God's Work Can Be A Joyful Labor
The history of the Greek immigration to this beautiful and great country of America reveals that although the Greeks may have left their Patrida-Fatherland, they brought with them their faith, traditions and heritage. In their new homeland, the Greek immigrants laid the foundations for the continuance of their Orthodox Christian Faith, established family as the center of their life and insured the future of their children based on a sound religious, moral and cultural heritage. Thus, we can explain the fact that wherever the Greeks went, they were able to establish churches and schools where their children would be able to worship, pray and learn the rich and beautiful traditions of their Greek ancestry.
Danbury, Connecticut received, among the new immigrants to America, a handful of Greeks, who, through their love and dedication were able to lay the foundations for the Koimisis/Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church.
About the year 1927, a few Greek families who were then living in Danbury felt the great need to establish a church to teach their children the Orthodox Christian faith, the Greek Language and culture.
Despite their small numbers and the fact that they were just trying to survive in their new homeland, they worked hard to overcome the obstacles and established a Greek School Committee. The name of the school was "Proodos" (Progress). The school operated for ten years, classes being held at the corner of Main and Liberty streets, and later, across from the post office at 211 Main Street. Arrangements were made for a priest whenever one could be found to come to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on major feast days.
In the years 1937-1938, with the help of our AHEPA Chapter, and the ardent faith and zeal of the people, the decision was reached to establish a church in Danbury on a permanent basis. His Holiness, Patriarch Athenagoras, of Blessed Memory, who was then Archbishop of North and South America, gave his blessings and encouragement of the Greek Orthodox Church in Danbury. A corporation was established according to state laws, and in 1938, a Charter was given by the Archdiocese. The first regular church services were held in a building on Main Street by the first permanent priest, Fr. Theodore Scartsiaris.
Our First Church - circa 1940
The home of T.C. Millard at 9 Fairview Avenue was purchased by the Community in 1940 which served as the Church and community center. In 1952, a fund drive was started to renovate the interior of the Victorian house into a sanctuary and to transform the exterior to look like a Church. Work was completed in 1953 and the community was able to progress.
With the assignment of Fr. John Orfanakos in 1962, a new era had begun for the Assumption Church. During his ministry and together with the hardworking of the Parish Council, a building fed committee was established and a parish house on Seneca Road was purchased. The development of a better Christian life through worship and tradition, the religious education of all people and a philanthropic understanding by all were only a few objectives which were set forth.
During a pastoral visit by His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, on the 25th anniversary of the parish, he stated "You have made twenty-five steps forward toward progress...the Mother Church expects you to make another twenty-five steps forward in the next twenty-five years." Fr. John and the parishioners took this challenge seriously and began to work diligently for the progress of Assumption Church.
After Fr. John was assigned to a parish in New Jersey, the Assumption community continued to work towards the building of a new church. Property and buildings were purchased at 11 Fairview Avenue, next to the existing Church, which proved to be an important financial decision. Thus, the groundwork was laid for the proper time when the community would build their new church.
Fr. Peter Karloutsos became pastor of the Assumption Church in 1978, and quickly, two important events took place.
In June of 1979, "The Greek Experience Festival" was held which brought together the community and made an important contribution to the cultural life in the Cy of Danbury. It has now become one of the main social and cultural events for people from the greater Danbury area.
In the fall of 1979, the Parish house on Seneca Road was sold and a down payment was made for property on Clapboard Ridge Road overlooking the City of Danbury.
During the year 1980, Mrs. Anastasia Carastratis made a donation of $59,000 in memory of her children to the Assumption Building Fund. With this inspiring act, under the leadership of Fr. Peter and the Parish Council, the parishioners voted to begin a fund drive for the building of a new church. An architect was commissioned and a beautiful Byzantine Church was designed to serve as a beacon of Orthodox Christianity shining over the city of Danbury.
As plans were made for the construction of a Church Building, the building up of the Body of Christ was the main focus for Fr. Peter and the parishioners. Emphasis was given to improve the catechism school program, increasing the number of students and teachers. More young men were recruited to serve in the altar. A choir was begun to glorify God in worship and a Greek Cultural School was established to teach the Greek language and heritage. A Greek dance group dressed in traditional costumes was created to entertain at the festival and proudly show our love for our Greek traditions and way of life. An adult religious education class was started and Fr. Peter, through his visits to the homes parishioners, would offer God's Blessings and the vision of a vibrant and caring community. As the Word of God was being received, the community grew, and soon the need for the new Church was very evident.
Many events were to take place which were evidence of the life and the commitment of our parishioners.
The first time an ordination of a priest in Danbury took place was on January 4, 1981, with the ordination of Fr. Nicholas Lassios, who was to serve the Church as a priest with a lay profession.
The Ladies Philoptochos Society always took special care of the needs of the Church, whether sponsoring the Sunday coffee fellowship, the August 15 Feast Day Vespers and Liturgy, or adorning the Church for Easter. The Philoptochos Society was always available to donate for the needs of the community as well as those who had special concerns. The many dinners, fund raisers, programs and special events were always successful because of their hard work and dedication.
Finally, the long-awaited day had arrived. October 11, 1981, the groundbreaking ceremonies were held. On a beautiful autumn afternoon, the faithful gathered on the property at Clapboard Ridge Road to ask God to bless their endeavor and give thanks for all that He had done for our community.
Groundbreaking Ceremony/ Construction Phase
By Easter of 1983, the Assumption parishioners were able to hold services in the new community hall.
On October 28, 1984, the Assumption Community was blessed to witness the ordination of Paul Kaplanis to the Deaconate. Fr. Paul Kaplanis was born and raised in Danbury and is the first young man from Danbury to enter the Priesthood. It is an indication of the faith, dedication and commitment of the Danbury faithful to their Church. Fr. Paul's ordination took place in the new Church even though the walls were not yet covered with plaster and much was needed to complete the Church.
After several obstacles were overcome, the parishioners, through unity, hard work and dedication embarked upon the completion of the Church. On May 17, 1987, Bishop Athenagoras officiated at the Thyranoixia (Door Opening) Ceremonies of our new Church. With triumphant joy in our hearts and tears in our eyes, we entered with Bishop Athenagoras into our beautiful sanctuary singing the Doxology and glorifying God.
Our Church Today
The History Continues……….60th Anniversary
September 25, 1988 the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Danbury, Connecticut celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary. Representing Archbishop Iakovos at the Divine Liturgy and weekend festivities was Bishop Isaiah (now Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver Diocese) and Bishop Athenagoras (now Metropolitan Athenagoras of Central America). Co-celebrating the Divine Liturgy were Fr. Peter, his father, Fr. Michael Karloutsos, and brother, Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, Fr. John Orfanakos (beloved former pastor of Assumption), Fr. Nicholas Lassios and Fr. Paul Kaplanis. The entire congregation participated in this joyous event, both at the glorious Divine Liturgy and the festive Dinner-Dance. A special guest was ABC anchorman Ernie Anastos with his wife, Kelly. Ernie is the grandson of Fr. Anastasios Anastasiou who served our parish from 1943-1947.
The decade of the nineties brought continued growth and progress for our Assumption Church. May 5, 1991, Archbishop Iakovos visited our parish. He bestowed the Offikion of Economos to Fr. Peter and the parish presented Fr. Peter with a cross that a priest wears when he receives that honor. The Sunday School Children presented His Eminence with a silver covered photo album with their signatures engraved on it and pictures which show the progress of our community. We celebrated His Eminence’s birthday during the reception following Divine Liturgy at the Ethan Allen. It was truly an inspiring visit.
Under the direction of our Choir Director, Anne Ktorides, our Assumption Parish hosted the 1992 New England Choir Federation Conference, bringing together Choir Directors and Members from across the New England Greek Orthodox Churches. The Sunday Services featured a host of Choir members filling the Choir Loft, chanting the Divine Liturgy, a truly spiritual uplifting of voices singing praise to our Lord.
In Spring of 1992 the parish paid in full the mortgage of our new Byzantine Church. Although we could have sat on our laurels, so to speak, the Community looked to the needs of our children and the future. In April of 1993, the construction of the classroom building began in order to accommodate the growing attendance of our Catechism Sunday School program. The beautiful hand carved wood Iconostasion (Icon Screen) was installed in May of 1993. October 10, 1993, the Blessing of the new classrooms took place and our Catechism School and Greek School programs now function in a professional and excellent setting.
April 19, 1994, the iconographer, Athanasios “Tom” Clark, finished the installation of the icon of Platytera in the apse of the Church above the Altar. The donation offered by our Ladies Philoptochos began the beautification of our Church.
In 1995 the Icons were placed on the Iconostation. July of 1996 the Icons of the Hierarchs and Prothesis were in place as well as the stained-glass windows in the Altar. By July 1997, the Icons above the Altar, the Holy Trinity and Angels of praise, were complete. All this thanks to the generosity and love of our parishioners.
March 1, 1998, the parish celebrated the Twentieth Anniversary of the ministry of Fr. Peter and Presvytera Maria in the Assumption Church. An elegant reception took place following the Divine Liturgy in our Community Hall with all the Assumption Family expressing their love for Fr. Peter and Presvytera Maria and their children, Michaele, Konstantine, and Nikolas. The children of the Sunday School, Greek School, and GOYA surrounded Fr. Peter and Presvytera with their love and appreciation which touched the hearts of all who were present.
September of 1998, the beautification of The Dome of our Church was completed. The Pantokratora (Icon of Christ, the All-governing) was installed above the congregation in the Dome of our Byzantine Church. We raise our eyes to see the Icon of our Lord who became man incarnate in order to bring us to salvation. The Pantokratora Icon is surrounded by four angels and eight prophets. The base of the Dome depicts Christ as King, Arch-Priest and Good Shepard. The Agion Mandilion (Holy Shroud), also at the base is brought together with the Holy Curtain. The four Evangelists are placed in their traditional settings on the transepts above the four columns supporting the Dome. Our Church has become a precious jewel that shines from atop a hill overlooking the city of Danbury. It is a symbol of our Faith, but also symbolic of the Faith of Her parishioners.
The Dome was completed in time to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Assumption Church which took place on October 25, 1998. Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos officiated at the Divine Liturgy representing Archbishop Spyridon. Fr. Gabriel Karambis, Director of Stewardship Ministries, Fr. Paul Kaplanis, together with Fr. Peter and Fr. Nicholas Lassios co-celebrated. A glorious Dinner-Dance was held at the Amber Room Colonnade with a wonderful gathering of parishioners, friends and dignitaries. Our parish was honored in a proclamation by Governor John Rowland of Connecticut. Mayor Gene Eriquez gave an inspiring speech about our community and the contributions we have made to our neighborhood, town, and country.
March 19, 1999, Archbishop Spyridon prayed the Heretismi Services during a Pastoral visit to our Parish. The decade of the nineties brought a period of growth and prosperity for our Assumption Church. We are truly thankful for the love and support of all our faithful people. The most inspiring sight, however, is to see young and old gathered at worship services on Sunday morning as the entire congregation sings praise and glory to God for all His blessings. To see so many young people attend Sunday Catechism School and to see the warmth and friendship during coffee hour is to see a family united in love and fellowship.
The Assumption Church Family entered the new Millennial with a look to the future, and to continue the focus on spiritual growth and service to our Lord and His people through education, philanthropy, and worship. The dedication of our faithful parishioners insured that our Assumption Church would persist in fulfilling the Mission entrusted to her from our devoted fathers and mothers, grandparents and ancestors who founded and sacrificed to ensure that our Orthodox Christian Faith and Hellenic Traditions would pass on from generation to generation.