CANONSBURG, PA – Rev. Father George L. Livanos could not have felt more blessed after the weekend of November 7-9, 2014 as he participated in the Consecration of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, PA where he has served as Parish Priest for 25 years,” Irene Douglas, Consecration co-Chair, shared with TNH.
“I am truly honored and humbled by the experience of serving such a fine group of people who represent a wide range of ethnicities and cultures,” Fr. Livanos told TNH.
“The sacred weekend began with the arrival of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America at the Pittsburgh Airport, welcomed by youth greeters, a delegation of All Saints faithful and His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh,” Douglas continued.
“The group departed by limousine and made a brief stop to visit with Metropolitan Maximos, now retired, to include him in the blessings of this most sacred and holy event. Upon arrival at All Saints the Hierarchs were greeted by 21 Clergy from the Pittsburgh and surrounding area, 15 All Saints Acolytes in an area outside the Church where the holy relics of St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer, St. Kyrikos the Martyr and Holy Fathers Martyred in Sinai at Raitho were kept illuminated by a vigil candle near the Icon of All Saints. Manuel Pihakis led a procession to the front of the Church carrying its banner, as the relics were delivered to the altar. The Church rang with the jubilant voices of the Byzantine Choir led by Peter Clyde Papadakos, Esq. Protopsalti of Metropolis of Pittsburgh, and assisted by Dr. Nicholas Loutsion, Protopsalti of All Saints, singing the Apoltikia of the Saints whose relics were received.”
Douglas continued: “Archbishop Demetrios led the parish outside to process around the building three times as Services began, taking the Church ‘out into the world’ then back inside to resume the “baptism” of the holy altar and Church building. Blue skies and brilliant sunshine warmed the faithful in procession and many, eyes turned to the heavens, noticed a formation of clouds striking the undeniable image of the cross across the morning sky. God was truly with the members of All Saints Church that day. There was silence in the waiting crowd and the insistent tapping of the archbishop’s staff on the doors was heard as his voice cried out ‘Lift up the gates, O you rulers, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall enter.’”
The doors were opened by Consecration co-Chairs Loutsion and Douglas who led the parish inside to witness the sealing of the relics, the washing and anointing of the altar tables. “Cloth icons of the four evangelists were placed in the corners of the table and then the serving clergy dressed the altar table again,” continued Douglas. “Time passed quickly for all held in rapt attention by activity in the altar, normally unseen by most but shown to all on monitors placed throughout the Church. Both Hierarchs navigated through the church anointing each wall and Icon with holy oil. Council President, Paul Stamatakis, commented that the oil cross marking made over the sanctuary, still visible, would be a reminder to us all and would never be painted over.
“Festivities concluded at a formal banquet held at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn where 550 people gathered in celebration.”
Dr. Loutsion shared the parish’s near-100 year history with TNH: “On July 1, 1918 a meeting of the Greek Orthodox faithful took place in the town of Canonsburg, PA. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a Greek Orthodox Church. Present at this historic meeting were eighty-three men. The majority of those present were from (in alphabetical order) Crete, Epiros, Ikaria, Karpathos, Patmos, Rhodes, and Samos.
“On July 7, the community elected Michael Kontos their first president. officers were elected and a Parish Council was formed. On July 25, 1918 a hall (which I presume was the Colossus) was rented for the purpose of conducting church services and the first priest to serve was the Rev. K. Liakopoulos. This community was first incorporated under the name Saint Tous, which I understand is French for All Saints. The church stamp that was used in the east end church up to my time used the words Saint Tous. This uncommon name is a mystery that I would love to have someone answer.
“On August 23, 1925 a church was purchased from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Community. The All Saints Greek Orthodox Church now had a permanent house of worship. The president in 1925 was Michael Pihakis. One of the main features of the All Saints Church on Blaine Avenue was its Iconostasion. This beautiful work of art was built by a special craftsman from the town of Koskinou, Rhodes. Also with its outstanding twin bell towers piercing the heights, the Church could be easily seen from a distance in the heart of East End Canonsburg where most of the Greek community of that time resided.
“The next order of business for the All Saints Community was the construction of a community center to be used as a social hall and school. After years of fundraising with associated construction delays due to lack of funds, the dream became a reality and our community hall/school was completed. On December 5, 1936 (not 1937 as it is believed) His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras was for a second time invited to the community to dedicate the building. The Chairman of the dedication committee was Archon George T Loutsion, Sr. and the Parish president at the time was Michael Pihakis. Father C. Pappas and Father P. Anastasiou served the parish at different times in 1936. I do not know which of these men served as parish priest during the time of the dedication.
“The newly-built Grecian Hall became the focal point for all of our activities. It served as a Sunday School and Greek School. We held our wedding and baptism receptions, our funeral makaria lunches, “Horosperithes” ( the parish dances), and in later years our food festivals. This was a truly multipurpose building whose design for functionality was way ahead of its time.
“The Golden Anniversary of our parish was celebrated on June 28th & 29th 1975. William Pihiou, a truly dedicated church leader, served as the Chairman of the 50th Anniversary. The Parish Council President was the dedicated Manuel Johns and the Parish Priest was Fr. John Karastamatis. (Later to become a martyred priest and American Saint of our church). Our spiritual leader here in America and beloved Archbishop Iakovos officiated at the divine services. He was assisted by Bishop Geracimos , our diocesan bishop and a man who was also truly a living saint, and Bishop Theodosios of the Orthodox Church in America and former Canonsburg native along with many local area clergy…
“In August 1987 another consecration was witnessed by our parish. Saint Michaels Chapel was donated through the generosity of a great benefactor of our church Archon Michael E. Kusturiss, Sr. Through this gift to the Church many blessings in the life of our Parish, Metropolis, and Archdiocese have been realized. To name a few, many sacraments and services have been held at the chapel, our Metropolis Camp Councilors meet there annually, the national YAL had a National Rally there, during their annual convention in Canonsburg the Metropolis Choir Federation did a Paraclesis Service and fellowship there, and our sister parish of St Johns Russian Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, as well as, many others have held services in our Chapel of St Michael. I should add that the entire Kusturiss Family works very hard behind the scenes to make these events successful.
“On April 23, 1988 something close to a miracle occurred in our parish’s life. After years of planning and hard work and under the most capable leadership of its Parish Council President Archon Michael Kusturiss, Jr , Building Committee Chairman Archon Michael Kusturiss, Sr., and our beloved Parish Priest Michael Varvarellis, our community held its kickoff fundraising banquet for the new church. President Kusturiss coined this effort as “The impossible Dream.” Thus began our five-year pledge program toward the building of our new Church. The banquet committee chairmen were the tireless John Pankas as well as President Kusturiss . Metropolitan (then Bishop) Maximos lent his presence to bless the event. That evening we received pledges for close to $750,000.00 toward our new church. Victor Zaccaline, a Protestant friend of the parish from CA, was so moved that he gave us a check for $100,000.00 that evening. To paraphrase Father Michael Varvarellis, this very important and crucial event proved to be a vital turning point in our Community’s life…
“Our 75th anniversary celebration was held on October 21st, 2000. Father George was our parish priest at the time. Bishop Maximos was present that evening.
“Through the initiative of our spiritual leader Fr George Livanos, an outreach mission project was begun in 2002 in cooperation with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. The goal was to raise enough funds to build a sister parish of All Saints in Kasikizi, Tanzania. I served as the Fundraising & Banquet Chairman for this initiative. This task was made simple by the immediate outpouring of generosity by the members of our All Saints parish. Our goal was realized in 2004 when our parish sent Fr George for the second time to Tanzania, the first to build the church, and now to serve with His Grace Bishop Jeronymos of Tanzania at the consecration service of our sister Parish of All Saints. The first screen print icons that decorated our new church were donated and still serve our sister parish of All Saints in Tanzania to this day. This is a stewardship offering to the people of Tanzania that we should all be proud of.
“Also, I would be remiss when speaking of stewardship if I did not recognize the enormous stewardship offering of our AHEPA Chapter # 156 to the greater Canonsburg and surrounding areas through the construction of the AHEPA Chapter # 156 Senior Citizens Housing Center. This effort was Co-chaired by Archon Manuel Pihakis, John Kouklakis, and Nicholas Scouloukas. The AHEPA President at the time of the dedication was Jack McCabe. So many families in our local community have been given affordable housing through the hard work, initiative, and foresight of our Ahepans. We should also remember that the AHEPA was one of the first to give a $100,000 donation to the building fund toward the building of our new church.”