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A dream come true January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.

New Greek Orthodox church taking shape
An architect’s drawing of the new St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Braintree.

St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Braintree.

It was 25 years ago when parishioners from St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Quincy banded together to buy six acres off Common Street. They envisioned a new home on the site, a new center for the local Hellenic community and the growing number of families coming to worship.

It’s taken a few years longer than originally hoped, but the parish’s dream of a new church is finally becoming a reality, as its new 9,200-square-foot, Byzantine-style church starts to take shape.

‘‘It’s a dream come true,’’ said Demetrios Serenetis, president of the church council. ‘‘After 25 years when we purchased the property, to be alive today and see that dream fulfilled is something special.’’

St. Catherine’s is Braintree’s first new church construction project since 1959, when St. Clare’s Catholic Church on Liberty Street and the United Methodist Heritage Church on Grove Street were built. The Church of St. Catherine was also established in 1959 in a converted Protestant church on Beale Street in Quincy.

As membership grew, and the need for a bigger building became more apparent, parishioners began a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign to build a new church and parish center on a former ice skating and picnic area in northwest Braintree known as Pappas Grove.

In October 2004, the parish moved into its new 12,000-square-foot administration building, which contained office space, classrooms, and a full-service kitchen. Church services have been held in a temporary sanctuary that will eventually become a large parish hall.

Using money raised by faithful parishioners and its popular summer festival, plus some financing from a local bank, the parish was able to sign construction contracts this summer. Steelworkers are assembling the church’s prefabricated metal skeleton.

‘‘The parish has been dreaming about this for more than two decades,’’ said the Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas, who is able to monitor progress through his office window. ‘‘It was exciting getting to see the whole project begin. Seeing the steel go up was ever more so, because until then it was all imaginary space.’’

The new St. Catherine’s is designed in the tradition of classic Byzantine-style churches. It will have a cross-shape layout, and a large copper dome topped with a Justinian-style cross that will be visible from the nearby Southeast Expressway. The brick exterior will have a red clay tile roof, a bell tower and a series of arches. The church sanctuary was designed with all support beams along the outer rim. The result will be a wide-open nave large enough to comfortably sit more than 400 worshipers under a 56-foot high domed ceiling. The church was designed by Chris J. Kamages of CJK Design Group, a San Francisco-based architect that specializes in Orthodox churches.

The Rev. Calivas is hopeful that worship services could be held in the new building by the end of this year.

The project’s $3.5 million price tag, however, doesn’t include furnishings, such as a new icon screen, baptismal font and other iconography. The church’s current icon screen, for example, was taken from the old church building and is too small for the new altar area. The cost of adorning the church, which needs to take place before it is consecrated, is estimated around $500,000.

Church leaders say membership has increased and continued growth will help the church meet its fundraising goals. Construction of St. Catherine’s is being welcomed by other Braintree clergy as evidence of the strong religious community in the area.

‘‘The construction of St. Catherine’s of Braintree is not only a positive endeavor but very exciting,’’ said the Rev. Scott Killian, who helps organize the town’s interfaith council of clergy. ‘‘It’s a milestone. It’s something many people in this generation have not seen and so there’s some excitement in that.’’

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