St. Simon Orthodox Church celebrates 100th anniversary
By TOM STANKARD
Ironwood - In honor of their 100th anniversary, St. Simon Orthodox Church welcomed home Bishop Anthony Michaels on Saturday and Sunday.
In honor of the event, Anthony returned to Ironwood to say weekend services. On Saturday, Anthony said Great Vespers. Then on Sunday, the bishop gave a Matins and Divine liturgy. After the liturgy, Anthony dined amongst approximately 40 worshipers for brunch.
"It was a homecoming," said Reverend Mark Hagan. "Bishop Anthony stands in line as one of the greats of the church."
Anthony is an Ironwood native and his family is amongst the founding members of the "historic" church on Harding Avenue.
"To have him come back and be apart of our services is a great honor and a great blessing," the Rev. Hagan said.
Growing up, Anthony attended Ironwood High School. He participated in all varsity athletics. Since becoming a bishop, the Rev. Hagan said Anthony hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"He hasn't left us and gone on to bigger and higher things," he said. "He's with us and he cares about us."
As different generations come and go, the Rev. Hagan said Anthony and his family have been "instrumental in making sure the church is in a healthy place."
"They do the little things the church needs to be successful and meet the needs of the people they serve."
St. Simon was built in 1914 by Lebanese immigrants as place of worship in their new homeland.
"The immigrants brought their faith here with them," the Rev. Hagan said. "The church has been an important part of the community."
According to the church's long history, it was supposed to be named after a church in Fieh, because a majority of the immigrants came from the village. The church was then called St. Samuel. But it's been reported an error was made in the translation from Arabic to English, so it was corrected to St. Simon.
The historic structure was built on two lots, with the alter facing east, mandatory in the Orthodox religion. It had no basement, central heating or electricity.
In the early 1930's, the church was "raised up" and a basement was constructed. A few years later, central heating was added.
Since the 1930's, Hagan said Bishop Anthony and his family supported more renovations.
"New types of insulation, new siding, new windows, new heating system just to make us up to date," he said.
When people come to liturgy, Hagan said people appreciate the renovations.
"When you come into your own house and it's clean and looks good, there's a type of honor," he said. "It gives them a sense of identity and pride. It looks really nice."