MILIWAUKEE, WI – His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last weekend for the 100 year anniversary festivities of the parish of the Annunciation. The occasion was a joyous gathering for the hundreds who had gathered from the greater Milwaukee area as well as from the Metropolis of Chicago.
Upon arriving in Milwaukee on Friday, His Eminence was greeted by Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago; the Rev. Fr. James Dokos, parish priest; and the president and members of the parish council. The members of the Ladies Philoptochos Society of the parish also greeted the Archbishop at a luncheon held in his honor the next day, Saturday afternoon. Following the luncheon, His Eminence met with approximately 150 youth members of the parish and nearby local Churches for a youth rally and question and answer session.
On Saturday evening the parish community gathered for Great Vespers, an evening service of hymns and prayers, which in the Orthodox Christian tradition reckons the beginning of the following day. The next morning, Sunday, October 3, His Eminence concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago; the V. Rev. Archimandrite Demetri Kantzavelos, Chancellor of the Chicago Metropolis; the Rev. Fr. James Dokos; and the past 4 former priests of the Annunciation who had served the parish in earlier years.
Later that evening, the community held its 100 Anniversary Gala dinner and reception at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel. In attendance at the dinner were local religious leaders and public officials, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee, the Most Reverend Timothy Dolan; and the Mayor of Milwaukee. At the dinner, Archbishop Demetrios commended the community of the Annunciation for its century of remarkable progress, encouraging the parish to continue developing and thinking for the needs of the next century and even beyond.
The parish of the Annunciation is home to over 800 Greek Orthodox families from throughout the Milwaukee area.
“We are most honored that His Eminence Archbishop DEMETRIOS of America and His Eminence Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Chicago will be in attendance and share Their Blessings with the faithful,” Father Dokos said before the ceremonies.
Father Dokos noted that the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was first established in 1904, when Divine Services were celebrated by the Congregation’s First Priest, Father Parthenios Kolonis. The Annunciation’s First Byzantine-Style Church was built at the northeast corner of Broadway and Knapp Streets in Milwaukee, and Father Dokos noted that the original Church included Holy Icons that were painted on Mt. Athos. Several Clergy served the Parish before the Reverend Benjamin Kolias faithfully served the community with great distinction from 1923 – 1952.
By the end of World War II, the Annunciation Community had outgrown its building in Downtown Milwaukee, and the Parish decided to build a new Church in Wauwatosa, a community which borders Milwaukee on the northwest side of the city. On July 2, 1961, the present day Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was opened, and the First Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Father Emmanuel Vergis, Pastor. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was consecrated by His Eminence Archbishop IAKOVOS of North and South America in 1971.
The current Church, which was designed by world famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, continues to draw tens of thousands of faithful and visitors who visit and pray in one of the most impressive Orthodox Church structures in North America.
In 1974, the Church of the Annunciation was honored by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places; and in 1976, the Church was designated a Milwaukee Landmark.
Following the consecration and the international attention the Church attracted, the Annunciation Community installed Byzantine Ecclesiastical Windows in 1978 and burned its mortgage under the Pastorate of Father Angelo Kasemeotes. In 1984, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church built the Greek Orthodox Manor, a senior citizen complex for the parish.
With Faithful service, devotion to Him and a love for the Annunciation Parish, Father Peter Pappademetriou served the parish from 1986-1989.
The Reverend Father James Dokos, PROTOPRESBYTER, began his Ministry at the Annunciation in 1989. In 1995, the Church Sanctuary and Narthex were renovated with New Orthodox Icons, a granite floor and improved lighting. Additionally, a Byzantine-Style Gold Cross was placed on the outside dome of the Church to signify it as a Greek Orthodox Church. Other renovations followed, and it was in 1995 that Father Dokos established a New Building Committee with a goal of establishing a new Church Cultural Center. Mr. John W. Galanis was named building chairman for the project, and with the Blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan IAKOVOS and the Prayers of The Faithful, a new, $5.2 million Community Cultural Center was constructed. Designed by renowned architect Stephen Papadatos, AIA, of Papadatos Associates PC Architects, His Eminence Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Chicago celebrated the “Opening of the Doors” on March 7, 2004. The Cultural Center was named the James W. Pihos Cultural Center in honor of the love and stewardship Mr. Pihos has shown to the Annunciation Community over many years.