90th Anniversary of Saint Andrew-Priests Assigned to Our Parish (Part I)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE PRIESTS AND SHEPHERDS WHO SERVED THE CHURCH OF SAINT ANDREW FOR OVER 90 YEARS

The Era of Rev. Father Philotheos Mazokopakis, First Proistamenos of the Saint Andrew Parish of South Bend, Indiana

Please note: I will be tracing the years of service of the Priests who served St. Andrew, so that all of you will come to know and appreciate their contributions, guidance, sacrifice, parish ministries, dynamic leadership and commitment to our beloved parish for the last 90 years. Without them, there would be no Saint Andrew parish.

The first assigned Priest to Saint Andrew was the Reverend Father Philotheos Mazokopakis who was assigned by His Grace Bishop Philaretos Johanides of the Chicago Diocese. Some members of the Greek community of South Bend saw Father Philotheos for the first time when he, as an Archdeacon of Saint Constantine's church of Chicago, Ill, accompanied Bishop Philaretos Jahanides to South Bend on January 15, 1926, at which occasion the Bishop officiated over the first Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy in this area.

Father Mazokopakis was born in a village near Iera Petra (Holy Rock), on the island of Crete, Greece, in 1891. He was ordained Deacon at the age of 18 and served under Metropolitan Timothy, Bishop of the Rethymnon, Metropolis in Crete. He received part of his early education in Constantinople and later graduated from the University of Athens, majoring in theology. He served as Archdeacon at Saint Constantine's church in Chicago, Illinois.

As Archdeacon, Father Mazokopakis accompanied His Grace Bishop Philaretos to South Bend, Indiana during the period in which meetings and negotiations were being held to finalize the establishment of Saint Andrews Greek Orthodox church. When the Archdiocese accepted the community's formal petition to organize a local parish, His Grace, Bishop Philaretos ordained Fr. Mazokopakis to the Priesthood and, at the same time, appointed him as the first Priest of Saint Andrew's parish-to-be.

Father Philotheos Mazokopakis officiated on September 11, 1926. October 12, 1926, Father Mazokopakis attended an Ahepa meeting in which he addressed the members and explained in detail some of the principles and objectives of the Order of Ahepa. Father Philotheos had been initiated on July 19, 1925 into the Chicago Chapter 46 (Bishop Philaretos was also a member of the same chapter). Father Mazokopakis attributed the unity and solidarity that prevailed in the Chicago Greek community to the local members of Ahepa.

His English improved, not only because he would converse in English with men of the youth, but also because he was attending Notre Dame University. He was determined that the road which he had charted for our community would ultimately result in our parish being recognized as an outstanding Greek parish. To accomplish this, Father Mazokopakis embarked on a building program for a Greek school, a multipurpose hall, and a chapel. The school building faced William Street directly behind the church. The chapel ran parallel to the east side of the church, with the main entrance on Jefferson Boulevard. This new facility was to become the center of our parish's religious, educational, cultural, and social activities for three decades (30 years). Church attendance and participation increased considerably in South Bend and the surrounding areas. The membership in 1927 was about 127. It increased not only from the local population but from the surrounding towns as well. There were years in which the church membership hovered between 250 to 275 members...

One wintry Sunday morning, those who had braved the snow and attended the church service were rewarded with the news from the pulpit that Father Mazokopakis was one of two candidates being considered for elevation to Bishop of Crete...On January 28, 1936 (ten years from the day he was assigned), he was officially elected to be the Bishop of Iera Petra (Holy Rock), and was requested by His Eminence Metropolitan Timothy of Crete to return to Greece as soon as possible. The notice appeared in the South Bend Tribune of February 1st:

"The Rev. Mazokopakis, pastor of Saint Andrew Greek Orthodox Church, will return to Greece within a month, where he will be consecrated Bishop of Iera Petra...The appointment is a singular honor. In recognition of the work Father Mazokopakis has done as the first pastor of the congregation in South Bend...Elaborate ordination services will be held in the Cathedral of the Archdiocese following his return to Greece, with seven other Bishops and Archbishops taking part in the ceremony."

While we resigned ourselves to Father's leaving, we worried about his leaving before Easter. As it turned out, permission was granted for him to see us through the holy days. This gave us time to prepare for some of the things we wanted to do for our priest. Easter was of prime importance, however. During Holy Friday services the church was packed, as was the chapel. The weather was exceptionally hot, and hundreds of lighted candles did not help. The Lamentation services were beautiful with the choir singing as never before.

In the South Bend Tribune of Monday, April 27th we were to read the final story concerning our beloved pastor:

"Three hundred local Greeks bade farewell Sunday to Rev. Philotheos Mazokopakis, who planned to leave the city at 5 o'clock this afternoon...Talks were given by Mr. Eustice Poledor and E. Scopelitis, Ahepa president..."

It was the end of the Mazokopais era, but the memory of this dedicated and highly motivated individual, "A man for all seasons," remained with us.

No one should forget that it was Father Philotheos Mazokopakis that organized the Good Samaritan Club and also formed their regulations. Without him there would be no Good Samaritans Club.

It was certainly a great blessing for the parish of Saint Andrew to have such a wonderful and humble priest. A man that truly made a difference in this parish.

May his memory be eternal!

(To be continued. Next: The Very Reverend Arcadios Arcadiou (May 3, 1936)

[Source: The Greeks Of Michiana by Milton Kouroubetis]

In Christ,

+Father George