Exhibit on Early Greek Parishes & Priests to Open in St. Augustine, Florida


authored by William H. Samonides, Ph.D.

published in the Orthodox Observer, September-October 2018 issue - page 17


An exhibition highlighting some of the earliest Greek Orthodox parishes and priests in America will open at the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St Augustine, Fla., in January. 

Early Greek Orthodox Parishes and Priests of the South will examine the history and development of 14 par- ishes, including six cathedrals, in seven states from the Metropolises of Atlanta, Denver, and Detroit. 

The exhibition is the work of this writer and Dr. Regine J. Samonides. It is their third exhibition of a planned cycle of five to be held at the Shrine and re- places Pioneering Priests: Establishing the Greek Orthodox Faith in America, which has been on display since 2015. 

The new exhibition will be dis- played during calendar year 2019 and will be followed by an exhibition from the Benaki Museum in Athens that is scheduled for 2020. 

Today the South is a center of dy- namic growth for the Greek Orthodox faith. In the early 20th century, New York and New England were the ma- jor centers of immigration and parish creation, with the South accounting for less than 15 percent of the Greek Ortho- dox parishes in America. Although the southern parishes were fewer in num- ber, they included some of the earliest parishes established in America.

The new exhibition features the parishes of Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Ca- thedral in Birmingham, Ala.; Annuncia- tion in Mobile, Ala; St. John the Divine in Jacksonville, Fla; Annunciation in Pensacola, Fla; St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Fla; Annunciation Cathedral in Atlanta, St. Paul’s in Sa- vannah, Ga; Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Orleans, St. George in Shreveport, La; Holy Trinity Cathedral in Charlotte, N.C; Holy Trinity in Charleston, S.C; St. Nicholas in Spartanburg, S.C; St. George Cathedral in Greenville, S.C; and Holy Trinity in Nashville.

The exhibition illustrates the history of each parish, how the faithful established a house of worship, and how the early priests served each community.

 One of the significant figures ap- pearing in the exhibition is Metropoli- tan Germanos Polyzoidis (1897-1993) who, in 1941 was the first to be assigned to oversee the Church in the South. Few served the Church in America longer and in more capacities than Metropoli- tan Germanos. He was the first secretary and Archdeacon of the Archdiocese, and later served as parish priest, Bishop, and Metropolitan. After the untimely pass- ing of Archbishop Michael in July 1958, he was head of the Archdiocese locum tenens for almost a year until Archbish- op Iakovos assumed his responsibilities in April 1959.

Born Hippocrates John Polyzoidis near Constantinople in 1897, he was ordained to the deaconate in Athens by Metropolitan Meletios Metaxakis, head of the Church of Greece. He began his postgraduate work at New York Uni- versity in the fall of 1919, combining his studies with duties as secretary of the Church in America. In that capacity, he was active during the creation of the Archdiocese and co-signed the Arch- diocese Charter at the first Clergy-Laity Congress in September 1921.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1927 by Archbishop Alexander, the first head of the Church in America, Fr. Germanos became the first priest of the newlyestablished Saint Demetrios parish in Astoria, New York. The following year he was elected Metropolitan of Austra- lia but declined the post to remain in America. He would serve at St. Deme- trios for 14years. In November 1941, following the death of Bishop Kallistos Papageorgopoulos, the Holy Synod in Constantinople again elected him to the episcopacy. This time he accepted and was consecrated in New York as bishop of the titular see of Nyssa by Archbish- op Athenagoras. Initially it was thought that he would succeed Bishop Kallistos as Bishop of Chicago, but he was in- stead appointed the first bishop of the parishes of the 10 southern states.

 Two weeks after his consecration, Bishop Germanos celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Annunciation in Atlanta. 

At this service he also ordained Aemil Pouleropoulos (1916-2009), archdeacon to Archbishop Athenagoras, to the priesthood, the first such ordination held at Annunciation. The following Sunday, he traveled to St. George Church (now a cathedral) in Greenville, S.C. There he installed Fr. Pouleropoulos as the second priest of the fledgling parish.

 Metropolitan Germanos was a dis- tinguished scholar. Initially trained at the Patriarchal Theological School in Halki, he received a Doctor of Divinity degree from New York University. Author of 18 books, he later served as one of the first faculty members of the Greek Orthodox Theological Institute in Pomfret, Conn. (now Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass.) and was an early editor of the Orthodox Observer. 

In 1962, at the request of Archbishop Iakovos, the Ecumenical Patriarchate honored Bishop Germanos for his services, designating him titular Metropolitan of Hierapolis. After his retirement in 1963, Metropolitan Germanos con- tinued to serve the archdiocese from his residence in Astoria until he was no lon- ger physically able to do so. After a life of distinguished service to the Church, Metropolitan Germanos passed away in New York in 1993. 

 At the time of his death, he was the last living signatory of the articles of incorporation of the Archdiocese. 

The first Greek Orthodox national shrine established in North America, St. Photios is on the United States National Register of Historic Places. It was dedi- cated and opened in1982 by Archbishop Iakovos. Located at 41 St. George Street in historic St. Augustine, the Shrine is open daily. 

For more information about the Shrine and this exhibition, visit its web- site stphotios.org or contact Polexeni (Polly) Hillier, director of the Shrine, at 904-829-8205 or phillier@stphotios. org