Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church San Francisco
The history of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is linked to the history of the city of San Francisco.
The Orthodox faith has long had a presence in San Francisco with some records dating to 1857. Prior to the establishment of their own parish, Greeks worshipped and Greek priests often ministered to the Greek Orthodox faithful at the only Orthodox church in San Francisco, the Russian Orthodox church , founded in 1868. It wasn’t until 1892 when the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society was formed that initiatives to establish a Greek Orthodox church, organize community events and respond to tragic events occurring in Greece got underway.
By the late 1880s, Greek immigration to California increased significantly: the San Francisco Call newspaper estimated that there were 2,000 Greeks living in the San Francisco at the turn of the century. Consequently, there became a need to establish a place of worship dedicated to the Greek Orthodox faith. In 1902, the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society responded to that need by undertaking plans to establish a Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Their efforts succeeded. In April 1903, an election of Trustees was held, a priest was sent for, and land purchased on the corner of 7th and Cleveland Streets for $5,750 (final cost was increased to $6,000 to expand the lot by five feet). Construction began and by May 1903 the structure was completed. After installing some simple furnishings and holding an election of officers, they now had a Greek Orthodox church in San Francisco.
The parish’s first priest, Father Constantine Tsapralis, came to the United States from Sanga, Greece on May 19, 1903, and was later joined by his family - wife Eleni, son Basil, daughter Aphroditi and nephew Apostolos. Father Tsapralis’ priestly rank was Sakellarios, an administrative title for someone who keeps financial records. He was paid $80 per month in gold coin for five years, the length of his contract. It was not uncommon and widely accepted in those days for priests to supplement their income by other means to support their families. Fr. Tsapralis was no exception. In addition to being a priest, he was the proprietor of two businesses – a saloon and a candy store. On December 25, 1903, he celebrated the first Divine Liturgy with his new parish and on March 23, 1904, Holy Trinity was incorporated, making it the oldest Greek Orthodox Church west of Chicago and the eighth oldest church within the present day Archdiocese.
In its early years, Holy Trinity functioned as a cathedral church where it was sometimes necessary for members of the clergy to travel to California, Nevada and Arizona to perform sacraments; Fr. Tsapralis traveled as far away as Fresno by horse and buggy. These priests endured harsh conditions and by their very nature, were dedicated and energetic. They paved the way for those who followed as evidenced by early records of these sacraments recorded on sheets of paper which were later bound to create the church records as they exist today.
In 1906, Holy Trinity, along with much of San Francisco, was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. The disaster necessitated the need to find an alternative location to celebrate Divine Liturgy until the parish could rebuild. The home of Alexander Kosta, one of Holy Trinity's founders, was chosen in the interim. By fall, work had already begun on a second church building not far from where the original site was destroyed. The new church was completed in 1907 and a Greek language school, the first west of Chicago, was opened in 1912.
In 1908, two years after the great earthquake and fire, chaos erupted in the San Francisco Greek Orthodox community. The community experienced its first major schism and led to the founding of a second church. The schism started after a disagreement over parish council elections and the handling of money. It turned violent on July 12, 1908, when police were called to Holy Trinity. The feud resulted in Ioannis Kapsimalis (former parish council president and Greek Consul) leading a faction to start its own church, St. John Prodromos. Built on Rincon Hill (Stanly Place/Sterling Place), it included offices and a meeting hall named "Alexander the Great Meeting Hall." Father Tsapralis was hired as the first priest at St. John Prodromos. In turn, the Holy Trinity community hired Fr. Stefanos Macaronis to succeed Father Tsapralis as the priest of their parish. Regardless of the historical consequences of the feud, the factions wouldn’t remain split for long. In December 1909, they resolved their differences: the property of St. John Prodromos was sold to Holy Trinity for $5 , Father Tsapralis was rehired by Holy Trinity and Fr. Macaronis was transferred to a parish in Oregon. From 1910 until the church on 7th Street was raised to install a meeting hall in 1922, this property served as the offices and meeting hall for the community. The Stanly Place property was sold in 1936 to the State of California to make room for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Greek Politics & the Churches
When conflict broke out on the Balkan Peninsula in 1912, the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society organized meetings at the Alexander the Great Meeting Hall mobilizing a response from the San Francisco Greek community. Many men who had immigrated to the United States boarded ships and went back to fight for Greece.
The community's expansion was speeded following the return of hundreds of volunteers from Greece at the conclusion of the Balkan wars. The close relations between the colony's residents and their church were challenged constantly by the problems of growth. A growing number of parishioners complained that the community's progress did not seem to keep pace with its numerical growth. The community was also divided over politics in Greece. Some supported the liberal Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos ( Venezelists ), while others remained loyal to King Constantine I ( Royalists ).
The division between Royalists and Venezelists was evident in many aspects of Greek community life. In San Francisco, the California Greek language newspaper owned by Anastasios Mountanos became the Royalist newspaper and the Prometheus Greek language newspaper became the Venezelist newspaper. Holy Trinity became the Royalist church. In 1920, a group overwhelmingly Venizelist, broke away and began meeting to discuss the possibility of building another church. In June 1921, they purchased all the lots facing Pierce Street from Hayes to Fell Streets with the intent of building a cathedral church. They later built a small church, which they named Saint Sophia Cathedral. Father Philaretos Ioannides became their first priest.
In 1919, Father Dorotheos Bourazanis arrived in San Francisco to serve at Holy Trinity. His story is particularly interesting because his life was filled with one tragedy or setback after another. He arrived in the United States in 1913 with his mother Sophia to serve the spiritual needs of Greek coal miners in Utah. He was an Archimandrite, a type of priest who has taken a vow of celibacy.
In 1914, Sophia Bourazanis was murdered in the family home ( news article ). The murderer was brought to justice in 1915. Father Dorotheos lived in Utah a few more years but at the insistence of Father Ioakim Malahias, the first priest of the Oakland community, he traveled west to San Francisco.
Parishioners said that he was an excellent speaker and he made an immediate impact on the community. However, in 1919, Father Dorotheos was hospitalized for six months with an unknown illness. At the time the parish council debated whether or not they should release him from his duties and get another priest. Father Dorotheos recovered and resumed his duties.
At the Greek Independence Day Celebration in 1920 he spoke in favor of the Greek monarchy and Alexander Pavellas, the co-owner of the Prometheus Greek language newspaper, spoke in favor of the Venezelist government. Words escalated into arguments, and arguments escalated into a riot which had to be broken up by police. Father Dorotheos had Alexander Pavellas arrested. Mr. Pavellas in turn sued Father Dorotheos for Libel. Father Dorotheos later sued Alexander Pavellas for Libel. The lawsuits were later dropped and the Archdiocese decided to send Father Dorotheos to a parish on the east coast. Father Dorotheos later lost his home to foreclosure during the Great Depression. The Archdiocese helped him during this difficult period to insure he would have a place to live.
Holy Trinity Undergoes Major Renovation
There is a common misunderstanding that the church property always bordered Cleveland & 7th Streets. Dr. Domenico A. Alberti, a dentist, owned a 75 x 25 foot lot on the corner of 7th and Cleveland streets. He purchased the lot with the intent of building a dentist office. (Currently this parcel is a small garden and 4 parking spaces). On Feb. 20, 1922, Dr. Alberti deeded this small parcel to the Holy Trinity community.
From 1910 - 1922, the Alexander the Great Meeting Hall was utilized as a meeting hall and church offices. In July 1922, at an estimated cost of $15,000, the community decided raise the church and build a meeting hall and office on the bottom level. The project included moving the church to the center of the lot, cutting down the height of the church tower, and building two new stairways to the gallery. Walls were constructed of reinforced concrete columns, ties, and girders. Interior beams were constructed of steel. The front stairway was constructed of reinforced concrete. The room housing the boiler room and steam heat plant was moved to the rear of the lot and constructed of reinforced concrete.
In July 1924, the community built a small brick storefront (16 ft. x 50 ft.) in the space deeded by Domenico Alberti. The intent was to rent the space to one or more businesses to provide income for the community.
It was quite common for early Greek Orthodox churches not to have pews. Over time, Greek Orthodox churches added features commonly found in American churches. Holy Trinity was no exception. In May 1929, the community installed pews at a cost of $1800.
Repayment of Mortgage Loans
After the 1906 Earthquake & Fire, the community borrowed money to rebuild the church. Records show that there were three loans, 1) July 4, 1908 to the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society, 2) May 7, 1915 to the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society and 3) May 23, 1923 to North American Title Company. As of June 11, 1928, the community had paid off their loans and had no debt going into the Great Depression.
Father Lokis and His Attempt to Unite the Parishes in 1936
In April 1928, the St. Sophia community moved from its location on Hayes & Pierce streets and purchased the Valencia Street Theater which they renovated. The move was largely financed through loans. With the onset of the Great Depression, the St. Sophia community had an increasingly difficult time paying its debts. Bishop Kallistos Papageorgopoulos, the first bishop of San Francisco, moved to Chicago because the community could not afford to pay his salary. St. Sophia declared bankruptcy in 1935 and Bank of America filed an "Intent to Foreclose" in July 1935. Bank of America later purchased the St. Sophia property in a foreclosure sale in December 1935 and charged the community $100 per month rent.
Holy Trinity's parish council discussed the eventual integration of St. Sophia parishioners into the Holy Trinity community. However, in December 1937, the St. Sophia community was able to purchase the church from Bank of America for the auction price of $25,000 largely due to the efforts of Chris Katon. The community reorganized and was renamed "United Greek Orthodox Community of San Francisco, the Annunciation."
In January 1936, Father Basil Lokis arrived in San Francisco as an assistant priest to Fr. Constantine Tsapralis. Father Tsapralis was nearing retirement and Father Lokis would eventually become his replacement. Father Lokis was young, ambitious, spoke several languages, and was a brilliant speaker. Father Lokis saw a community that was struggling through the Great Depression. Two months prior to his arrival St. Sophia was purchased in a foreclosure auction. Seeing this, he led a movement to unite both parishes.
According to Holy Trinity's parish council, Father Lokis attempted to appoint board members that supported unification (as opposed to them being elected by parishioners) which ultimately led to litigation by Holy Trinity against Father Lokis in the form of a series of injunctions. The court ruled that the parishes should vote on the issue of unification. Annunciation voted for unification and Holy Trinity voted against unification. As a part of the court settlement, Father Lokis was dismissed from his position at Holy Trinity and was hired by Annunciation. Father Tsapralis asked the Archdiocese for permission to leave Holy Trinity and become Annunciation's second priest. His request was granted and he served Annunciation until his passing in 1942. Father Spyridon Spyropoulos, who had been at Annunciation since 1929, was transferred to San Diego where he became the first priest of the San Diego community.
Holy Trinity was left without a priest. The community hired Father Dionysios Demessianos , a Greek Orthodox priest who had been laicized by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese years earlier. Father Demessianos had been serving parishes who did not want to be under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. For the next three years Holy Trinity would pursue an independent path. Records of sacraments performed during this period do not exist.
As a result of this series of events, over half of Holy Trinity's parishioners left Holy Trinity and joined Annunciation. The departure of so many parishioners left Holy Trinity in a financial crisis. One parishioner, possibly more, mortgaged their home so that Holy Trinity could weather the financial crisis. In 1937, Fr. Constantine Tsapralis filed a lawsuit against Holy Trinity for back pay. His salary was reduced by $20 per month in 1930 because he opposed a church lottery fundraiser. On October 26, 1937, the court awarded him $1,320 in back pay ( news article ).
Father Amfilohios Sarantides and Father Ambrosios Mandalaris served Holy Trinity immediately following Father Demessianos’ departure. Both priests wrote telegrams to the Archdiocese requesting to be reassigned due to the way parishioners treated them. In the case of Father Mandalaris, after repeated requests for reassignment, he left his post without the permission of the Archdiocese. He stayed in the San Francisco area until he was assigned to be the first priest of the Santa Barbara community where his career as a priest thrived.
The parish began to emerge from its independent period with the arrival of Father John Petropoulos. With the arrival of Father George Paulson in 1949 the parish experienced a resurgence.
Father George Paulson
Father George Paulson (Pavloglou) was the first American born priest to serve at Holy Trinity. He was young, energetic, and revitalized parish ministries. He spoke weekly on the radio. He increased attendance.
Father Paulson was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on July 31, 1918. After his marriage to his beloved wife, Presvytera Evangeline, on June 11, 1944, Father Paulson was ordained into the Holy Priesthood on August 9, 1944. After graduating from Baypath Business College in 1935, Father Paulson attended Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, graduating in 1944. Always in pursuit of higher education, he also attended the University of Pennsylvania, George Williams College, and Coastal Carolina Community College. In 1974, Father Paulson received a Master’s Degree in Education from Boston University. In 1993, at the age of 75, he received a Doctorate in Ministry conferred upon him by Boston University.
In 1952, Father Paulson was chosen by the Archbishop to become the first Greek Orthodox Chaplain in the history of the United States Military. During his twenty eight years of active service in the U.S. Navy, he attained the rank of Captain and earned numerous awards and commendations. After his military service was over he served the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church community in Virginia Beach, VA. Father Paulson passed away January 6, 2009.
Father Anthony Kosturos
Nobody has made a greater impact on the Holy Trinity community than Father Anthony Kosturos. Father Anthony was an exceptional priest and had a calling to the priesthood that is rarely ever seen. He was a priest for 55 years, 49 years at Holy Trinity. His dedication & devotion to the Greek Orthodox Church and the parish earned him the respect of local politicians and luminaries, and the love of his community.
Father Anthony was born in San Francisco in 1925. He grew up just blocks away from Annunciation Cathedral. He was baptized by then Father Athenagoras Kavadas at Holy Trinity. He served in the choir and later he felt a calling to the priesthood. Two weeks before his ordination to the priesthood in 1948, he married Mary Dardas in Lowell, MA. Father Anthony and Presvytera Mary were blessed with four sons; Nicholas, James, Theodore, and Paul and three daughters; Elaine, Paula, and Marina.
Father Anthony spoke extemporaneously. He never wrote his sermons or used a lectern. He had a remarkable ability for expressing a religious teaching in today’s terms where people could walk away feeling that they could apply it to their everyday life. He was also a prolific writer and his speeches were exceptional. He wrote the monthly newsletter, The Familian, and was a published author. Father Anthony wrote the introduction for “Contemporary Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Communications,” a book written by Archbishop Athenagoras, first published in 1957 and last reprinted in 2011.
Under Father Anthony’s leadership initially there were parish council elections. However, in later years Fr. Anthony appointed people to serve on the parish council. This may seem unconventional but it was accepted. The community had profound faith in his abilities because he did an extraordinary job managing parish operations and looking after the spiritual needs of the community. The Greek community gave generously because they knew their money would be well-managed. In tougher years past board members recalled several instances where Father Anthony refused a pay raise because he believed it was in the best interest of the parish.
Sports were always a part of Father Anthony’s life. He encouraged children to have an active lifestyle. He served as the commissioner of the Orthodox Youth Athletic Association (OYAA) and loved to watch basketball games.
Father Anthony’s life is best told through his own autobiography. Father Anthony spoke weekly on the Greek radio hour and those segments were recorded. Fortunately, many of those recordings are available here. In 1998, Father Anthony celebrated his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. The parish honored him with a dinner at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Over 1,000 people were in attendance. In this video segment of the event he reflected on his years in the priesthood.
The Move to Brotherhood Way
In the aftermath of World War II San Franciscans of all ethnic groups and all faiths began moving to outlying districts of the city or to suburban communities and many churches followed to better serve their congregations. Holy Trinity was no exception.
In 1957, surplus city property on Stanley Drive came up for auction ( see brochure map ). Father Anthony saw potential in this land. He envisioned a church, school, and community center on a large parcel of land. On Sept. 5, 1957, the Holy Trinity community purchased 8.85 acres in a lively public auction of surplus city property for the site for their new church. Vacant land in the city was almost non-existent and the auction attracted many real estate speculators who also participated in the auction. Holy Trinity's bid of $44,300 accompanied by a fervent plea for no additional bidding by Fr. Anthony Kosturos was accepted and the property of 8.85 acres became the site for the building of the new church. When purchased, the land was 35 feet deep and needed to be brought up to an acceptable building level. The land fill required for this project was donated by excavation contractors.
With the assistance of Mayor George Christopher, the street name was changed from Stanley Drive to Brotherhood Way and the street was zoned for religious purposes. Other congregations began to relocate to Brotherhood Way. When the zoning change was made, traffic was changed from one lane going each direction to two lanes going in each direction.
On Feb. 20, 1959, the community erected a sign stating that it was the future site of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Two years past before the community was issued a building permit on Nov. 10, 1961. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Sunday, November 19, 1961, beginning with a procession of vehicles from the 7th Street church to Brotherhood Way after church services. The community invited President John F. Kennedy and he sent Assistant Secretary of Labor Esther Peterson ( see photograph ). A banquet was held that evening at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
The last Divine Liturgy at 345 7th Street was held January 19, 1964. The first Divine Liturgy at the new church was celebrated on January 26, 1964. The community sold their church on Seventh Street to the newly established parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Michael, and thus it continues to function uninterrupted as an Orthodox Church. St. Michael’s has retained many aspects of its Greek past, most notably the icons on the altar screen and the original stained glass windows with Greek lettering.
The community came together with financial donations and donations of time and talent to do whatever the church needed. One such benefactor was Mrs. Daisy Jerome who donated the pews for the new church. On Jan. 3, 1967, an extension of the bridge was added to the outside of the church. On Nov. 26, 1967, Holy Trinity was consecrated by His Grace, Bishop Demetrios of Olympos. In 1974, the community paid off the mortgage from the move to Brotherhood Way. A dinner was held with a symbolic burning of the mortgage.
Robert Andrews, Holy Trinity’s Iconographer
When the community moved to Brotherhood Way, there was an immediate need to find an iconographer. The iconography at Holy Trinity posed challenging design issues. Holy Trinity’s high ceilings and stained glassed windows had to be factored into the design. The mosaic icons had to be designed to offer the best clarity at eye level. These issues made the choice of an iconographer important.
All of icons within Holy Trinity were created by Robert Andrews. However, Mr. Andrews was not their first choice. They chose Vasileos Kapousouz, a 53 year old Greek artist and iconographer living in Larkspur, CA. The community’s relationship with Mr. Kapousouz did not turn out as expected.
He started working on the icons and later gave a presentation to Father Anthony and the parish council. The icons were rejected on the basis of artistic style and the type of stones used. The differences between the parish and Mr. Kapousouz could not be resolved amicably. On January 24, 1966, Mr. Kapousouz filed a $50,000 breach of contract lawsuit alleging that Father Anthony Kosturos refused to allow him to complete an altar screen. He said he had artistic differences with Father Anthony and that Father Anthony felt the icons did not conform to the standards of classic Byzantine art.
The lawsuit was settled in court. Four of the icons rejected by Holy Trinity ( see photograph ) were later installed at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle, WA. St. Demetrios contracted with Mr. Kapousouz to create mosaic icons for the altar, specifically twelve round mosaic icons of the apostles and large mosaic icons of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great ( see photograph ). At the time the icons were installed Father Homer Demopoulos was the pastor of St. Demetrios.
After the lawsuit was resolved the parish contracted with Robert Andrews. He was the 23rd iconographer interviewed after a lengthy interview process. His first project was the icon of Christ on the right side of the altar screen.
There are several icons unique to Holy Trinity, most notably the icon of Christ depicting the Resurrection in the Apse. At the time there were very few Greek Orthodox churches in the United States that had a similar icon. The design was primarily found in churches in Europe. This approach was chosen primarily because Father Anthony believed that the Resurrection was the Foundation of Christianity. Since then, several Greek Orthodox churches in the United States have adopted the same approach.
The altar screen has mosaic borders that are reflect eight different mosaic styles. The different mosaic styles were designed to complement the light at different times of the day from the stained glass windows.
Over the last forty years Mr. Andrews created every icon at Holy Trinity, now totaling over one hundred, including the Pantocrator. Mr. Andrews’ beautiful mosaic art has turned Holy Trinity into a beautiful cultural landmark that attracts visitors all year round. In this interview, Mr. Andrews reflected on his work at Holy Trinity and his relationship with Father Anthony Kosturos ( see video ).
The Daisy Jerome Education Center
Father Anthony envisioned starting a Greek Orthodox parochial school that placed an emphasis on quality education and the Orthodox faith. In Sept. 1971, Holy Trinity Orthodox School opened ( see photograph ). It was the only Orthodox K-8 school in Northern California (See 2007 school brochure, pg1, pg2).
For decades Orthodox families from the San Francisco area brought their children to Holy Trinity Orthodox School for a quality education. One of the school’s primary benefactors was Mrs. Daisy Jerome. With her financial support, the school was able to attract more students and the best teachers. The Holy Trinity community voted to change the name of the school to the Daisy Jerome Education Center in honor of Mrs. Jerome’s support over the years.
In later years, families began to move out of the San Francisco area primarily due to the cost of housing. As a result the student population decreased making it more difficult for the school to compete with similar institutions. The school was no longer making a profit. The community voted to close the school in 2008 after attendance had dwindled to 27 students. Currently, the classrooms are rented by another school.
Mayor Christopher and the Christopher Center
Holy Trinity’s community center is named the “Holy Trinity George & Tula Christopher Center” after former San Francisco mayor George Christopher and his wife Tula.
Mayor Christopher was the first Greek to be elected mayor of San Francisco. After his retirement, he expressed a desire to make significant donations to Annunciation and Holy Trinity. He was now retired and he wanted his donations to honor the memory of his parents and his wife Tula.
Father Anthony Kosturos initially approached Mayor Christopher for a donation of $500,000 towards a community center. He later convinced Mayor Christopher to double the donation to $1 million. Mayor Christopher said that he would make the donation on the condition that it be named after him and his wife Tula. At the time Father Anthony had a rule that no donation was to be named after a specific individual. However, in this case he made an exception because the center was not a part of the church but a separate structure on Holy Trinity property.
Plans included rooms added and funded by other parishioners. The community was granted a building permit on September 11, 1992, and a ground breaking ceremony was held October 18, 1992. The building was later dedicated in 1994. The center contains a professional sized basketball court, a fitness center, locker rooms and showers, a library, a skills room, a craft room, audio room, and other facilities. The Center is utilized by the parish for numerous activities, as well as the Bay Area Orthodox Youth Athletic association and local Greek organizations.
Father Anthony’s Passing and his Legacy
On June 1, 2004, Father Anthony passed away from complications relating to a pulmonary embolism. His funeral was held Friday, June 4, 2004, at Holy Trinity. Metropolitan Anthony presided over the service. His funeral service was attended by several thousand people which included local politicians, dignitaries and members of the clergy.
His passing left a huge void. In the interim, Father James Adams served as the presiding priest. In the weeks and months following his passing, parishioners began to express their ideas how Father Anthony’s memory should be honored. Over the next five years the parish and individual parishioners honored his memory by doing the following:
- John & Kathleen Bardis approached Father Michael Pappas with the desire to donate a mosaic icon of Father Anthony offering Holy Trinity Church to God. The Bardis family wanted to have the icon installed in the sanctuary. This concept was not approved by clergy. A compromise was reached where a mosaic icon would be created of Saint Anthony holding Holy Trinity Church and to have the icon installed in the foyer of the church. The icon was installed and attracts comments from visitors. Many visitors believe the face of St. Anthony reminds them of Father Anthony.
- A committee was formed for the creation and installation of the Father Anthony Kosturos Memorial. A memorial plaque was installed in a garden near the entrance. On June 7, 2009, the memorial plaque was dedicated by the community ( see photograph ).
- The parish voted to change the name of the meeting hall to the Father Anthony Kosturos Meeting Hall.
- The Kosturos family donated his vestments to the parish. The parish voted to mount the vestments in a display case outside the Father Anthony Kosturos Meeting Hall with a plaque.
- When the Pantocrator was installed, Robert Andrews created a mosaic tile of a portrait of Father Anthony plus several copies. The tile was installed near the right hand of Christ. Although the tile is difficult to see from the floor, it was a belief shared by many that he is in heaven among the righteous at the right hand of Christ.
Father Michael Pappas and his Departure
On August 1, 2004, Father Michael Pappas was appointed presiding priest after serving at St. Basil's - Stockton. Father Michael had an atypical background from most priests. He was born in New Jersey, educated at Dickinson College in PA, and upon graduating he embarked on a successful career on Wall Street. He later felt a calling to the priesthood and enrolled at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA . His personality was outgoing and dynamic. Parishioners and the general public were instantly drawn to him.
Father Michael excelled at his ministry. He re-energized ministries, increased attendance, started a parish web site, started a list server to communicate with the parish and the general public, computerized parish accounting, and raised $1 million towards the Pantocrator project. He was appointed as the Ecumenical Officer of the Metropolis by Metropolitan Gerasimos and worked very hard as a board member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Church building lasting relationships with church leaders. Unfortunately his career as a priest came to an abrupt end.
On Aug. 20, 2007, Father Michael was suspended from active ministry by Metropolitan Gerasimos. On August 21, 2007, Father Michael wrote a letter to the Holy Trinity community stating that he had been unfaithful to his wife. He asked Metropolitan Gerasimos to release him from the priesthood. He was laicized in 2008.
Mr. Pappas found another way to serve the faith community. He was appointed Executive Director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council and in his current role his career is thriving.
Holy Trinity’s Centennial Anniversary
On March 23, 2004, Holy Trinity celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. The parish wanted to plan a gala event to celebrate this significant milestone. The event was held December 30, 2004.
2004 also brought a lot of sadness. Father Anthony Kosturos passed away June 1, 2004. His Eminence, Metropolitan Anthony, who was terminally ill at the time, assured Father Michael Pappas that the Centennial celebration would be held. Metropolitan Anthony passed away December 25, 2004. Neither Metropolitan Anthony or Father Anthony had the opportunity to celebrate this historic event.
Father Michael Pappas came to Holy Trinity August 1, 2004. A committee was put together comprised of Father Michael Pappas, Co-chairs Mary S. Chicos & Peter Roosakos, Tom Karis, Marianthi Angelopoulos, John Bardis, Mary Chalios, Anthony Cherolis, Steve Drolopas, Helen Ernst, Pauline Deligiorgis, Joann Sarris-Haigh, Theodora Halkias, Peter Kireopoulos, Paul Manolis, Anastasia Misthos, Presvytera Alexandra Pappas, Lloyd & Joan Peponis-Rinde, George & Artemis Samoulides, Elias Tsiknis, Gary M. Vrionis, Tina Vrionis, and Constance D. Vrionis. Within a relatively short period of time the committee put together a wonderful event at the historic Sheraton Palace Hotel. There were over 600 people in attendance.
A commemorative DVD regarding the history of Holy Trinity was created for the event with each attendee receiving a DVD as a keepsake. The program included live Greek and American music. After everyone had taken their seat, a photographer took several panoramic photographs of the entire room. A photographer was also available to take photographs couples and families. An ice sculpture was created of the old Holy Trinity on 7th Street and another sculpture of the church on Brotherhood Way. Anthony Cherolis was presented with the medal of Saint Paul for his years of service to the parish.
The Pantocrator Project
When Holy Trinity relocated to Brotherhood Way in 1964, the Pantocrator, a depiction of Christ on the dome within the church, was left to complete at some point in the future. Holy Trinity’s dome is very large in comparison to other Greek Orthodox churches.
The design of the Pantocrator had been completed and approved prior to Father Anthony’s passing. The community wanted to complete this project and voted to proceed with a fund raising campaign for the dome in 2006. Under Father Michael Pappas’ leadership nearly $1 million was raised to start the project. Robert Andrews, Holy Trinity’s iconographer, was given the project.
On Dec. 4, 2007, the community was granted a building permit. Construction began in 2008. At a cost of $1.7 million dollars the Pantocrator mosaic is the largest mosaic face of Christ in the Western Hemisphere ( see photograph ). The face measures 23 feet from the top of the forehead to the chin and was installed 75 feet above the Church floor. The work features an estimated 1.4 million individual, hand cut, glass mosaic tiles. The project was completed in May, 2008.
Anthony Cherolis, Holy Trinity’s Master Candle Maker
A native of Wisconsin, Anthony Cherolis came to San Francisco after serving in World War II. He married and started a family. When his son suffered an injury that mangled his hand, he prayed to God and said: “If you heal my son I will devote my time to the church.” Tony’s son made a full recovery and Tony was true to his word.
From that moment Tony was a daily presence at Holy Trinity. When he retired he became a full time volunteer. He made all of the candles used in church services, decorated icons with flowers, served on the Parish Council, and called countless individuals getting donations for whatever Holy Trinity needed. He was known all over the San Francisco area. His life as an Orthodox Christian was the foundation of his life and his life exemplified selfless giving. A Bay Area news station, KTVU Channel 2, found out about Tony and decided to do a television segment on December 2, 2004 ( see video).
When Holy Trinity celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2004 Tony was awarded the medal of St. Paul. There were over 600 people in attendance and he was given a standing ovation. The Holy Trinity community expressed how much they loved him and how much they appreciated all the things he had done for the parish over the past 60 years. Sadly, Tony passed away Sept 12, 2011. A plaque was put on the candle-making shed honoring his life and contributions to the parish and the community established the Anthony George Cherolis Lifetime Achievement Award in his memory.
Holy Trinity Today
The history of Holy Trinity would not be complete without mentioning Jim Paponis and Isadora Mitchell (Moukios). After his passing Mr. Paponis donated half of his estate to Holy Trinity and the other half to Nativity Church in Novato. After her passing, Mrs. Mitchell donated her estate including her home to Holy Trinity. Her home is currently used as the home for the parish priest.
On March 3, 2008, Father Aris Metrakos was appointed presiding priest. He had been serving Holy Trinity Church, Columbia, South Carolina. Father Metrakos celebrated his first Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2008. Mr. Jacob Saylor serves as the community’s Youth Director.
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List of Priests
2. Rev. Fr. Gerontios Koutouzis ( photo ) , 1907 -1908
(He later became the first priest of the Los Angeles community)
3. Rev. Fr. Stefanos Macaronis ( photo ), 1908 – 1909
(In 1909 the King of Greece awarded him the silver cross of the order of the chevalier and the Holy Savior).
4. Bishop Kallistos Papageorgopoulos ( photo ), 1910 - 1919
(He later became the first bishop of San Francisco in 1927)
5. Rev. Fr. Dorotheos Bourazanis ( biography ), 1919 - 1920
6. Metropolitan Philaretos Ioannides ( photo ), 1920 -1921
(He later became the first priest of the St. Sophia/Annunciation community, the first bishop of the Chicago Diocese in 1922, and then Metropolitan of Syros)
7. Rev. Fr. George Sardounis ( photo ), 1921 - 1923, 1939 - 1940, 1943
8. Archbishop Athenagoras Kavadas ( photo ), 1921 - 1927
(He later became rector of the Holy Cross Institute in Brookline, then Bishop of Boston, then auxiliary bishop the Archdiocese of America, then Metropolitan of Philadelphia. He then became Archbishop of Great Britain)
9. Bishop Eirineos Kassimatis ( photo ), 1927 - 1932
(He later became Bishop of Abydos)
10. Rev. Fr. Vasilios Lokis ( biography ), 1936
11. Rev. Dionysios Demessianos ( biography ), 1936 - 1939
12. Rev. Fr. Amfilohios Sarantides ( photo ), 1939 - 1940
13. Rev. Fr. George Mystakides ( photo ), 1940 - 1941
14. Rev. Fr. Ambrosios Mandalaris ( photo ), 1939 - 1943
(He later became the first priest of the Santa Barbara, CA Greek community)
15. Rev. Fr. John Petropoulos ( photo ), 1943 - 1947
16. Rev. Fr. Germanos Papanagiotou ( photo ), 1947
17. Rev. Fr. Benedictos Papagiankopoulos ( photo ), 1947 - 1948
(He later became the first priest of the Byron Hot Springs, CA mission)
18. Rev. Fr. Arsenios Pallikaris ( photo ), 1948 - 1949
19. Rev. Fr. George Paulson (Pavloglou) ( photo album ), 1949 -1953
20. Rev. Fr. Gus Shepard ( photo ), 1953
21. Rev. Fr. Father Constantine Bithos (Bithitsikis) ( photo ), 1953 - 1955
23. Mr. Michael Pappas ( biography ), 2004 - 2007
24. Rev. Fr. Aris Metrakos ( biography ), June 8, 2008 - Present
About the author
Jim Lucas is a local San Francisco Bay Area Greek community historian and the president of the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, a California non-profit 501c3 corporation based at Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco.