Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox History
The first Greeks came to Lansing, Michigan in the early 1900’s, a time of great promise and opportunities.
They brought with them their values and ethics, love of family, religion, community and country. They were determined to become strong contributing citizens of the United States of America
They organized through affiliation with Greek Orthodox Church parishes already established in larger cities, and with the National fraternal order called Ahepa: The American Hellenic Education Progressive Association. Through these groups there was a strong network of support with their countrymen. They were not alone.
On May 28, 1927 their petition to form an Ahepa Chapter here was granted. At that time there were about 250 Greek residents in Lansing. Twenty-five signed the request. (SEE ATTACHED LIST) Peter Kekesis became the first president of Wolverine Chapter #142. In later years the women's auxiliary, the Daughters of Penelope, was also formed. Pauline Priggooris was the first president.
The Ahepa Halls, three walk ups on W. Washtenaw St., N. Washington Avenue, and W. Michigan Avenue, became a central meeting place for the growing community. In addition to lodge meetings, it provided space for church services, Sunday School, Greek School, choir practice, and any other business or social activities. Visiting priests came to celebrate the liturgy and perform other sacraments. With needs increasing, members dreamed of the day they might have a church building.
On December 10, 1939 the order of business by the General Assembly was to form an ecclesiastical committee to submit a petition to the Archdioceses of North and South America, his Holiness Athenagoras, to establish a parish in Lansing so their faith, language, and customs would be perpetuated. Committee members were Nick Bardaville, Tom Gikas, Takis Kekesis, Nick Louckes, Charles Pascalenos, James Stotis, Steve Vanis and James E. Vlahakis. Approval was granted,
Charles Kontas was elected the first parish council president. Samuel Vlahusis, a member of the newly formed parish, returned to Greece to be ordained, and became the first priest.
March, 1940 the church Charter was officially issued
In 1944 the Philoptochos, "Friends of the Poor", women's auxiliary was established. Olympia Baziotis was the first president.
ELM STREET CHURCH
In 1945, the first church building was purchased, on the North East corner of South Washington Avenue and Elm Street. The move into the church took place on February 17, 1946.
It was a fine structure, centrally located, and attractive, with wooden pews, leaded windows, bell tower, and on a lower level, a multipurpose gathering room and kitchen. They added the altar, icons, and organ. It was beautiful. Next door was a separate home for the priest. In 1948, Father John Sarantos and Presvetera Niki were assigned to Lansing, and became the first occupants, along with Father Vlahusis. The members of the community were very proud of their accomplishment.
Church programs flourished and expanded. Youth groups were founded and adult social activities were outstanding.
Though the ethnic makeup of the parish was primarily Greek, from the beginning other Orthodox Christians became members and played significant roles. Their backgrounds included nationalities of Armenian, Lebanese, Macedonian, Serbian, Syrian and Russian. There were also many converts. It became multi-ethnic, which is a principal characteristic of the parish today.
The church, named Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, was dedicated on September 25, 1949. Rt. Reverend Gerasimos, Bishop of Chicago, consecrated the altar with relics of saints. Angel Priggooris was Godfather of the Church and opened its doors. Peter Vasilion was second Godfather and opened the second doors. Nicholas Bardaville was Church Board President and Anastasia Haspas, Philoptochos President.
MARSHALL STREET CHURCH
Forward thinkers of the church began to plan for larger quarters as the community continued to grow. By 1958, the Saginaw/ Marshall Street property was purchased, and early fund raising started. It was 1966 when the vote to sell the Elm Street church was cast, and an Architectural Committee was formed. Members included: (SEE ATTACHED LIST)
In 1967 ground breaking for the new church was held. His Grace, Bishop Germanos of the Detroit Diocese officiated. The congregation, who had been guests of other churches having space for whatever needs in the three year construction period, walked from Catholic Central across to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for the opening and consecration. It was held on April 12, 1970.
Archbishop Iakovos blessed the church and icons and laid the corner stone. James Sinadinos was president of the Parish Council at this time, and Sophia Tesseris was President of Philoptochos. We continue to occupy that building to this day.
Many of the original founders names have remained on the roster of membership over the years, and second and third generations continue to worship together and carry on tradition. Many new names have been added bringing their enthusiasm and talents to the parish and ensuring a continued vibrancy.
There is a pride of heritage and faith that is passed from generation to generation through our children. It is a multi-ethnic Orthodox Christian community that we hope will always be a strong center of cultural, educational and religious programs.
We have been blessed over the years with the guidance of dedicated priests and their presveteras. We are grateful to them.
In the beginning, there were many visiting priests - all special.
Father Samuel Vlahusis was our first local priest, in 1939.
Father John Sarantos (Niki) followed in 1948 to 1956.
Father George Economou (Theodora) served in 1957.
Father Costa Kouklakis (Catina ) followed until 1962, when Father John C. Poulos (Alexandra) assumed pastoral duties, serving for thirty years before a medical retirement in 1992.
Father Gus Christos (Georgia) served 1992 to 1999.
For a year, it was as it was in the beginning of the parish when visiting priests served the community, under the direction of His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Detroit until 2000, when our present priest, a convert to Orthodoxy, Father Mark Sietsema (Katherine) was assigned.
A Petition was submitted to the Supreme Lodge of Ahepa requesting authorization to establish the Chapter of Order of Ahepa, Wolverine No. 149, on May 22, 1927:
NAMES OF TWENTY-FIVE PERSONS ON AHEPA PETITION DATED MAY 22, 1927:
B) ECCLESIASTICAL COMMITTEE
James E. Vlahakis