Parish Highlight: St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church Orange, CT

Photo from Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great Photo: Ephemiamaria Photography

The Saint Barbara Community was founded in 1919 in the City of New Haven, Connecticut, following the influx of Greek immigrants beginning, according to public records, in 1895. Early immigrants included Turkish citizens fleeing from the Greek and Pontic genocide of the Christian population in Anatolia by the government of the Ottoman Empire against the indigenous Greek population during and after World War I (1914-1922).

Whether from Greece or Turkey immigrants were inspired by the hope of a better life. Among the first to settle in the New Haven area, were Christos Koutsoheris (1895) and Peter Proestakis (1899), closely followed by Alcibides Koutsoheris, Thomas J. Bouzoucos, Andrew Bouzoucos, Nicholas Gianoukakis, James Proestakes, Thomas Laesarus, Andrew Laesarus, Thomas Adamis and Fotios Fotopoulos. The women followed shortly thereafter, beginning with Mrs. Christos Koutsoheris, who arrived in 1906. Soon after, the first child of Greek descent, George C. Koutsoheris, was born on April 15, 1907.

From the very outset of their lives in America, Greek immigrants displayed an ability to engage in business and commerce with energy and resourcefulness. Most arrived with little capital and no experience in the restaurant, confectionery, shoeshine or any type of business in which they were to become so conspicuous. Most were young men who lived in crowded rooms above or in their businesses, or in boarding houses. The main reason for these living arrangements, was to live as economically as possible, in order to establish their businesses, send money to their families, pay their fathers’ debts and sisters’ dowries, or to enable their wives or fiancées to join them in America. Social lives were very limited. And in the early 1900s the Pan-Hellenic Union was formed to provide education and assistance to newcomers as well as serve as a binding force to unite Greek youth in their mutual experience acclimating to life in their adopted homeland.

The Pan-Hellenic Union officers were the first elected officials of our community and exerted the first efforts to arrange for occasional visits from a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and other sacraments, beginning in 1910 at Crown Hall on Crown Street. The first president of the Pan-Hellenic Union of New Haven was Gregory Kypriotelis, followed in the next decade, by Costas Pandajis, Louis Atnes, Emanuel Cocolas and Frank Pandajis, who would all hold the position.

As the composition of our community changed from a colony of single men to a settlement of young families, the spiritual needs of the community increased and priests from other cities occasionally came to New Haven to tend to these needs. Between 1914-1918, Thomas J. Bouzoucos served as President of the Pan-Hellenic Union. He believed that Greeks were moving away from their ethnic and religious roots during this time, and he began to try and locate a church in which to hold services on a more regular basis. He was able to arrange for the use of an Ukrainian Church from 1914-1916, and later obtained permission to use the parish house of Christ Episcopal Church on Broadway, in New Haven. On occasions when the parish house was not available services were held at numerous other locations.

Reverend Thomas Daniels was the first priest to travel to the area on a regular basis and tend to the spiritual needs of the Greek Orthodox community in New Haven. He did this from 1916 to 1919. Beginning in 1918 efforts were made to enroll members in order to establish a formal community parish.

A formal request for an assignment of a permanent priest, was made in a letter from Alexander Eftimes, to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, dated October 12, 1919. A reply from the Archdiocese was received, stating that there were certain conditions that needed to be met before this could happen. Our community’s response, translated into English, is reproduced below:

St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church has a rich history, which can be read in full here.

The parish was very involved in hosting various metropolis-wide events for teens, young adults and choir members that brought about a renewed sense of growth to various ministries outside the walls of the Church. The parish continues to expand its ministry programs, enhancing the opportunities for the adults of our parish with the establishment of the Mustard Seed Faith Group in 2014; the Grief and Wellness Group in 2015; and the ΙΧΘΥΣ Reading Group in 2017. 

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