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GreekReporter.comGreek churchRebirth of a Church: Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, 1978-2015, Part 1

Rebirth of a Church: Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, 1978-2015, Part 1

Part 1


“Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them”.
Plato (428-327 BC)

The Founders of the Transfiguration set a goal and built a church with small donations from all classes. The passing of the Founders brought new challenges to the new generation of leaders. From 1978 to 2015, they have overcome a population shift to urban centers. They have beautified and have a unique church with rarely seen Byzantine iconography and a handcrafted iconostasis (altar screen).

The potato fields have been replaced by the cultivation of garden vegetables and neighboring vineyards. On October 11, 1969, under the leadership of Theofan Kyvernitis, a Cypriot immigrant/businessman, the groundbreaking ceremonies took place on Breakwater Road. Kyvernitis donated the property from the land of former farmer/real estate broker Stanly Sledjeski. The late Mr. Harry Stavrides paid for the foundation. The late Mr. James Moraitis donated the Kambana (bell). The first liturgy was held on August 6, 1970. The first annual dance hosted by the North Fork Greek Community was held on September 5, 1970, at the American Legion Hall, Greenport. More than six hundred people attended, under the Chairmanship of Angelo Panagopoulos. Since then, annual dances have been a success. (Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, New York, 2014, p.2).

The Consecration of the Church was performed on August 8, 1976, By His Eminence Archbishop Ivanovo’s, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, assisted by former Archimandrite Anthems Draconakis, former Archdeacon Methodios and parish priest Rev. Timotheos Tenedios. The deposition of the Holy Relics is of St.Theona, St. Iakovos the Monk and St. Anastasia. Elias Kulukundis was the sponsor, with an offering of $1,000 and a pledge of $75 toward the building of a community center (August 19, 1976, Hellenic Times, p.30). Why am I recapturing past history? The third generation of parishioners has inaccurate information on the origins. This will set the record straight.

Nameday, August5, 2005
Nameday, August 5, 2005

The Transfiguration Church, which everyone loved as their own home, underwent a serious fire in November 1984. “It was a time of mourning for many of us,” said Cleo Tsounis. “We must beautify our church again and make room for the Greek Orthodox people who are constantly buying homes on the North Fork…Together we can do miracles.” Mrs. Tsounis, Parish Council President from 1986-87, spearheaded a movement, raising funds in order to finish the church in two years without a mortgage. At the time, she secured support from unlikely sources such as the former Lilco power plant.

On Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1986, a luncheon was held in honor of His Grace, Bishop Philip of Daphnousia, at the Soundview restaurant in Southold with the purpose of initiating a fund drive to repair and expand the fire-burnt church. The late Frank Murphy, Supervisor of Southold Town, presented the Seal of Southold Town to His Grace, Bishop Philip. In the midst of this darkness, Katerina Sitaras, daughter of former Rev. and Presvitera Nicholas Sitaras, was chosen as Miss Pennsylvania to compete in the September 19, 1987, Miss America Pageant. In the winters of 1987, 1988, 1989, Nicholas Neocleous hosted his fur collections in fashions shows designed to raise funds for rebuilding the church.

On May 1, 1988, the new church groundbreaking was performed by Bishop Philip of Daphnousia, assisted by Rev. Demetrios Frangos, secretary to Archbishop Iakovos, and Rev. Demetrios Orphanakos. The groundbreaking initiated a fund drive. Parish Council President Christos Flessas opened the fundraising with donations from himself and his family. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos donated $500. George Gabriel, Building Committee Chairperson, said “Phase I of the building expansion and restoration project includes doubling the size of the church…1,800 square feet. The interior and altar will be fully restored. Seating capacity will be doubled with a new entrance and ramp for the handicapped. Phase II will concern itself with renovating the basement, fixing brickwork in front, restoring or replacing icons that were damaged. The second phase will cost $100,000,” (Hellenic Chronicle, Thursday, May 26, 1988).

The 1990’s showed continuous regrowth. Picnics, Greek fraternal organization socials, festivals, cake sales participation in parades and dances kept the church flourishing with dynamic new leaders, the second generation. Their names are included at the end of the article.

On Sept. 7, 1998, Lauren Terrazzano of Newsday wrote “They’ve been coming to Mattituck for generations, from traditional Greek enclaves such as Astoria, and parts of Brooklyn, as well as areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties…Mattituck is a family affair, a place to visit grandparents and grandchildren and cousins and aunts during the summer months. The area has been transformed by the Greek community’s presence. The quiet farm fields come alive at least one weekend a year in July as thousands of year-round residents attend the church’s annual Greek Festival, getting a taste of souvlaki and live bouzouki music and line dancing. Breakwater Road on Sunday is lined with the cars of people who attend morning services.” Today in 2015, this is still taking place.

Greek language and Sunday schools were in operation until the mid-2000. A loss of middle class jobs resulted in relocation of young families. Today, the community is mostly senior citizens whose primary language is Greek. Children who grew up here, such as Carmen V. Markakis, have achieved success in a legal career. Her father, Andreas Markakis, is still an active member for nearly forty years. There are many similar cases of youth achieving success by relocating west to New York City.


No man can survive on his own. It requires the help of many. Every man is part of a bigger picture, a greater world. This applies to the ethnic community I am part of. Loyalty is carried from generation to generation for our Greek ties. One community builds another. The Greek colonies in Sicily are examples of one colony leading to another settlement, till the Roman Conquest. The Greek communities of Asia Minor were composed with a significant percentage of Cretan and Mainland refugees, who brought their friends to a better way of life, prior to the 1922 catastrophe. This is the history of the Greek Diaspora.
The North and South Forks were built by families, bringing their friends and relatives to enjoy the natural beauty. This led to the rise of the Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, Sts. Anargyroi and St. Gerasimos Church, Greenport, and Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church of Southampton. Recently, Lily Katos, a neighbor in Mattituck and Queens, told me “You were brought up as a child in this Church.” [Transfiguration of Christ, Mattituck]. While other baby boomers were demonstrating against the Vietnam War in destructive college demonstrations, my family drew me into public relations for building the first Greek Orthodox Church on the East End called the Transfiguration of Christ. There would not be a Kimisis Church if the Transfiguration of Christ Church in Mattituck did not exist first. In 1969, the groundbreaking of the Transfiguration Church commenced. North and South Forks were united with the Church of Greek Orthodox worship. The Bakas and Fotopoulos families represented the South Fork. They were friends with our first priest, Timotheos Tenedios of Imvros, from His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos’ island in Turkey. Their withdrawal from the Transfiguration Church in Mattituck hurt the Ministry of Reverend Timotheos Tenedios. The Hellenic culture school lost an enrollment of 50%. Today, there is no Greek School. Greenport and Mattituck residents attend the Southampton Greek language school. The church decline ended with the Greek immigration of the 1980’s from Astoria and Flushing, New York. This immigration continues to the present time.

End of Part 1

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