By Catherine Tsounis
“Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them”. Plato (428-327 BC).
The Founders of the Transfiguration set a goal and built a church with small donations from all classes. The passing of the Founders brought new challenges to the new generation of leaders. From 1978 to 2015, they have overcome a shift of population to urban centers. They have beautified and have a unique church with rarely seen Byzantine iconography and a handcrafted iconostasis (altar screen).
The potato fields have been replaced by the cultivation of garden vegetables and neighboring vineyards. On October 11, 1969, under the leadership of Theofan Kyvernitis, a Cypriot immigrant/businessman, the groundbreaking ceremonies took place on Breakwater Road. Mr. Theofan Kyvernitis donated the property from the land of former farmer/real estate broker Stanly Sledjeski. The late Mr. Harry Stavrides paid for the foundation. The late Mr. James Moraitis donated the Kambana. The first liturgy was held on August 6, 1970. The first annual dance hosted by the North Fork Greek Community was held on September 5, 1970 at the American Legion Hall, Greenport. More than six hundred persons attended, under the Chairmanship of Angelo Panagopoulos. Since then, annual dances have been a success. (Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, New York, 2014, p.2).
The Consecration of the Church was performed on August 8, 1976 By His Eminence Archbishop Ivanovo’s, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, assisted by former Archimandrite Anthems Draconakis, former Archdeacon Methodios and parish priest Rev. Timotheos Tenedios. The deposition of the Holy Relics is ofSt.Theona, St. Iakovos the Monk and St. Anastasia. Elias Kulukundis was the sponsor with an offering of $1,000 and a pledge of $75 towards the building of a community center (August 19, 1976, Hellenic Times, p.30). Why am I recapturing past history? The third generation of parishioners has inaccurate information on the origins. This will set the record straight.
The Transfiguration Church, which everyone loved as their own home, underwent a serious fire in November 1984. “It was a time of mourning for many of us,” said Cleo Tsounis. “We must beautify our church again and make room for the Greek Orthodox people who are constantly buying homes on the North Fork…Together we can do miracles.” Mrs. Tsounis, as Parish Council President from 1986-87 spearheaded a movement, raising fund as to finish the church in two years without a mortgage. At the time, she secured from unlikely sources such as the former Lilco power plant.
On Sunday AFTERNOON, July 27, 1986, a luncheon was held in honor of His Grace, Bishop Philip of Daphnousia, at the Soundview restaurant in Southold with the purpose of initiating a fund drive to repair and expand the fire burnt church. The late Frank Murphy, Supervisor of Southold Town, presented the Seal of Southold Town to His Grace, Bishop Philip. In the midst of this darkness, Katerina Sitaras, daughter of former Rev. and Presvitera Nicholas Sitaras was chosen as Miss Pennsylvania to compete in the September 19th 1987 Miss America Pageant. In the winters of 1987, 1988, 1989, Nicholas Neocleous hosted his fur collections in fashions shows designed to raise funds for the rebuilding of the church.
On May 1st, 1988, the new church groundbreaking was performed by Bishop Philip Of Daphnousia, assisted by Rev. Demetrios Frangos, secretary to Archbishop Iakovos, parish Priest Rev. Demetrios Frangos and Rev. Demetrios Orphanakos. The groundbreaking initiated a fund drive. Parish Council President Christos Flessas opened the fundraising with donations from himself and family. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos donated $500. George Gabriel, Building Committee Chairperson, said “Phase I of the building expansion and restoration project includes doubling the size of the church…1,800 square feet. The interior and altar will be fully restored. Seating capacity will be doubled with a new entrance and ramp for the handicapped. Phase 2 will concern itself with renovating the basement, fixing brickwork in front, restoring or replacing icons that were damaged. The second phase will cost $100,000,” (Hellenic Chronicle, Thursday, May 26,1988).
The 1990’s showed continuous regrowth. Picnics, Greek fraternal organization socials, festivals, cake sales participation in parades and dances kept the church flourishing with dynamic new leaders, the second generation. Their names are included at the end of the article.
On Sept. 7, 1998, Lauren Terrazzano of Newsday wrote “They’ve been coming to Mattituck for generations, from traditional Greek enclaves such as Astoria, and parts of Brooklyn, as well as areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties…Mattituck is a family affair, a place to visit grandparents and grandchildren and cousins and aunts during the summer months. The area has been transformed by the Greek community’s presence. The quiet farm fields come alive at least one weekend a year in July as thousands of year-round residents attend the church’s annual Greek Festival, getting a taste of souvlaki and live bouzouki music and line dancing. Breakwater Road on Sunday is lined with the cars of people who attend morning services.” Today in 2015 this is still taking place.
A Greek language and Sunday schools were in operation until the mid-2,000. A loss of middle class jobs resulted in relocation of young families. Today the community is mostly senior citizens whose primary language is Greek. Children who grew up here, such as Carmen V. Markakis have achieved success in a legal career. Her father, Andreas Markakis is still an active member for nearly forty years. There are many similar successes of youth achieving success by relocating west to New York City.
No man can survive on his own. It requires the help of many. Everyman is part of a bigger picture, a greater world. This applies to the ethnic community I am part of. Loyalty is carried from generation to generation for our Greek ties. One community builds another. The Greek colonies in Sicily are examples of one colony leading to another settlement, till the Roman Conquest. The Greek communities of Asia Minor were composed with a significant percentage of Cretan and Mainland refugees, who brought their friends to a better way of life, prior to the 1922 catastrophe. This is the history of the Greek Diaspora.
The North and South Forks were built by families bringing their friends and relatives to enjoy the natural beauty. This led to the rise of the Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, Sts. Anargyroi and St. Gerasimos Church, Greenport and Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church of Southampton. Recently, Lily Katos, a neighbor in Mattituck and Queens, told me “You were brought up as a child in this Church.” (Transfiguration of Christ, Mattituck). While other baby boomers were demonstrating against the Vietnam War in destructive college demonstrations, my family drew me into public relations for the building of the first Greek Orthodox Church on the East End called the Transfiguration of Christ. There would not be a Kimisis Church if the Transfiguration of Christ Church in Mattituck did not exist first. In 1969, the groundbreaking of the Transfiguration Church commenced. North and South Forks were united with Church of Greek Orthodox worship. The Bakas and Fotopoulos families represented the South Fork. They were friends with our first priest, Timotheos Tenedios of Imvros, from His Eminence. Archbishop Iakovos’ island in Turkey. Their withdrawal from the Transfiguration Church in Mattituck hurt the Ministry of Reverend Timotheos Tenedios. The Hellenic culture school lost an enrollment of 50 percent. Today, a Greek School does not exist. Greenport and Mattituck residents attend the Southampton Greek language school. The church decline ended with the Greek immigration of the 1980’s from Astoria and Flushing, New York. This immigration continues to the present time.
Because of a lack of all-year-round families, some young persons view the Transfiguration of Christ Church in Mattituck as merely a haven for senior citizens. While senior citizens are changing that image into a new beginning for many late in life, the church hails younger members as well. “We welcome young people,” said Rev. Makrinos. “Since I have been here, I have been trying to bring youth in church and on the parish council board.
Rev. Makrinos was bestowed the honor of Protopresbyter (Very Reverend) by His Eminence on Aug. 6, 2010. This is the highest rank for a married priest in the Greek Orthodox Church. The honor is bestowed upon a Greek Orthodox clergyman after 25 years of service. Very Rev. Makrinos is from Kardamyla, Chios. “It was a great honor to receive this title from His Eminence’s hands,” he explained. “I prayed to receive this honor from his hands. On August 4, 2011, completed 26 years of my ministry, performing all church services and sacraments.” Church Secretary Virginia Tripolitis created a unique Journal book with the help of the Greek-American community of New York City in 2012. Her outstanding work as Dance Journal Chairman is continuing. “This year Virginia Tripolitis is undertaking the publication of the 2013 Journal to honor the memory of George Zachariadis,” said energetic President Tony Coutsouros in an official Mrs. Tripoliotis continued this unique effort in the 2014 dance journal.
The late Crystalla Petropoulou, who achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a nun at All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery, was one of the original members. Her parents, the Petropoulos, and the family of Panagiotis Demetriou and Anna Orros have been supporters from the beginning.
The late Crystalla Petropoulou, who achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a nun at All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery, was one of the original members. Her parents, the Petropoulos, and the family of Panagiotis Demetriou and Anna Orros have been supporters from the beginning. “I believe this is the Church of love and a bright light,” said former parish council president Anthony Coutsouros.
“When good men die, their goodness does not perish,” – Euripides. A community makes or breaks a church. Worshippers beautify the service with their sincere religious faith. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, accompanied by Deacon Aristidis Garinis, celebrated the liturgy for the third consecutive year on Sunday, August 3rd, 2012. An inspired choir gave the performance of a lifetime. Their ill choirmaster, Demetrios “Jimmy” Talas passed away hours before at Peconic Bay Hospital, Riverhead. His Eminence said, “Demetrios Talas left us to chant with the angels in Heaven.” The hymn, “Soson Imas Yie Theou” (Save Us, O Son of God) was sung with passion unheard of on former Sundays, in memory of their beloved choirmaster.
Anthony (Tony) Coutsouros, the son of immigrants from Heraklion, Crete, initiated social change in 2013. His new approach is altering the path the church has been taking since the demise of the WWII Greek and Cypriot Americans. The big change is in the reintegration of English in church life and accountability of all expenditures. Anthony Coutsouros reached out to the Southold government and mass media for free services. 2013 Festival Posters on a grand scale were seen on route 25 from Riverhead to Greenport, Long Island. His work laid the groundwork for the historic success of the 2014 summer Festival.
Mr. George Zachariadis, a famous chanter and leader of the Greek Orthodox Church who was an immigrant from Nisyros, recently passed away. A genuine loss is constantly expressed. Anastasis Kassapides was honored as an altar acolyte (assistant) for 15 years of service in August 2013. . His seriousness and attention to detail is unique. He was granted the honor of serving as reader by his Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America. The reader is responsible for reading excerpts from the scriptures and epistles during the liturgy. Manoli and George Moustakos were honored in September, 2013 as profiles of the month. They both serve as altar acolytes. George Moustakos was blessed with the honor of “Reader” by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America.
The best of the summer 2014 season was celebrated on July 25th-27th on church grounds through a unique festival. Extraordinary Greek menus, flea market, vendors and rides were presented. The community cooked up a Greek feast that was attended by persons from New York State. Cars were parked for blocks, resulting in local parishioners walking to the Church grounds on Breakwater Road in Mattituck. The Co-Chairpersons were Barbara Thermos, Irene Kalogeras, Manny Constantine and Emily Kavourias. Generous donations to cover expenses were given. A similar Festival will be presented in 2015. Bringing in persons who never helped before is the key to making a community grow. The feeling of working for a good cause and succeeding well was seen on the faces of all volunteers on the final day of the festival. Epicurus said, “Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”
A Journal prepared for the annual dance on October 4th, 2014 honored Pete Demetriou, founder, and Peter Pappas, former president and chanter. Pete Demetriou is a quiet, low key person, who worked to establish Greek-American religious institutions over the past sixty years. He emigrated from Cyprus in the 1950’s to Astoria, New York. “I gave a donation to form St. Demetrios Greek-American parochial school in Transfiguration of Christ icon. 1956,” he said. “My late wife, Helen, believed in philanthropic activities. When we moved to Mattituck, we continued our philanthropy. We donated the first marble altar screen (iconostasis) of the original Transfiguration of Christ Church on Breakwater Road. Other donations included hooking up the Church to the Suffolk County Water Authority and numerous items the Church needed. We worked together in all our philanthropic projects to help the Transfiguration of Christ Church. For forty years, I assisted priest in the clergy committee, from 1970 up to the time I retired. I enjoyed working with Stelios Nanos in the altar, harmoniously.” He is a founder of the All Saints Monastery in Calverton, Long Island. He lives in walking distance to the Transfiguration Church with his second wife, Iza, who is devoted to him.
Mr. Peter Pappas served as chanter for free at the Transfiguration Church in Mattituck for over thirty years. His late wife Andrea worked with him to rebuild the Church when it was burnt in 1984. He worked to rebuild it. He served as President of the parish council from 1980-84. His second wife, Popi, is a member of the Philoptohos. Mr. Pappas continues to volunteer as chanter in the summer months. Unity in faith from one generation to the next keeps the Transfiguration Church alive. The fourth generation is actively involved with one goal: keep the church of their forefather alive. The following is a list of church leaders and organization, with a margin of error athttps://plus.google.com/photos/113119187466714282240/albums?banner=pwa&gpsrc=pwrd1#photos/113119187466714282240/albums/6160804745737839697.