Monessen, PA: St. Michael Commemorates 100 Years of Ministry
The first weekend in November was more than a normal weekend for the congregation of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Monessen, PA. The parish began the celebration of their 100th anniversary, first celebrating Great Vespers on Saturday evening. Bishop Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, spoke after the service, encouraging us to honor our forefathers' and mothers' memories by working to keep the parish a healthy Orthodox presence in Monessen. On Sunday, Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Thomas and Bishop Basil, Auxiliary Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America. Following the Liturgy a 100th anniversary luncheon and program was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Hellenic Center.
St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church was founded in 1913 by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants as a place where Orthodox Christians were able to worship and seek salvation. The church was one of many that owes its organization to then Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny (St. Raphael).
The celebration marked a homecoming for Bishop Basil, who was born in Monessen and attended St. Michael Church as a youth. During the homily Bishop Basil talked about how the founders of the church, including his grandfather, sacrificed to start the church. Most came to the United States as young people escaping religious persecution. They arrived penniless, and could have tried to blend in, but they didn't. They embraced both their culture and their religion. The new immigrants had different accents, ate strange food, and celebrated Christmas after New Year's Day. At the risk of being mistreated, the first thing the founders did was band together and start a church. Some barely had a roof over their heads, but to them worshipping the Lord mattered greatly. Bishop Basil challenged the congregation. Despite being located in an economically depressed area, he said, the parish had to be as determined and dedicated as the founders were, to ensure St. Michael Church continues to provide a place for Orthodox Christians to worship.
After the Divine Liturgy, the Trisagion Prayers of Mercy for the Departed were sung for another son of the parish, the Rt. Rev. John Namie, who served for many years at the Antiochian Village. His two sisters, Joan Langan and Jane Nasser, in addition to Mr. George Essey, were in attendance and were inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius. Bishop Thomas then elevated Fr. Fred Pfeil to the rank of Archpriest.
The luncheon was a festive affair with many stories and recollection of old times. All in all, the event was a tremendous success.