Church for Sale: 'It Had to be Done'

Grand Island, Neb. - Greek immigrant Vlassy Patsios knew it was true, but he had to drive by and see it for himself for it to become real.

He turned onto Lincoln Avenue and peered at the corner of 10th Street.

There it was.

The “For Sale” sign.

It sat squarely in front of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

“Oh, my eyes didn’t feel good. I felt tears,” said Patsios, who first saw the sign in late March. “I was shocked, but I knew it had to be done.”

Patsios’ uncle and several other Greek families in Central Nebraska helped found and build the church, which opened in Grand Island in 1941.

Vlassy Patsios leaves Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church after giving a tour April 2.
The church, which is being rented to another congregation, is now for sale.
“They were from Kearney, Grand Island, Hastings, Cairo — even Columbus,” Patsios said of the early members.

They selected Grand Island because it was a larger community. Services had been held in the city for decades at various halls and meeting places, but this would be the congregation’s first and only church building there.
It brought a little bit of home for the immigrant families.

“I couldn’t believe to see a church like this in the United States,” Patsios recalled. “When I walked in, it blew my mind. How they got together and built a beautiful church like this?”

The 40-foot-high sanctuary ceiling is graced by a circular painting of the Alpha and Omega. Its 18 wooden pews are flanked by beautiful stained-glass windows.

Full-size religious icons are painted on woodwork across the front of the church, where the Rev. Steve Prodromides and the Rev. George Kyriakakis once spoke.

Vlassy Patsios talks about the history and his experiences at The Holy Trinity
Greek Orthodox Church at 10th and Lincoln streets in Grand Island.

Many of its religious ceremonial pieces, including the baptismal bowl used for Patsios, are still stored in a room behind the altar.

Patsios had been living in Athens before coming to the United States in 1950 as a 15-year-old guest of his uncle. He immediately fell in love with the church.

“It was small. It was very easy to walk in and feel like you’re home,” he said. “The people were real nice — like a family.”

The church was founded in 1935, the building site dedicated in 1938 and the church opened in 1941 after Greek bricklayers, painters and other artisans donated their time to build it.

The families collected the agreed-upon rough, blond bricks 100 or 200 at a time, Patsios said.

Original services, which followed the lunar calendar of the Old Testament, were all in Greek. English services were added later, he said.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's icons and ceremonial articles are
now in storage since the church is being rented to another congregation.
The church building is now for sale.

The church was packed in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, with standing room only during holiday ceremonies.

The church, which once had 120 families, had dwindled to about 30 families by the 1970s due to aging and moving to larger communities. Weekly services were cut back.

By the 1980s, the church served for only special ceremonies. By the mid-1990s, the church was closed at the direction of the Denver-based bishop. It has been rented to another congregation, but founders, members and out-of-town church leaders recently agreed a sale was imminent.

The church rectory next door at 1013 W. 10th St. was sold this past week.

The church at 1025 W. 10th St., including its adjacent grass lot where children played after services, is listed at $189,900.

Patsios looked down from the choir balcony, making a quick pull on a nearby rope.

The rich-sounding toll of the church’s bell brought a quick smile and more memories. It was the familiar start of services and the signal of being half through.

A quick pass through the pine-paneled basement community room reminded him of Sunday school, children’s plays on the stage and meals cooked on the large black Garland stove.

“Oh, the dances,” Patsios said with a gaze and no further explanation. “We had a lot of good times in this church.”

Founding families

Here are some of the founding families of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, based on information from church members and past media accounts.

John Kallos, Gus Kallos, Nick Jamson, Don Patsios, George Katrouzos, Alex Poullos, George Peterson, Bill Peterson, George Kostas, Tom Kappas, George Boosalis, Steve Poullos, James Camaras, Harry Liagios, George Kostas, Pete Kotsiopoulos, Peter Paul, Jim Poullos

(Posting date 28 April 2009)

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