi, Texas 181 miles
San Antonio, Texas 216 miles
Waco, Texas 209 miles
Austin, Texas 191 miles
Cameron, Louisana 81 miles
Rockport, Texas 154 miles
Indianola, Texas 35 miles
Brazos, Texas 60 miles
Sabine, Texas 75 miles
Approximate total missionary miles of work……..over 25,000
“by train or horse and buggie”
31 locations in 11 States in 21 Years

Extreme Post Script:
In retrospect, this writer remains in awe, that The Right Reverend, Most Venerable Archimandrite Father Theoclitos Triantafilides May….truely….be
“The Forgotten”First Greek-American SAINT
He was the answer to our predecessors every prayer.
He traveled extensively on a global basis to serve the religious needs of many. He provided the “Connecting Link” for our multi-ethnic American lives, and through the teachings of Orthodoxy and his God-Given Art of Language, he lead us on the path of Saint Paul, the Apostle, past the ever separating ethnic divide.

Nativity Encyclical 2009

The Serbian Orthodox Church
to her spiritual children at Christmas, 2009


By the Grace of God
Orthodox Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands, Locum Tenens of the throne of the Serbian Patriarchs, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Christmas greeting:

Peace from God! Christ is Born!

Again this year, our dear spiritual children, here we are before the cradle of the Divine Child Jesus Christ. The immense mystery beyond comprehension of the birth of God the Logos took place in a lowly cave in Bethlehem, which from that moment, once and for all time, became the center of the world – the center of God’s glory and a source of comfort to all those who have sought after God throughout human history.
The great father of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, when speaking of the Nativity Feast says: “Honor, brothers, the feast days, but most of all the day of Christ’s Nativity; for he who calls Christ’s birth the mother of all feast days makes no mistake…” From the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord all the feast days spring forth, as rivers spring forth from their sources. According to the holy Chrysostom, the birth of Christ is a new creation of the world, and the Incarnation of God the Logos is the cornerstone of everything.
Another great father of the Church, St. Gregory the Theologian, begins his Nativity homily with the doxology – glorification of God:

Christ is born – let us glorify Him!
Christ comes from heaven – let us welcome Him!
Christ is on earth – let us be lifted up!
Sing to the Lord all the earth!

And he continues: “Let the people that sit in the darkness of ignorance see the great light of the knowledge of God. The old is gone – look, everything has become new! The letter of the Old Covenant withdraws – the Spirit takes over; shadows disappear – the Truth arrives.”
According to the narrative of the Holy Evangelists, the Lord Jesus Christ was born in the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus in Bethlehem of Judea, the city of prophets and of King David, from whose offspring, according to the prophesies of the Old Testament prophets, was to be born the Messiah promised by God – the Savior of the world.
Saint Gregory Palamas, the theologian of the light of Bethlehem and of Tabor, in his Nativity homily reveals the deep meaning of the Messiah’s coming: “With the incarnation and birth of Christ the Messiah into the world, universal joy and peace have been granted to the world. Listen to the end of the song of the Angel, the deliverer of the good news, and you will discover it – it says: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men (Luke 2:14); for God came in the flesh in order to bring His peace to the world and to reconcile it with the Most-High Father.” Christ’s peace is not the same as the peace of this world. St. Gregory Palamas calls the peace of Christmas “the spirit of adoption, because those who are bearers of this peace with faith became inheritors of God and coinheritors of Christ (Romans 8:17). “That is why, according to this same saint, only those who live in love with one another, and who according to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul “bear with one another, and forgive one another…even as Christ forgave you,” live in the same Savior and in the spirit of Christmas. (cf. Colossians 3:13)
The far removed and exalted God, Who in the Old Testament conversed with Moses on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 3:5), with Christ’s birth bowed down the heavens and became “Emmanuel, which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23), without losing anything divine. St. John of Damascus confirms this when he talks about Christ’s Nativity by saying: “That is why we don’t say about Him that He is a man made God; rather He is God Who became man: because He being perfect God according to His nature, became perfect Man without changing His own nature nor the divine economy.”
The newly revealed Abba Justin of Celije said that “on Christmas God, according to His immeasurable love, entered history, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, incarnate from the Ever-Virgin Mary Theotokos, and became a real man.” In this way in the new born Child – the Divine Child Jesus Christ God – we have been given every abundant gift of the Heavenly Kingdom, bringing with Himself eternal Truth, eternal Justice and eternal Life which, according to Saint Maxim the Confessor, we taste in advance in the life and the liturgy of Christ’s Church.
The Feast of Christmas has divided the entire history of mankind into two parts — into the time of anticipation and into the time of salvation. The biblical anticipation of the Messiah and Savior already began with the promise to the first-created people Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:15), and more concretely to our forefather the patriarch Abraham, to whom God promised that in his descendants all peoples would be blessed (see Genesis 22:18), which was fulfilled precisely by the Birth of the God-Man Jesus Christ.
All the Old Testament prophets pointed to the great mystery of the Messiah’s birth. Therefore, looking at the Old Testament with the eyes of the Holy Apostle Paul, we can repeat after him that the Old Testament in its entirety is “our tutor to bring us to Christ”, (Galatians 3:24), an instructor which before Christ pointed all God-loving souls to Bethlehem’s Cave.
On the other hand, the three Magi from the East, whom the grace-filled Bethlehem star brought to the place where Christ was born, signify, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers, the entire polytheistic world, which through its philosophy of men (cf. Colossian 2:8) could not penetrate into the depths of the mystery of God’s Incarnation.
To both the God-loving souls and the polytheistic world, the heavenly angel during the Birth of Christ revealed the great mystery of the world’s salvation, delivering the Good News to Bethlehem’s shepherds, and through them to all of us: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
From that proclamation of glad tidings to Bethlehem’s shepherds right up to today, the Birth of Christ is the Feast Day of heavenly and earthly joy in which angels and saints participate together, but also every God-loving soul enlightened by Bethlehem’s light. Like the three Wise Men from the East who came to worship the Divine Child Jesus Christ, all of us are called as well to worship Him, and to offer our gifts to the newborn King of heaven. (cf. Matthew 2:2)
Is not all the good from God that we have done this year our biggest gift to the Divine Child?
If we have fed the hungry, given a drink to the thirsty, and visited the sick, in doing so did we not offer our gifts to God?
If we have glorified God with our life, living a holy and God-pleasing life, in doing so did we not offer the gold of the virtues to the Divine Child?
If we have loved God’s Church and with our diligence have adorned the Lord’s House, in doing so did we not offer a God-pleasing sacrifice?
If we have acknowledged the suffering of our brothers, and have comforted them with our works, in doing so did we not do good to Christ Himself? (cf. Matthew 10:42)
You see, in return for His limitless love the Divine Child Christ expects such gifts from us. That is why Christmas is also a feast day before which we re-examine our faith and everything which we, as God’s creatures and sons and daughters of God, are called to do, as was so often repeated by our Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory.
This Nativity season we are especially filled with joyous sadness that our great Patriarch Pavle has left us and has gone on from earth to heaven. We deeply believe that he, in accordance with freedom given to him by God, “with all the saints of our nation” continues to offer his prayers for our Church and our crucified people, together with Saint Sava, Saint Simeon the Myrrh-gusher and all our holy ancestors who recognized and received Patriarch Pavle “as one of their own and as their equal.”
This Christmas we also remember all those who are afflicted, the suffering, those in exile, and all those who have had any injustice done them; we want to comfort them with the words: Christ is Born! Rejoice, for behold, the Lord comes to wipe away every human tear. (See Revelation 21:4)
With His birth on earth Christ has sanctified every aspect of human life – from conception to death and resurrection. That is why the Nativity reminds us not to raise our hand against the fruit of our womb, but rather to live according to God’s commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) By respecting this blessing of God, Rachael’s weeping over our people and for our children who are no more (see Matthew 2:18) would cease, and the inextinguishable life that has shown forth from Bethlehem’s cave would blossom.
This Nativity season we are also with our brothers and sisters in Kosovo and Metohija — the cradle of our people. In Christ’s love we ask them to return to their homesteads in Kosovo and to stay there to live with their holy shrines, safeguarding our Kosovo, that “wretched place of judgment.” Let us never lose hope that God will enlighten the minds of those to whom He has given earthly power and control over other countries and peoples; that they, in the spirit of divine and human justice, will re-examine their unjust decisions regarding Kosovo and Metohija. Only in this way will peace and community in the Balkans and Europe be renewed, and the wounded dignity of the Serbian Orthodox people be returned. We also pray to the Newborn King of Peace that He eradicates war, violence and injustice everywhere in the world, so that finally peace and justice might reign among all peoples and nations.
We greet our entire God-loving people with the greeting of Bethlehem, asking that we safeguard our Orthodox Faith, our language and our alphabet, on whatever continent we might live. We Serbs are an ancient Christian nation, because through baptism by Cyril and Methodius and enlightenment by St. Sava we became part of the culture of the entire Christian world. We in this way have left an indelible stamp on the history and civilization of modern Europe and the world, embedding ourselves, once and for all, in their future.
The Nativity of Christ always calls all of us to live in brotherly love, in love for God and in evangelical humility, living from the work of our hands and holding fast to the New Testament teachings: that we not do to others anything that we would not wish them to do to us. (cf. Acts 15:29)
In summarizing this great and inconceivable mystery of the Nativity, Saint Gregory the Theologian said: “This is our holy day. This is what we celebrate today: God’s coming to mankind — so that we might come to God; or to put it more suitably: so that we might return to God; so that we might put off the old man and put on the new, and so that just as we have all died in Adam, we may come to new life in Christ, that we may be born again with Christ, and be crucified along with him, and be buried with Him, and resurrect along with Him.”
Concluding our Nativity encyclical with the words of this Godly-wise Church father, we greet you all, dear spiritual children, and we greet all peoples and all nations with the all-joyous greeting of Bethlehem and of peace:


Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Christmas, 2009.

Your intercessors before the cradle of the Divine Infant Christ:
The locum tenens of the throne of the Serbian Patriarchs,
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Libertyville-Chicago CHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Sabac-Valjevo LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nis IRINEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop of New Gracanica-Midwestern America LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Valjevo MILUTIN
Bishop of Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJE
Vicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE
Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal and locum tenens of the Diocese of Bitolj MARKO
Vicar Bishop of Stobija David
[Path of Orthodoxy translation]

Friday, December 18, 2009

His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew on 60 Minutes

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Appear on
60 Minutes Segment on Orthodox Christianity

NEW YORK - His All Holiness Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians who constitute the second largest Christian denomination in the world, will be featured on the CBS News program 60 Minutes reported by Bob Simon, scheduled to air on Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 7 p.m. EST. The segment will focus on the Orthodox Church, the most ancient Christian church, and its development from its earliest years to modern times in what is now the Republic of Turkey.

His All Holiness was named 11th among the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine and was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts to promote human rights and religious tolerance. He has also been recognized by the United Nations as a Laureate Champion of the Earth for his pioneering work to protect the environment. Affectionately known as "the Green Patriarch," Patriarch Bartholomew has called upon leaders of all denominations to join him in this effort, noting simply that "If life is sacred, so is the entire web that sustains it."

His All Holiness recently concluded an extended visit to the U.S., where he participated in an environmental symposium in Mississippi, ministered to the five million Orthodox faithful in America, and met with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama, among many others. He is the author of Encountering the Mystery (Doubleday) and In the World, Yet Not of the World (Fordham).

Commenting on the upcoming broadcast, Archbishop Demetrios of America said:

"The appearance of the Ecumenical Patriarch on a program such as 60 Minutes is an extraordinary opportunity for the American public to become aware of our Orthodox Christian Faith. Millions of people who would otherwise have limited knowledge of the Orthodox Church will have the chance to see and hear the highest ecclesiastical personage of our Church in their living rooms. It is also a tremendous opportunity for our own Orthodox Faithful in the United States to see His All Holiness in a way that will surely touch their hearts and minds with love and deep respect."

60 Minutes is the pre-eminent investigative television news show in the United States and has run on CBS since 1968. It has been among the top-rated TV programs for much of its life and has garnered numerous awards over the years. The show will also be broadcast over the Internet on the 60 Minutes website:

More information about His All Holiness's work for religious freedom, human rights, environmental conservation, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as texts of his addresses may be found at:

Nativity Greetings

“We bow unto Thee, the Sun of Righteousness”
–From the Troparion of the Nativity

The One Who was born of the Virgin Mary, Whom we call “the Sun of Righteousness,” and Whose miraculous birth we glorify again this year, is indeed worthy of our worship and our reverence.

Let us bow unto Him for He was pleased to be born like one of us—entirely because of us and our salvation. Let us bow unto Him because of His love towards all creation and especially towards man. And let us rejoice this year also in the Newborn One, in hope that he will warm our hearts and that He will, by His might, make way for that which is God-pleasing, good, honorable and steadfast to be born in our souls.

This Nativity, we greet all of you, the faithful of our Diocese, for whose souls we answer before the Lord, and we pray that we all work more diligently on the path of salvation. “Let us be people,” was the message of our most-holy Patriarch Pavle. The authenticity of his persona and the simplicity of his message have touched the soul of Serbia, as well as of millions of Orthodox throughout the world. May the God-Child grant that this message produces a rebirth in us also!

Peace from God – Christ is Born! Happy and Blessed New Year 2010!

Bishop of New Gracanica and Midwestern America

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chistmas Schedule



Sunday, December 6th 26th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, December 13th 27th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, December 20th 28th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, December 27th 29th Sunday after Pentecost


Sunday, January 3rd Sunday of the Holy Forefathers

Wednesday, January 6th Christmas Eve Great Vespers Service @ 7:00 p.m. with Traditional Burning of Yule Log

Thursday, January 7th NATIVITY OF OUR LORD.

Sunday, January 10th 31st Sunday after Pentecost

Thursday, January 14th Circumcision of our Lord; St. Basil the Great

Sunday, January 15th 32nd Sunday after Pentecost

Tuesday, January 19th THEOPHANY -Baptism of our Lord (Great Blessing of the Water)

Sunday, January 24th Sunday of the Publican & the Publican

Sunday, January 31st Sunday of the Prodigal Son


Sunday, February 7th Sunday of the Last Judgement

Sunday, February 14th Sunday of Forgiveness

Monday, February 15 Beginning of Great & Holy Lent

All Divine Litirgies commence at 10:00am