A commemorative photo of the 100 year anniversary celebration of the Saints Constantine and Helen parish in Webster, MA. (Photo provided by Saints Constantine and Helen parish of Webster)
BOSTON – The parish of Saints Constantine and Helen Church in Webster, MA celebrated its 100th Anniversary with His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston officiating. After postponing the celebration twice over the past two years because of the pandemic, 190 people finally gathered to share in an evening honoring the past, celebrating the present, and looking toward a bright future.
Father Luke Veronis, the presiding priest of the parish, has served for the past 18 years. He said that “this church has been transformed from an immigrant community to a vibrant, diverse family.” He also said, “how beautiful to see us celebrate with fourth and fifth generation children of the original founders, together with many faithful who come from various ethnic backgrounds, along with numerous recent converts to the faith. The diversity of this community reflects our vibrancy and gives us much hope for our future.”
The first generation of Greeks came to Webster in the early 1900s because of the many mills established by the famous English-American industrialist Samuel Slater. The original Greeks, along with Albanians, gathered together to worship and established their first parish council in 1919, the date on which the centennial celebration is marked. After buying land in 1922, Metropolitan Vasilios of Drama dedicated the new church of Saints Constantine and Helen in 1924 with Prince Paul of Greece present for the festivities.
Another highlight of the community would occur in 1938 when Archbishop Athenagoras, who knew many ‘patriotes’ from Northern Epiros, held the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s convention in Webster. He brought with him a choir from the nearby Pomfret Greek Orthodox seminary, which included Ted Avlas, a seminarian from Webster.
During the 100th anniversary celebration, all attendees warmly received a beautiful 27-minute video reflecting the history of the church up to its present transformation. It noted the ups and downs in the history of this community which has had 42 priests. Fr. Luke and Presbytera Faith arrived 18 years ago and have overseen a drastic turnaround where the community has doubled in size from 80 to 160 families.
One recent convert, Rayne Purcell, stressed how the video touched him. “It was powerful for me to understand the history of this church and to realize that I am now a part of this legacy. The gems of our holy tradition have been passed on to me and others and it is now our turn to share this light of Christ throughout society.”
This community kicked off its 100th Anniversary with the ‘Good and Faithful Steward Challenge’ when they gave each family in their Church cash totaling $30,000 and asked them to find ways to share this blessing with others in need. They marked their 100th year anniversary by paying off $3.5 million in medical debt for 2,200 families in New England. Over the past 15 years the Church has built nine homes through Project Mexico for families in need.
Fr. Luke challenged all the people present following this moving presentation. “We don’t want to simply remember the past or even lift up the present. We must turn our eyes to the future. The serious responsibility of carrying the torch of faith and passing it on to a new generation of believers is now ours. We have the special privilege to discover and live out the treasure of our Orthodox Christian faith while we proclaim it to the world around us. May God grant to all of us and to our blessed Church family many more years where we can be a lighthouse, a hospital, an oasis, and an ark of salvation to Webster, Central MA, Northeast CT and to all the world!”
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