The History of St. Luke’s Orthodox Church

Garden Grove, CA

THE EARLY YEARS – 1958

In October of 1958, Mr. Faik Basil Wareh, the then Chairman of St. Luke’s American Orthodox fellowship, created what you might call a “magna carta” outlining the definition and purpose of this Fellowship. He stated that “The ultimate aim of the fellowship is to have an Orthodox Church in Orange County.” The “Goal” was to realize this within six months to one year.

A Vesper service was held each Thursday with Divine Liturgy being held once a month mostly in parishioners homes. They were then able to meet at the Chapel of the Wildwood at Mottells and Peek Mortuary in Midway City, CA.

Four Priests took turns officiating the services. They were Fr. James Meena and V. Rev. John Reinhold of the Syrian Church and Fr. Dimitri Gizetti and Fr. Sergei Glagolev of the Russian Diocese.

On October 12, 1958, the first permanent officers of the American Orthodox Church of Orange County were elected. Faik Basil Wareh – Chairman, Marie Ediss – Financial Secretary, Aspasia Sabot – Treasurer, Marjorie Anna Wareh – Secretary and Joseph Berezny – Member at large. On this same day, the first St. Luke’s Bar-B-Q was held in Garden Grove.

AND SO IT BEGAN – 1959
 

Fifty families were required by the Archdiocese to form a mission church. These families where a mix of those born into the faith and converts; Russian, Syrian, Greek, Serbian, Yugoslav, Irish, French, English and American.

On February 19th, 1959, Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir authorized Fr. James Meena to establish the “St. Luke’s American Orthodox Fellowship Mission”. The foundation of the Mission, was to be non-ethnic and “Pan-Orthodox” utilizing the English Language in it’s divine services and its transactions with it’s members.

On April 19, 1959, the first Baptisms were held at our Orthodox Mission. Baptized were Michael Winchell and “Stephanie”, the grand-daughter of Abe Kashey.

On June 11, 1959, the mission was granted a Certificate of Incorporation by the State of California. The signators were: Alex Dechko, Abe Aezor, Alex & Maria Ediss, Nellie Bourazak, Philip & Mary Ann Kouri, and Michael & Aspasia Sabot.

On December 26th, 1959, Fr. Nicholas Juerges is ordained as the first full time Priest for St. Luke’s by Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir. Fr. Juerges served our mission until mid 1960.

Father Pirozzi served as our Priest from October 1960 until September of 1961 when he resigned to serve as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain in Vietnam.

Father John Bresingham also served our mission from October 1961 through mid 1962.

THE FIRST CHURCH – The 1960’s

On July 3rd 1961, St. Luke’s purchased their first Church, an existing Church building at Fruit & Minter Street in Santa Ana. Rolling up their sleeves they did not hesitate to work hard and refurbished the building and moved in by October 8, 1961.

Through all of their trials and tribulations, this young parish never lost sight of their hopes and dreams by putting Christ and his Church first. The Men’s and Ladies Organizations held Barbecues, Dinner Dances, Plays, Teas, Fashion Shows and whatever else they could do to raise funds to keep their parish moving forward.

The strength of this parish was evident in the early days. The budget report for December 1961 to December 1962 reflected a tremendous amount of $7.46 in the Checking Account and $35 in the Building Account. By 1964, the Budget report reflected a grand total of $917.03 in the bank!

Father Thomas E. Green served as our Priest from mid 1962 to August of 1964.

V. Rev. John Reinhold served as our Priest from August of 1964 until July 3, 1965.

July 4, 1965, Fr. Gabriel Ashie from St. Anthony’s Church in Bergen County, New Jersey served his first service as the new Priest of St. Luke’s. St. Anthony’s provided the first Church Bulletin to be used for that service.

Sadly, on February 15, 1966, our beloved Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir fell asleep in the Lord.

March 10, 1966, the Ladies Society holds their first Fashion Show Event at The Wilbur Clark’s Crest Hotel in Anaheim.

THE NEED FOR A NEW HOME
 

Through the Grace of God, the parish continued to grow and soon it was evident that there was a dire need for a larger Church. A Land Committee was appointed by Abe Kashey, to find a new site. The Land Committee was comprised of: Joseph Baroody, Dr. George Dibs, Abe Eazor, Nicholas Haddad, Abe Kashey, George Hanna, Dr. Philip Kouri, Alex Lasch and Alex Xanthos. (Also know as “The Poker Club”)

It didn’t take very long until George Hanna brought to the attention of the Land Committee a 2.21 Acre site on Dunklee Ave. between the newly completed Garden Grove Freeway and the future Orange Freeway. Those parishioners that pledged to the Church Site drive were considered the Church Site Founders.

On June 5, 1966, a Special Meeting was held to discuss the purchase of this land with the Parish. While a two-thirds vote of approval was required, the parish voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the Land Committee’s selection of the Dunklee Ave. property in Garden Grove.

On July 17, 1966, the Church Site was purchased for $70,000. As a cause for celebration, an All-Parish Picnic was held on July 24, 1966 at Girl’s Park in Garden Grove.

On August 14, 1966 in Lebanon, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba of New York and all North America was ordained and only two weeks later, on August 27, 1966, the newly ordained Metropolitan participated in his first American Liturgical Service at St. Luke’s Minter Street Church.

On October 16, 1966, the new Church Site was blessed by Fr. Gabriel Ashie.

LET THE BUILDING BEGIN
 

On April, 16, 1967 with his Eminence, Metropolitan Archbishop PHILIP Saliba present, the Parish of St. Luke’s Orthodox Church of Orange County broke ground on Phase I – The Church Auditorium and Classroom Building. This was a historic milestone as this would become the first permanent Orthodox Church for Orange County.

Parishioners were asked to pledge $2.75 per week to cover the Church expenses on Minter Street. All other fund raising would go toward the new Church. Through all of these major decisions and major events, the Men’s and Ladies Groups continued to run special Fund Raising events for building the new Church, Auditorium and Classroom Buildings.

Under the direction, dedication, and total devotion to his Orthodox Church, George Hanna of Hanna Construction along with the parishioners, began building the Church Auditorium and Sunday School and on July 18, 1968. They were dedicated to the memory of Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir who fell asleep in the Lord on February 15, 1966.

Church services were held in what we now call our “Fellowship Hall” with the Altar facing east toward our stage.

HERE COME THE 1970’S
 

As the 1970’s were ushered in, plans continued to be prepared for the day the parish would break ground on their new Temple. It also appears that St. Luke’s held their first “International Festival” on June 27, 1971.

Also in 1971, St. Luke’s was licensed by the State of California for a Day Nursery with a capacity of (43) children.

“THE CHURCH THAT LOVE BUILT”

On March 26, 1972 ground was broken for Phase II – Our new Temple, with Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba officiating. The five man Building Committee of George Hanna, Thomas Melham, Alex Dechko, Alex Xanthos, and E. Ben Sady gathered the parishioners for the construction of the circular Byzantine-styled Temple designed to seat in excess of 600 parishioners. As with the Auditorium, the Temple would be built on an owner-builder basis, and was built for a third of its value. In the meantime, the parish continued to grow with over two hundred children enrolled in the Church school. With the foresight of continued growth, the Parish voted to purchase the additional property just east of the Auditorium, increasing the acreage to over three acres and recorded a deed on May 4, 1972. It is said that approximately 90% of the Church was built by the parishioners themselves! The stained glass windows we see today were made by Hendrik J. Vandeburgt.

April 15, 1973, Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba officiated the “Opening of the Doors” which heralded the end of a long road and a new beginning for the St. Luke’s Parish. Services were held in the Church while the Choir Loft, icons and windows were being completed.

On May 6, 1973, the first Baptism occurred in our new Church, the baby girl that was Baptized was our own Anna Nasser!

THE CONSECRATION

On March 31, 1974 “The Church that Love built”, was consecrated. Following the consecration, a banquet was held at the Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom with the honored guests including The Rt. Reverend Bishop ELIA, Rev. Fr. George Massouras from St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Mayor Bernard Adams from the City of Garden Grove, Subdeacon Carl Lardiero from St. Vladmir’s Seminary, Rev. Fr. Alexander Vukovich from St. George’s Orthodox Church, Miss Norma Barakat – President of Western Region of SOYO, Mr. Robert S. Andrews – Archdiocese Trustee, V. Rev. Paul W. Romley – Dean of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Rev. Fr. Richard Grabowski – President So. California Orthodox Clergy, V. Rev. James C. Meena, from St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. and Mrs. George A. Dibs, George Hanna and Very Reverend Gabriel Ashie.

On June 1, 1973, Fr. Alexander Vukovich was assigned as assistant priest until he was transferred to San Diego in February of 1974.

The following was a poem written for the Consecration of our Church on March 31, 1974 by Mary Zabinski Morton:

THE CHURCH THAT LOVE BUILT 

Lift up our hearts, rejoice
With a loud resounding voice
With incense scented air
Because our God is there
In the Church That Love Built 

Seated in His lofty dome
Pouring blessings upon His home
Mantled by twelve sturdy beams
From each a soft light gleams
In the Church That Love Built 

Stained glass His stay portray
From earthly birth to Ascension Day
He trampled death so we’d be free
Our precious Lord our thanks to Thee
In the Church that Love Built 

Artist strokes and craftsmen’s arts
Helping hands and willing hearts
We offer humbly unto Thee
For thy praise eternally
In the church That Love Built 

Accept the labors of our hands
Peoples rooted in many lands
As we bow our heads in prayer
Thanking You for being there
In the Church That Love Built

 

On December 31, 1974, the first New Year’s Eve Party was held in the Church Hall Auditorium.

In July of 1975, St. Luke’s hosted its first Western Regional SOYO Parish Life Conference.

From 1976 – 1982, Archimandrite John F. Matthiesen served St. Luke’s as an Assistant Pastor. He fell asleep in the Lord on November 23, 1982.

February 11, 1979, a “Twentieth” year Anniversary celebration was held at the Anaheim Sheraton Hotel where Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba delivered the Invocation. Also in attendance were Rt. Rev. Antoun Kouri – Vicar-General, Mr. John Roman – President, NAC SOYO, Rev. Olaf Scott – NAC Teen Spiritual Advisor, Subdeacon Anrew Wanamaker – newly ordained, and Rev. Fr. Stephen Hardie – newly ordained. A beautiful Banquet, Silver Reception, Archbishop’s BBQ with the children of St. Luke and an Archbishop’s Coffee Hour were all part of the celebration.

THE 1980’S

In August of 1980, our faithful parishioner John Limbeson was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in the Romanian Orthodox Church.

On March 7, 1982, the Parish held a luncheon honoring Metropolitan PHILIP.

In December of 1982, St. Luke’s published it’s first cookbook entitled the “Melting Pot”. Donations went to benefit St. Herman’s Orthodox Seminary in Alaska.

On January 16, 1983, an Inter-faith chapel was dedicated at Anaheim Memorial Hospital to include four major faiths, with Orthodoxy being one of them. This was a joint effort of St. Luke’s and St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church in Anaheim.

In September of 1983, Fr. Stephen Adams, a new Associate Pastor and his wife, Hope, joined our parish. George Barany retired as Choir Director and Barbara Scholl assumed the Directors position.

On November 16, 1983, Divine Liturgy was held at the proposed Orthodox Christian Mission of the South Bay, officiated by Fr. Stephen Adams. St. Luke’s was authorized to establish this Mission in the South Bay area as an outreach of our own parish. St. Matthew’s Church, Torrance just celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary last week!

From 1959 to 1984, many people and events were recognized and many committees began.

The Classroom Wing was dedicated to Normand J. Mona. The first Building Committee that helped maintain our buildings and grounds included Joseph Eurich, Harry Morrisey and Alex Krill. The “Golden Circle” was founded to assist our Senior citizen’s, along with “The Good Samaritan” fund. Orthodox Christian Stewardship has always been a cornerstone to this parish and when a “lending hand was needed, a lending hand was given”. Multiple charities were aided by approximately 20% of the St. Luke’s parish budget.

On February 12, 1984, Martha George celebrated her 100th Birthday, and St. Luke’s hosted their 25th International Festival.

In April 1984, the Georgina Parris Scholarship Fund was established in her memory. The fund has lasted 25 years and has helped many students attend college.

St. Luke’s was a little mission only 25 years prior and had now grown to the twelfth largest Parish in the Archdiocese. On May 5, 1984 St. Luke’s celebrated their

“Twenty-fifth” Anniversary with Archbishop PHILIP Saliba presiding.

At the 25th Anniversary Celebration, George Barany, the Choir Director “Emeritus” was awarded the Antonian Medal for 20 faithful years of service. And E. Ben Sady the Chairman of the 25th Celebration was remembered as he had fallen asleep in the Lord in early 1984.

Being recognized at the Celebration, were the Council Chairmen from 1959 to 1984 which included, Arthur Dibs, George Dibs, Milo De Armey, Alex Dechko, Peter Dopulos, Alex Ediss, George Hanna, O. Michael Hanna, Abe Kashey, Michael Kelishes, Fred Khorey, Philip Kouri, Thomas Melham, E. Ben Sady and Alex Xanthos.

On June 23, 1984, one of our own flock, Dn. Michael Laffoon was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at the hand of Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch.

In August of 1985, Fr. Theodore Pulcini became our new assistant Priest.

In October 1985, we were blessed with the visit of our Lady of Sitka Miraculous Icon.

September of 1986 brought us Fr. Joseph Morris as our new assistant Priest.

The “Technology Age” hit St. Luke’s in September of 1988, as we purchased our very first computer in order to prepare for the 1989 Archdiocese National Convention. It was also the first time St. Luke’s hosted a Archdiocese National Convention.

It was time to bring out the hammers once again in December of 1988 Phase III of our building program began with the construction of the Auditorium (now referred to as “Our Fellowship Hall”) expansion which consisted of a permanent stage and a new kitchen. Once again we built this through a cost saving measure as owner- builder with our parishioner Alex Krill as the Architect and managed by Chuck Arledge Construction.

In April of 1989, our oldest living parishioner, Martha George fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 105.

In June of 1989, Deacon Nabil Hanna arrived and was ordained to the priesthood on July 30th at the National Archdiocese Convention which St. Luke’s hosted at the Anaheim Hilton.

Once again St. Luke’s extended its helping hand when on October 24, 1989, St. Luke’s hosted the first Real Help “Food in the Afternoon” lunch at the United Methodist Church in Garden Grove. This was a charitable program through the Lutheran Social Services, which ran for almost twenty years. Nuha Qushair headed the program in the beginning, followed by Jean Rozakis, followed by Judy Pappoff and Anna Nasser.

The 1990’s

On January 19, 1992, St. Luke’s hosted a Testimonial dinner for Fr. Paul Doyle, the 2nd only Protosyngellos of our Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.

In November of 1992, St. Luke’s was instrumental in forming the Inland Empire Mission, an outreach of St. Luke’s. Just last week, St. Andrw Church in Riverside, CA. began pouring the foundation for their beautiful new Temple.

In May of 1993, St. Luke’s made a donation toward the replacing of the Inter-faith Chapel at Anaheim Memorial Hospital to reinstall the stained glass windows. This chapel a realization of Fr. Gabriel Ashie’s and Dr. Philip Kouri’s dream. At that time, this chapel was only one of two hospital chapels in North America with Orthodox representation. And on September 12, 1993 the new chapel was dedicated.

As a kick-off for St. Luke’s Thirty-fifth Anniversary, on January 16, 1994, a Founder’s Day Luncheon was held honoring the founding members of St. Luke’s who signed the original charter.

In 1994 St. Luke’s was called upon again, this time to host the Western Regional Parish Life Conference. At the culmination of the Conference, yet another parishioner, Brian Nasser was ordained to the Holy Diaconate at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. On the same day, the new Sacristy room and 35th Anniversary Memorial Shrine to the Hoy Theotokos were dedicated.

On April 30th, 1995, Dn. Michael Nasser a parishioner of St. Luke’s was ordained to the priesthood at St. George Church in Boston, MA.

In March of 1995, Deacon Andrew Welzig was assigned to St. Luke’s.

In December of 1996, our beloved Bishop JOSEPH celebrated the Holy Nativity Services with our parish.

March 17,1997, Fr. Gabriel Ashie was retired from St. Luke’s parish.

Fr. John Reimann was our interim Priest from March 17, 1997 until July 5, 1997.

On July 6, 1997, Fr. Michael J. Lewis was sent to us by Metropolitan PHILIP from St. Mary Church in West Palm Beach Florida. He has served as our Loyal Shepherd ever since. Fr. Michael, Khouria Kyra and their wonderful daughters Ana and Katya have truly been an inspiration to us.

Parish Council Chairmen from 1985 to 1997 included Ted Pakes, Joseph Pridomirski, Saba Saba, Richard Tamoush, Alex Krill, Alex Schurawel, Elaine Kowalik, Bernadeen Scholl, Jim Pelachik, Jordan Atzeff, and Chris Pappoff.

On July 24, 1999, our Father Michael was elevated to Archpriest by His Grace Bishop JOSEPH. Axios! A celebration was held in the Church Auditorium to commemorate the event.

In 1999, St. Luke’s celebrated their Fortieth Anniversary with a wonderful banquet in the Fellowship Center.

A NEW DECADE BEGINS – THE 2000’S

Sadly, on December 9, 2003, our dear V. Rev. John Reinhold fell asleep in the Lord.

In July 2004, St. Luke’s hosted once again, the Western Regional Parish Life Conference. Over 1,100 parishioners attended this conference which is the second most successful conferences held in the Western Region/Diocese. A very special event took place wherein our beloved parishioner Jon Fate was ordained as a permanent Deacon for St. Luke’s. Deacon Jon and his lovely wife Barbara are constantly staying active within our Parish Family.

On July 1, 2007 after Divine Liturgy, a celebration was held in our Church for Archpriest Michael Lewis honoring his 10 Years as our Priest at St. Luke’s and 20 Years as an ordained Priest.

In 2008, Sub-Deacon Nicholas and Catherine Steinhoff joined our St. Luke Family. Sub-Deacon Nicholas assists Fr. Michael and Deacon Jon, while Catherine sings in the Church Choir.

Parish Council Chairmen from 1998 to 2008 included Alan Mertan (memory eternal), Jack Qushair, George Salaita, Michael Lundquist, Steven Greenhut, Russell Khouri, Nicholas Barson and Colleen Khouri.

Throughout the years, the charitable giving of St. Luke’s has never ceased. We faithfully support outstanding Orthodox Christian Ministries, such as; Mary Martha House, IOCC, Seminaries, and a multitude of other charities too numerous to mention.

From 1997 – 2009, through the gracious generosity of the faithful of St. Luke’s, almost every area and aspect of our beautiful Church (all structures and property) have been re-built, renovated, replaced, improved, etc. The list is of these accomplishments is too numerous to mention in this writing.

Fr. Michael has often said; “It’s easy to build something, but building Saints, which is the real work of the Church, is much more difficult. In love and humility, by the Grace of God, we move forward in this Holy task.

FIFTY YEARS LATER
 

On January 24, 2009, the Beautiful Myrrh – Streaming Icon of the Theotokos came to our Church, which brought parishioners from all over Orange County, California to attend and see this magnificent wonder and be anointed with our Lady’s Tear’s. Following the blessing we received from this miracle of God, another miracle occurred in which some of the Icons on the Iconostas began showing tears.

MEMORY ETERNAL! + FR. MICHAEL LEWIS

Very sadly, on August 15, 2011, our most beloved brother in Christ, Father Michael Lewis, fell asleep in the Lord. May God receive him in His Heavenly Kingdom and may his memory be eternal.

A NEW DAY

With the sadness of losing our Brother in Christ Father Michael Lewis, Our Lord God Jesus Christ has now blessed us with Archpriest Father Michael Tassos and his family, Christina, Caitlin, Juliana and Nicholas. We are also blessed to have Father Jon Fate and his wife Barbara. With the Grace of God, Both Father Michael and Father Jon will help guide us through this difficult time and to carry us into the future.

OUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE
 

Our history has not always been easy. Over the years, our St. Luke’s Parish has weathered some rough seas but has overcome every storm. Today we celebrate our Golden Anniversary, tomorrow we move toward the next fifty years. We turn a page and start anew with the same dedication and love for God and neighbor that brought us to the crossroads of today.

Our vision is to continue to grow our family at St. Luke’s in humility and Holiness, and to flourish in deep spirituality, to open our hearts and our arms to new converts, to welcome home those Prodigal Sons and Daughters that wish to return and to help those less fortunate.

We must continue to strive and celebrate the Life of Christ each day and in all we do within our Church. Each day leaves a legacy for the next generation and new days will bring us new challenges, but there is no challenge too great to overcome “The Church that Love built”!

OUR BELOVED PARISHIONERS

We are blessed with nearly “seven hundred” parishioners on our records. As we see the Church full most Sundays, always with long lines for Holy Communion. Glory to God, our pledges at St. Luke’s has more than doubled in the last ten years. As our Lord said “Where your treasure is, there your heart is.”