Places of Origin of the
Greeks of Woburn
Woburn, Massachusetts, a city with many tanneries and other early industrial manufacturing companies, began its assimilation of Greek immigrants in the early 1900s. The pioneers of our community came to Woburn from diverse places, such as Sparta, Georgitsi, Kalivia, Gargalianoi, Filiatra, Pyrgos, Megalopolis, Stemnitsa, Kalavrita, Elassona, Trikala, Epirus, Smyrna, Ousakion, Tsesme, Alatsata, Kazaklar, Aivali, Andros, Chios, Lemnos, Mytiline, and Cyprus. By 1916, there was a large enough Greek populace to form a community of its own and build a church.
Settlement in Their New Land
The story of our community, as seen from the minutes of the Parish Council meetings and those of the general assemblies, has paralleled in many respects the story of the Greek emigrants to the United States. From Greek School records of the period 1928-1936, we learn that most ofthe students' parents were industrial workers in the tanneries and other manufacturing plants. From photographs of the period 1917-1928, we see men, women, and children well-dressed, holding their heads high with pride and inner fortitude. From these minutes we learn that they were strong-minded, individualistic people, not reluctant to take a stand and vigorously debate issues and ideas.
We also learn that early Greeks of Woburn possessed inexhaustible stamina, deep convictions, and a strong faith and commitment to their Greek Orthodox faith, traditions, and Hellenic heritage. Their villages in Greece, Asia Minor, Cyprus, and elsewhere were constantly in their thoughts. They worried about their loved ones that they had left behind, especially during periods of social upheavals and wars in their native lands. They sponsored their relatives' emigration to the United States, and they constantly sent money back "home." Some passages in the minutes are quite moving because the protagonists were overflowing with emotion and nostalgia for their villages and relatives.
The Beginning of a Parish
With the advent of their first regular pastor, the Rev. Georgios Constantinou, the Parish Council with its President, Theodoros Govostis, determined to forge ahead with establishment of a church and Greek school. The first church was housed in a building in the rear of a Methodist church, "fronting on Harlow Court and within a stone's throw from Main Street." However, it soon became obvious that the space there was inadequate, as parishioners were calling for additional organizations to be housed in those premises. This led to the purchase of the Thomas Moore estate and the remodeling of the building into a Greek Orthodox Church. The expenses for this project put a great strain on the resources of the parishioners who nevertheless remained dauntless in their determination to realize their dreams for a suitable house of worship.
The stewardship practiced by the parishioners at this time, as evidenced in the recorded minutes of the Parish Councils, truly serves as exemplary churchmanship for all of us. The achievements of these people in the absence of a permanent pastor is further testimony of their commitment to their faith and Hellenic heritage. In the midst of all their financial strains, political conflicts, and the transience of the clergy, the members of the Greek community reached out and participated in events organized by the wider society of Woburn and other surrounding cities and towns.
Dauntless Commitment of the Parishioners
Neither a small fire that caused damage to the sanctuary ofthe church in 1923, nor the big fire in 1926, discouraged the parishioners of the Annunciation Church. On the contrary, the second fire served to steel their morale, determination and commitment to their church. It brought out the best in all the parishioners. Volunteers were organized into groups who worked on extensive repairs, while services were held in other locations. Donors willingly came forward for the renovation of the interior and the exterior of the church building, as well as for the painting of new icons. The parish enjoyed a short-lived period of peaked resolution, but the hard times brought on by the Great Depression took a heavy toll on parish finances.
Woburn Church Joins the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
The controversial issue of the New (Gregorian) and the Old (Julian) Calendar which rocked the Church of Greece was rather smoothly resolved by the Woburn parish. At a meeting of the General Assembly in June of 1930, the parishioners overwhelmingly voted to recognize the Patriarchate of Constantinople as their supreme administrative authority, and adopted the New Calendar. A very important milestone in the life of the parish was the official appointment of the Rev. Michael Sophocleous as parish priest with the approval of Bishop Ioakeim of Boston. Ensuing the acceptance of the Common Parish By-Laws of the Greek Archdiocese, the Woburn parish entered into full participation in all aspects of Church life.
Toward the Construction of a New Church
Despite the turmoil brought about by the World War II, the parishioners determined that their expanding numbers necessitated a new, larger church. While the whole parish was actively involved in raising funds for this project, a new church did not materialize until the late fifties. In the meantime it had become obvious to parishioners that America was their new home, and that returning to Greece was no longer a viable option. When the fire in the church in November 7, 1956 caused extensive damage, it was resolved that a new church had to be built. Intensive fund raising was undertaken, and on November 17, 1957, Makarios III Archbishop of Cyprus, laid the cornerstone of the new edifice.
On Sunday, September 28, 1958, Bishop Athenagoras of Elaias officiated at the Opening Door ceremonies, assisted by several clergymen from all over New England. A crowd of over 2000 people was in attendance, including high ranking political and governmental dignitaries. On June 8 and 9 of 1974, Archbishop Iakovos came to Woburn for the consecration of the new church fifty-seven years after the establishment of the parish and sixteen years after the opening of the new church. All these events described above are clear testimony to the resilience of the parishioners of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and a challenge that succeeding generations continue with their vision and inner strength derived from our Greek Orthodox faith.
In 2009 the Annunciation Parish completed constuction of its new Hellenic Community Center. The Center has been a dream of the parish for many years, and is now a reality. The Hellenic Community Center is a venue for the presentation of religious, cultural, educational, social, and artistic events. It is a significant addition to accommodate the needs of a growing parish.