Posts tagged primary sources
Editor’s note: The following article was provided by Magdalene Spirros Maag of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans. As most of our readers know, Holy Trinity, which was founded in the 1860s, was probably the first Orthodox parish in the contiguous United States. In its early years, the community was multiethnic, and it was loosely affiliated with the Church of Greece. The archival work being done at the Cathedral today is incredibly exciting, and I thought that our readers would appreciate an update. We’ll continue to follow this project in future articles.
Hurricane Katrina severely flooded the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans with waters entering the Cathedral and the Hellenic Center Fellowship Hall leaving behind devastation that is all too familiar to Gulf residents. Of particular concern was the collection of religious artifacts the Greek Orthodox community had safeguarded since 1865 when the church was first established on N. Dorgenois St. Many items were lost and other relics were damaged in the flood waters. The collection includes icons, Bibles, priests’ vestments, liturgical objects, photos and church documents. In the fall of 2010 a major effort was launched to retrieve, assess and identify priority items for restoration and conservation.
Holy Trinity congregants have always safeguarded this collection throughout the century and a half since its beginning. Because of the foresight of Karen Clark, cathedral member and textile conservator, and the combined efforts of Cathedral members, most of the collection had been archived and stored on the second-floor of the Fellowship Hall the year before Katrina struck. But the dispersal of members and the rebuilding of the Cathedral and Hellenic Center structures, located in severely-hit Lakeview, took precedence for several years.
The reunification of the historic collection with its worshipping community was launched with a small display of key items during the 2010 Greek festival. The campaign to restore the collection began. Funds were raised to pay for the restoration of key items. Some of these items are:
- The Holy Kouvouklion cited in a New Orleans guide in 1885 with 12 priceless painted icons that depict our Lord’s Paschal death and resurrection
- Blessed Mother of God Icon, gifted to Holy Trinity by the Russian imperial family in 1872, was exposed to excessive moisture from flood waters for several weeks.
- The flooded Sacramental Journals had mold threatening the Greek handwritten data inscribed by priests beginning in 1880.
- Holy Trinity’s first Greek Orthodox Bible crafted in Agia Lavra Monastery where the Greek war for independence from the Ottoman Empire launched was falling apart.
On March 10, 2012, the Archives Committee of Holy Trinity will hold its first public exhibition of key artifacts. This event is a fundraising effort to pay for the continued restoration of priority items. A joint effort of the Cathedral’s Archives Committee and their charitable arm, Ladies Philoptochos Society, fifty percent of the ticket sales will support several regional nonprofit organizations that serve our fellow residents who are in need of social services and basic needs. Members of the Archives Committee accept memorial donations. See contact information below.
Please see the attached flyer for information on date, cost, location and highlights of the Keepers of the Faith: The Beginning 1865 – 1915 Exhibition. Please call Magdalene Spirros Maag @ 504-780-9165 and Connie Tiliakos @ 504-885-0206 for more information. The information is also posted on the Holy Trinity website, www.holytrinitycathedral.org.
To download the flyer, CLICK HERE.
The following remarkable story appeared in the New York Times on May 1, 1908. If anyone can provide more information, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
BABY LEFT IN CHURCH; SOCIETY TO ADOPT IT
Advent of the Little Stranger Caused Flurry Among Women of the Ladies’ Aid
LEFT IN JANITOR’S BED
The Infant Is Sent Temporarily to Bellevue, but the Women Say They Want to Bring It Up.
The day before yesterday, and theretofore, the basement door of the Greek Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity, at Seventy-second Street and Lexington Avenue, could be opened without the slightest sound. It always stood unlocked.
But yesterday there was a shrill bell attached to the door, which rang sharply whenever the door was opened. Moreover, whenever the door did open or the bell rang there was a quick movement on the part of the janitor and of those members of the Ladies’ Aid Society who happened to be present to see who entered.
For on the previous day some one, taking advantage of the fact that the door latch was always out, had slipped into the janitor’s room in the basement and left in his bed a two weeks’ old boy baby. The janitor and l adies are glad that the baby came to the church, but do not wish, nevertheless, to establish such a precedent. Hence the new bell.
It was quite dark and the Ladies’ Aid Society had finished its meeting in the rear room of the basement when there came a squeak from the janitor’s room. The members of the society acted variously. The unmarried members got on chairs.
“It’s a mouse,” they said.
The married members listened attentively.
“It’s a baby,” they asserted.
Leaving the unmarried members still on their chairs, the married members hurried to the janitor’s room. On the bed was a little white bundle. As they drew near the little squeak was repeated.
One of the women more bold than her sisters went to the bed and threw back a blanket. A baby blinked up at her.
The question arose what was to be done with the infant.
“Notify the police,” said the janitor.
But word went about the room:
“It’s a Greek Church baby, and the Greek Church should take care of its own.”
So the police were not notified. Instead, one of the members of the society took the baby home. Yesterday the society was about to meet to discuss what was to be the ultimate disposition of the baby when a policeman arrived. The janitor, possibly not relishing the idea of a church baby, had telephoned to the East Sixty-seventh Street Station.
The baby was taken to Bellevue.
“But we want it here,” said the members of the Ladies’ Aid Society.
“You can claim it at Bellevue,” the policeman told them.
So the members of the society haven’t given up the idea of adopting the church baby. To-day there will be a special meeting of the society, when steps looking to its adoption will be taken.
If you’re anything like me, you want to know the rest of this story — what happened to the baby? Did one of the Greek women adopt him? How did his life turn out? I haven’t yet found any other articles on this story, but beyond the newspapers, an obvious place to look is in the baptismal records of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (now Cathedral). Presumably, if the baby was adopted by one of the parishioners, he would have been baptized sometime between this May 1, 1908 newspaper article and the end of 1908. As I said earlier, if any of our readers can help solve this mystery, email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
I’ve written more words about Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine than about any other historical figure. Irvine was an Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1905, was ordained by St. Tikhon, and played a major role in American Orthodoxy until his death in January 1921. He was a trusted assistant to St. Raphael Hawaweeny, and he was the chief advocate of the use of English in Orthodox worship. Irvine’s significance to American Orthodox history is difficult to overstate.
I’m now working on a book about Irvine. No specifics yet, but I plan to finish it by the time I graduate from law school in a year. I’ve slowly begun to review my sources on Irvine, and I stumbled onto a really, really strange bit of information.
Irvine died in Brooklyn on January 23, 1921. The first obituary was published the next day, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This obituary seems to have been the main source for the obituaries that appeared in numerous other papers in the following days. Here’s the weird part:
The Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine, 71 years old, in charge of the English division of the Eastern Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of America, died on Sunday, of heart trouble, at his residence, 677 Sterling pl. The funeral services will be held tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock, at Dr. Irvine’s late home, the Rev. A.L. Charles, rector of St. Mark’s P.E. Church, officiating, and the internment will follow in Greenwood Cemetery. Dr. Irvine is survived by his wife, Mrs. Emmalena Wilson Irvine, and a daughter, Mrs. Annie Chapin.
There’s not really any question that Irvine remained Orthodox to the end of his life. Even this obituary speaks of him as being the head of the “English division” up to his death. And if you know anything about Irvine, you know that he was a stubborn mule who wouldn’t just cut and run from a church at the first hint of discomfort. I’m 99.9% certain that Irvine did not revert to Episcopalianism in the month before he died.
So why was Irvine’s funeral in his home and not in a church — and why did an Episcopal priest officiate? Apart from the almost impossible prospect of a deathbed apostasy, here are the most likely scenarios I can come up with (with help from Aram Sarkisian and Fr. Oliver Herbel):
1. Irvine’s widow and/or daughter arranged for an Episcopalian funeral. This, in my view, is the most likely scenario. We don’t know much of anything about Emmalena, Irvine’s wife. Yes, she helped Irvine with his teaching ministry, but we don’t even know if she formally converted to Orthodoxy. For all we know, she remained Episcopalian even after her husband’s conversion. As for daughter Annie, she was a very dysfunctional person. It’s a story for another day, but suffice it to say that Annie stole from a lot of people, probably was a con artist, and left her children to be primarily raised by their grandparents (the Irvines). I doubt she’d demand an Episcopalian funeral, but her motives are difficult to follow. In any case, Emmalena and/or Annie may have asked Rev. A.L. Charles of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to officiate.
2. Irvine himself asked for an Episcopalian funeral, but remained Orthodox. This is less crazy than it sounds. According to Aram Sarkisian’s research, Irvine’s bishop, Abp Alexander Nemolovsky, was in Canada when Irvine died. And Irvine had just been through a bad experience with a failed convert parish led by the erratic Archimandrite Patrick Mythen (who, incidentally, was probably in Canada with Abp Alexander when Irvine died). The nearest Orthodox bishop was the Syrian Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh of Brooklyn — a man Irvine hated. Irvine may have been so upset with the nearby Orthodox authorities that he preferred to be buried in a quiet ceremony officiated (perhaps) by an Episcopal priest that Irvine respected.
3. Irvine had an Orthodox funeral and an Episcopalian memorial service. This theory, suggested by Fr. Oliver, assumes that the newspapers just didn’t know about the Orthodox service. Along similar lines, Fr. Oliver points out that the Orthodox and Episcopalians may have officiated at the same funeral service. After all, in that era, it wasn’t unheard of for Orthodox and Episcopalian priests to officiate at the same marriage ceremony. I find this suggestion somewhat less likely than the possibility of dual funerals, simply because the Episcopalian funeral reported in the Eagle took place at Irvine’s home, rather than a church. Which suggests that it was something less than an “official” event. If Orthodox clergy were involved, why not do it at a church?
Anyway, at this point, we don’t know what was going on with Irvine’s funeral. But the three of us — Fr. Oliver, Aram, and I — are trying to track down what happened.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Last week, I wrote about a priest from Lebanon who visited the United States in 1850. In an update to that post, I reprinted an 1850 Syracuse newspaper article claiming that the priest was an “impostor” who was raising money through dishonesty. That Syracuse newspaper referred to another article in the Puritan Recorder. Well, I’ve now tracked down that original article, which appeared in the Puritan Recorder on July 20, 1850. Here’s the full text:
The Syrian Monk, Flavianus
Some months since a Papal monk, named Flavianus, from the convent of Kurkafen, on Mount Lebanon, Syria, accompanied by a Syrian youth named Nasif Shedoody, who acts as interpreter to the Monk, went to America to solicit aid for a convent, and for other purposes connected with the Papal-Greek sect in Syria. We have been informed that our names have been used in connection with this affair, and that the acquaintance of the interpreter with the members of our Mission, has been made the means of introducing the monk and his project to the favorable notice of some of our friends. We, therefore, deem it necessary to notify our friends in this public manner, that the project has never met with countenance from us, and that we remonstrated with the interpreter when he called upon us for letters of introduction to our friends. We declared to him our conviction, that no money could be obtained in the United States for such an object, except by fraud; — because Papists could find many ways, in which money could tell upon their cause more powerfully than were it to be given to increase the funds of one of the many well endowed convents on Lebanon; and Protestants of every name would decline giving a farthing, if they knew the character of Lebanon convents, and the doctrines and character of the sect for whom their aims were sought. We know that Papal convents, a Papal church, or even Papal schools, and a thoroughly Papal press, and a people not needy, would not commend themselves to other than Papists; and that a knowledge of the mode of which the funds of the Greek Catholic sect have been squandered, would destroy the confidence of their co-religionists everywhere. Indeed, the whole project was opposed violently by many of their own sect, including the Bishop of the Diocese, to which Monk Flavianus belongs.
Feeling an interest in the young man, who was once a pupil in one of our schools, we warned him against engaging in a scheme, which could succeed nowhere except by false pretenses and culpable concealment. But he satisfied his conscience by the plea, that he found it difficult to obtain other occupation which would give him a comfortable livelihood that he should be able to see foreign lands without cost to himself; and that, being the mere mouth-piece of the Monk, he should not be responsible for the nature of the communications made to the American public.
Our object in this notice is simply to prevent our names being used for the furtherance of the scheme in question. In our opinion, the case does not present a proper object of charity, nor is it one which we can commend, for any reason, to any portion of the citizens of the United States. Those who give to it cannot be sure that what they bestow will be expended according to their desires, even if all of it should reach the individuals who originated the object.
G.B. Whiting, C.V.A. Van Dyck, H.A. De Forest, S.H. Calhoun
Beirut, Syria, May 3d, 1850.
So this guy wasn’t Orthodox — he was Arab Greek Catholic (probably Melkite, but possibly Maronite). And, from the sound of this letter, he may have been only a monk, and not a priest.
That said, I do now think he was the same “Greek priest” who was reportedly trying to start a parish in New York in late 1849. The Orthodox in New York were reported to be Russians and Greeks (not the types you’d expect to follow an Arab Greek Catholic priest), but the Puritan Recorder letter accuses Fr. Flavianus of being dishonest, so he may well have led the New York Orthodox to believe that he was from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
We’ll keep researching this story, because, even if Fr. Flavianus and his interpreter weren’t Orthodox, there seems to have been a sizeable Orthodox community in New York in 1850.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Earlier today, I posted this note from the January 1850 issue of the Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America:
Efforts are now making in New York to form a congregation of Greek Christians. We observe an announcement that a priest of that denomination, with an interpreter, is now in New York, and will doubtless take charge of the movement.
I’ve tracked down a bit more on this intriguing story. The December 8, 1849 issue of the North American and United States Gazette (published out of Philadelphia) reported, “Efforts are making in New York to form a congregation of Greek Christians, from the many Greeks, Russians, etc., now in that metropolis. One has lately been formed in London.”
Three days later, the same newspaper published this:
We have already noticed the efforts now making in New York to form a congregation of Greek Christians. We observe an announcement that a priest of that denomination, with an interpreter, is now in New York, and will doubtless take charge of the movement.
Obviously, the 1850 Presbyterian source quoted above got its information from the Gazette; that, or they both got it from some third source.
Finally, on February 14, 1850, the Gazette published this:
There are now in Harrisburg, Pa., the Rev. Flabianos, a priest of the Greek Catholic church, from near Mount Lebanon, and Nasseef Shedady, from Beyroot, in Syria, his private secretary and interpreter, who speaks our language quite fluently. Their object is to secure aid for their brethren in Syria, who are suffering very much, and are in a state of destitution, in consequence of the wars between the Mahometans and Druses, by which the country has been devastated.
Okay. It’s not clear whether this Rev. Flabianos of Mount Lebanon is the same priest who was in New York in December 1850. Also, I’m not certain whether Rev. Flabianos was Orthodox or Maronite. Given the references to both Greeks and Russians in New York, it’s clear that the New York priest — whoever he was — was indeed Orthodox. It seems unlikely, although certainly not impossible, that two Orthodox priests happened to visit the United States in the winter of 1849-50.
Anyway, this story remains very, very cloudy, but we’ve now got multiple sources and at least some specifics. I’ll continue researching this one.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
UPDATE: I just found an article from later in 1850 which seems to refer to the same visitors from Lebanon. From the Syracuse Daily Standard, 8/8/1850:
For several days past a couple of singularly dressed personages have been parading our streets, attracting considerable attention by their strange appearance. It is generally understood that they were soliciting aid for a convent in Syria and one of them represents himself to be a monk from the Greek convent of Kurkafen on Mount Lebanon, accompanied by his interpreter. The Puritan Recorder declares them to be impostors, and publishes a somewhat lengthy article signed by four missionaries at Beirut, Syria, warning the people of the U. States against their impositions. According to this article they belong to the Greek Catholic Church, a sect of which but little is known in this country, and are not entitled to the countenance of either Protestants or Roman Catholics. It is intimated that their sole object in visiting this country is to see foreign lands without any cost to themselves, and those who make donations cannot be sure that what they bestow will ever reach the object for which it is solicited.
Sounds kind of like the Bulgarian Monk, doesn’t it? But he came along a quarter century later.
Anyway, this article makes me skeptical that this priest from Mount Lebanon is the same person as the priest who was trying to start a multiethnic church in New York in December 1849. At this point, I think we’re dealing with two unrelated clergymen who happened to visit America at the same time.