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Wisconsin’s oldest Greek Orthodox church still thriving January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Centennial Celebration > St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Sheboygan celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006.

The commemoration culminated with an October celebration that featured His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, a Great Vespers service, banquet and divine liturgy.

The story of St. Spyridon is, on a small scale, the story of the Greek-American experience over the past 100 years, as a result of being the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in Wisconsin.

In the late 1800s, the church’s founders came from Greece to take advantage of the many work opportunities on the Midwestern frontier. They were single men who had left their families behind, with the intention of returning to their homeland with the money they made. As the community grew, its members found they needed institutions to order their common life. Thus, began the church that today still stands at 1427 S. 10th St.

Although the church is relatively small, with less than 50 families, members and church leaders see a continued bright future. The Rev. Peter Pappademetriou, who splits his time between St. Spyridon and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Fond du Lac, points to the church’s maintaining a strong Greek culture as a foundation for the future. Helping that foundation, Pappademetriou said, is that church members know and teach the Greek language.

“We feel that in the world of tomorrow, people have to know more than one language,” he said. “Also because of our ethnic background, we take great pride. Greek is not a dead language.”

By knowing Greek, he said, it also helps members to be more able in English as well. And as a Greek Orthodox church, he said, one of the goals is excellence in education, which would only help strengthen the church.

“Many in the congregation know Greek, and it helps them to become more educated, more well-rounded.”

St. Spyridon through the years
Late 1800s:
Young Greek men come to the U.S., including Sheboygan, looking for work. As the number of Greeks increase, they found the need for a church.
1902: A community council was established to provide governance to the Greek enclave; the council became the first governing board of the parish.
1906: Church building completed; the bell tower would be added 10 years later.
1911: 21 icons from Athens arrive
1921: Church loses more parishioners, in addition to the numbers lost after World War I when the Greek immigrants return to Greece with their earned money. Loss of parishioners due to the priest preaching a sermon supporting King Constantine in his struggle for power.
1940: Greece invaded by the fascists, uniting the Greek immigrants here.
1959: Rectory added
1961: Parking lot added
1981: Church named a Sheboygan County Landmark because of its significance as the oldest Greek Orthodox structure in Wisconsin.

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