Pioneering Priest Exhibit
Special Exhibition on Early History of Greek Orthodox
Church in America Now on Display at the Shrine
Pioneering Priests: Establishing the Greek Orthodox Faith in America, a special exhibition funded by The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, is now on display at the Shrine. The exhibition features some of the early priests and Hierarchs who helped establish the Greek Orthodox faith in America.
These pioneers labored in trying circumstances for the churches that became part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The exhibit honors their sacrifices and achievements as we approach the centennial anniversary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 2021-22.
The exhibition was officially opened and blessed by Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthe on February 6 as part of the 33rd Annual Pilgrimage and Feast Day Celebration of the Shrine. Photographs of these events can be seen at www.jackiehird.com/stphotios using the password Greek41.
The exhibition was produced by guest curators Dr. William H. Samonides and Dr. Regine Johnson Samonides and is the product of more than a decade of research. Currently featured are 61 priests representing 49 of the earliest parishes in the Archdiocese. Their stories are illustrated with over 100 photographs of the priests, their parishes, and their times gathered from sources across America.
Longer stories are told in 18 handouts, which visitors may take with them. The first half of the exhibition will be on display until September; the second half will be on display from September to February. The exhibition is groundbreaking in several respects. It examines the history of the Greek Orthodox Church in America from the ground level across parish lines and through the lives and careers of priests, most of whom were immigrants.
Except for a few books that focus on the history of the Hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, writing about the growth of the Greek Orthodox faith in America has been decentralized, with much of the work done by individual parishes. This exhibition brings together the photographic and documentary resources of the Archives of the Archdiocese with material obtained from parishes, relatives of early priests, public libraries, and newspaper archives across the country. The research underpinning the exhibition has uncovered information that illuminates previously obscure corners of the history of our faith in America.
As the Greek-American “Plymouth Rock” dedicated to the first colony of Greek people who came to America in 1768, the Shrine honors all Greek immigrants. It is appropriate that it should host an exhibition that focuses on the contributions of the pioneering immigrant priests. In recent years the Shrine has become the launching pad for innovative exhibitions that have been displayed around the country. Several sites have already expressed interested in hosting “Pioneering Priests” after the exhibit closes at the Shrine.
Thanks to Those Who Offered Photos and Stories for the Special Exhibit, Pioneering Priests in America