About Our Parish
Persons of Greek extraction began settling in Saginaw and nearby cities as early as 1910. From 1910 to 1920 there were between 50 and 75 young men working in this area. The earliest recorded service or sacrament occurring in Saginaw in the Greek Orthodox faith was the burial of the seven year-old son of Mr. Kerrios in 1924.
In 1927, the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) was organized as a means of preserving the customs and traditions of the people of Greek descent and further strengthening the local community as a prelude to formal church organization.
In 1928, the community witnessed its first marriage, that of Thomas Kanonas, Sr., performed by a visiting Orthodox priest. Kanonas was later to become a stalwart of the church.
In 1931, the first organizational meeting to form a church was held above the Vlassis Brothers Restaurant at 411 Court Street. The name St. Demetrios was chosen by a vote. Among those voting were James Bujouves, James Stavros, Louis Majoros, Thomas Kanonas, Nick Kallos, William Williams, and George Kastros. The liturgy was celebrated thereafter once a month at the Vlassis Hall in a corner walled off for church purposes. Baptisms and engagements were performed by Father Dolgirakis, an archimandrite, from about 1932 through 1934. Thereafter, Father Sevastiades, the priest from Flint came monthly to care for the needs of the Saginaw-Bay City congregation.
In September 1936, the ladies formed the Philoptochos Society as a service and charity-oriented organization which has, through the years, become a stalwart supporter of all church functions. On December 16, 1937, at a general meeting chaired by James Stomos, then president of AHEPA, the congregation voted to have its own priest on a full-time basis and hired Reverend John Pappaleonidas, an Orthodox priest consecrated in the Syrian rite. At this time it was decided that St. Demetrios would follow the canons and laws of the Archdiocese of North and South America and conduct a Greek language school three days in Saginaw and three days in Bay City. In 1938, Thomas Kanonas was elected the congregation's first president. The March 25th, 1938, celebration of "Greek Independence Day" was an elaborate, gala affair with most participants in costume. Gus G. Barris spoke on the meaning of the day and James Stomos gave a talk about the AHEPA.
On December 29, 1938, the Gus Rentzos family donated a Holy Bible for use in church services. It should be noted that this Bible partially burned up in the destruction of the church in 1950, but was regilded and is being used today. In May of 1939, our first pipe organ was purchased. In November of 1939, after Father John Tsapatsiaris took over, the community discussed the purchase of a church structure of its own from the St. Paul Lutheran community at 120 S. Fifth Street, including the church, the next door parsonage and a vacant lot. A building fund drive was instituted and a total of $2,565.00 was raised from the membership from all sources, including $200.00 from Mrs. Dow of Midland. However, the community again was left without a priest, and in January of 1940, the community implored the Archdiocese to send them a priest from Greece. This prompted a visit from the then Archbishop Athenagoras to this community. While here, he performed the liturgy and his magnificent presence was an inspiration to all the communicants present. His Eminence was later elevated to Patriarch of all Eastern orthodox churches. In April, 1940, true to his word, the Archbishop sent us the Reverend George Stathis from Greece who took over the liturgical duties of the community as well as the school. The Fifth Street Property was purchased at this time for $7,500.00 and the St. Demetrios parish had a church structure of its own in which to worship. Louis Majoros became the building chairman and extreme remodeling was undertaken to adapt it to the Orthodox style and tradition. World War II tore apart Europe and with the occupation of Greece. Many families were prevented from visiting their loved ones. A Greek War Relief Fund was established locally with Nick Kallos as chairman. The grade school children were dressed in native Greek costumes armed with canisters to solicit funds in the movie houses in this area for the benefit of their ravaged homeland. Indeed the spirit of hellenism was strong with the participation in the patriotic parades of the time by the AHEPA in downtown Saginaw. In 1941, James Bujouves was elected president of the congregation. In April of 1941, Mrs. Katherine Pappas, together with a nucleus of the Caris girls, formed the first formal choir. On August 26, 1942, Father Stathis expressed a desire to move to another community but he was persuaded otherwise and he remained as a spiritual advisor here for nine years and brought his family from Greece and raised his two daughters in the community. In 1943, Thomas Kanonas again assumed the presidency of the community and on October 24, 1943, the mortgage on the church was repaid and a formal burning of the mortgage ceremony was held presided over by Bishop Gerasimos of Chicago. In 1945, William Caris of Bay City assumed the presidency and Father Stathis left for Greece in August with his family. Mrs. Arthur Mitchell took over the duties of teaching the Greek school in that time. Sam Skentzos was elected the next church president and served in 1947. The year 1949 was eventful for St. Demetrios. While under the presidency of James Stomos of Bay City, Father Stathis formally resigned his post on April 12, and left for Halifax, Canada. After considering several priests, St. Demetrios was fortunate to obtain its first American-born priest of Greek descent trained at its own Orthodox seminary in Pomfret-Brookline, Massachusetts. Father Andrea Daregas, newly married and ordained, accepted his first post here on July 13, 1949. The custom of passing out red eggs was established for the first time in our church and the two-year term of the presidency of the congregation was first established. Finally, on October 23, 1949, the St. Demetrios Church was dedicated and Bishop Gerasimos consecrated the altar.
In 1950, Thomas Kanonas assumed the presidency for a third time. It was an ill-fated year as St. Demetrios was destroyed by a savage fire on October 17,1950. It was decided that the church would be rebuilt on the same spot and services were held temporarily at St. Paul Episcopal Church and then in the church basement until the upper structure was rebuilt. Another car raffle was held in October of 1950, and was won by Mr. John Louis, who promptly donated it to the priest. On December 17, 1950, for the first time, women 21 years and older were permitted in all church business based on a vote at the general assembly meetings.
On April 11, 1951, the institution of weekly envelopes for church offerings began and in October of that year, Father Gregory Economou came to St. Demetrios with his wife and three children and undertook the task of guiding St. Demetrios during the church rebuilding program. On January 20, 1957, while James Stomos took over the presidency of the congregation for the second time, women were given the right to hold office on the Board of Trustees.
In 1959, Dr. Thomas Leontis was elected president. This represented a historic first, in that the church leadership now passed to a new generation of men and women born in the United States of immigrant parents.
At the March 25, 1960, Greek Independence Day Celebration Themistocles Majoros was the main speaker regarding the significance of the day. On July 10, a home next to the parish house was purchased for $5,362.00 and torn down for a parking lot. The Hellenic Women's Society was founded in 1960 and held its first Greek pastry sale benefiting Delta College and the church.
On December 1, 1960, Gus Kookootsedes and Themistocles Majoros were named building fund co-chairmen. In 1961 cemetery lots at Forest Lawn in Saginaw were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Nick Kallos. In appreciation of the many charitable contributions this family had given, they were proclaimed "Great Benefactors of St. Demetrios Church." In 1961, the 7th Archdiocesan district was created and was headquartered in Detroit. For the first time, 31 communities had their very own bishop. On July 14, 1965, twenty acres of property on the southeast corner of Mackinaw and McCarty Roads in Saginaw Township, were purchased for $36,000.00 as the future site of St. Demetrios. The property consisted of partial woods and open farm land.
On January 15, 1967, Nicholas Makrianis was elected president of the Board of Trustees and suspended elections for the next four years. During which time the planning and construction of the new church took place. On March 12, 1967, it was determined that all funds given to the church in lieu of flowers at funerals go to the building fund unless specified. Dr. John Milionis and Gus Paron were named co-chairmen of the building committee for the new church. On September 10, a Past Presidents' Dinner was held honoring all of the presidents of the community. A three-day celebration, which began on October 28, took place in honor of the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the St. Demetrios Church.
On September 26, 1967, the local community assumed the status of an ecclesiastical corporation becoming St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Saginaw. Mr. Les Ticknell, a Saginaw architect, was picked to design the new church structures in May and on February 9, 1969, the general assembly approved the architectural plan to build a new church costing $325,000.00.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place on October 5, 1969. On January 4, 1970, the Fifth Street Church, parsonage and lots were sold for $40,000.00 to the Spiritual Israel Church and its Army and its Successors. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the new structure on May 17, 1970. On October 24, 1970 St. Demetrios celebrated the formal laying of its cornerstone with its honored guest His Grace lakovos, Titular Bishop of Apameia, newly-appointed president of the Holy Cross School of Theology and Hellenic College of Brookline, Massachusetts, who celebrated the name day of St. Demetrios at the same time. St. Demetrios proudly received a previously consecrated Holy Altar Table from Holy Trinity of Lansing, Michigan in March, 1971. Pastoral visit was made by His Eminence Archbishop lakovos on Nov. 10-11, 1973. On January 1, 1976, Father Economou retired after 25 years of outstanding service to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. A retirement banquet was held at Great Hall in Midland. Fr. George Stavropoulos succeeded Fr. Gregory in 1976. On October 30, 1977, St. Demetrios celebrated its 40th anniversary. At this time the mortgage was discharged and a banquet was held at the Bancroft Hotel. In attendance was His Grace lakovos, Titular Bishop of Apameia. The first annual Greek Festival was held in 1979 under the chairmanship of Dr. Louis Economou and it was a great success. Many members of this community have spearheaded the chairmanship of this Festival over the years to establish it as one of the outstanding events in Saginaw County. Father Stratton Dorozenski was appointed in 1980. Dr. Thomas Barris was elected president and remained for two terms while the Three Hierach Educational Center was constructed. In 1985, Fr. Anastasios A. Gounaris arrived to take the place of Fr. Dorozenski, who was reassigned to Dayton, Ohio. Early in 1986, George S. Papastamatiou, a Byzantine iconographer, was hired for the iconography project. Total cost for Icon Screen and iconography was $48,000. Many members of this community made generous donations including Ahepa, Philoptochos and other church organizations in order to cover the cost of this project. On the weekend of October 10 and 11, 1987, St. Demetrios celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a Grand Banquet at the Saginaw Civic Center. Achilles J. Tarachas was the anniversary chairman and Themistocles Majoros the master of ceremonies at this historic banquet. In attendance were his Excellency Bishop Timothy of Detroit and former priests of St. Demetrios Rev. Gregory Economou and Rev. Fr. Stratton Dorozenski. In 1989, Ted Veremis was appointed as manager with the assistance of Nicholas Rapanos for the construction of the Fellowship Hall. On December 3, 1989. Total cost of the project was $715,000.
In 1991, Fr. Gounaris was reassigned to Indianapolis, Indiana and Fr. John Stavropoulos became the parish priest. On October 28, 1991, the Hellenic Center was dedicated and the hall was named the "Linos Memorial Hall" in recognition of its longtime and faithful parishioners William J. and Geneva K. Linos, whose generous bequest of $150,000 helped make the Hellenic Hall possible. His Excellency Bishop Timothy of Detroit and all members of the community were in attendance at the dedication of this great facility. In 1994, a new organ was purchased at a cost of $21,500. The organ was paid in full by the memorial funds and donations through a drive that was headed by Gus and Mary Kookootsedes. In 1995, the Hellenic Center became debt-free. Father Mark Emroll became our new priest, succeeding Fr. John Stavropoulos. In contrast to the early days of our church when women were not allowed to vote at elections or run for an office, women now play a key role in the administration of St. Demetrios community. In January, 1994, Soula Economou was elected as the first lady president of our community and re-elected again in 1995. In the 1995 elections, three of the offices on the parish council were being held by women: Soula Economou, President; Mary Kookootsedes, Secretary; and Elaine Rapanos, treasurer. Since 1971, the following individuals served as president of St. Demetrios under five different priests. Themistocles Majoros, George Kallos (5 terms), Dr. Thomas Bams (3 terms), Pete Metropoulos, Achilles Tarachas, Ted Veremis, George Kastros, George Rouman, Christ Anagnost, Jim Kokas, William loannidis, Soula Economou, Dennis Ostler, and Eftihios F.T. Siradakis (2 terms).
Many members of the community have been recognized with the annual stewardship award for outstanding and continuous contributions of talent, time and work to St. Demetrios community. In 1985, Zoe Andros, Evangelia Kallos, Stamatia Kastros, Katherine Majoros and Georgia Tarachas were honored. In 1986, Efrosine Triantafillou, Penelope Mitchell, Mary Triantafillou, Alexandra Economou, and Angeline Anagnostopoulos were given this recognition. In 1989, we honored Nick Barris, Ted Veremis and Gus Kookootsedes. In 1992, the award was given to Alice Rentjos, Themie Majoros and Gus Kookootsedes followed by Kay Kastros and Pete Metropoulos in 1993 and, in 1994, Kosmas Kastros, Joan Makrianis and Gus Makrianis.
In 2003 Fr. Emroll was reassigned to Dayton, Ohio and Fr. Ireneaus Cox became the parish priest.
On October 28, 2012 St. Demetrios celebrated their 75th Anniversary with week long events culminating in a Grand Banquet held in the Hellenic Center.
In 2013 Fr. Cox was reassigned to Cincinnati, Ohio and Fr. Peter Bistolarides took over as the interim priest.
On August 17th, 2014, Fr. Timothy Cook was assigned as the new parish priest, and is currently serving in that capacity.