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HISTORY OF GREEK MONTREAL

• LES GRECS AU QUÉBEC
• THE FIRST GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN MONTREAL «EVANGELISMOS»
• ΑΦΙΕΡΩΜΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΡΩΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗΝ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΣΤΟ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ «ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΜΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ»
• THE SECOND GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN MONTREAL «HOLY TRINITY»
• ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ;
• THE FOUNDING OF «OUR VERY OWN» ST. MICHAEL’S
• CENTURY MAN: THE FATHER NICHOLAS SALAMIS STORY
• THE 80 GOES TO SPARTA · THE GREEK QUARTER ALONG PARK AVENUE

LES GRECS AU QUÉBEC
– Des pionniers à l’intégration actuelle de la communauté

Samuel de Champlain mentionne dans ses mémoires la présence d’un jeune Grec qui lui servit d’interprète dans ses relations avec les Indiens.  Cependant, ce n’est qu’à partir du début du XXe siècle qu’on assiste à la naissance d’une petite communauté grecque qui ne dépassera pas 6000 personnes jusqu’aux années 1950.

Photo: Famille George Agetees, 1901

Photo: Famille George Agetees, 1901

Entre les années 1950 et 1980, une deuxième vague d’immigration pousse le nombre total à 100 000.  Forcés d’accepter les travaux les plus pénibles, les premiers immigrants grecs ont été témoins de l’intégration de leurs enfants des deuxième et troisième générations, qui sont présents aujourd’hui dans tous les secteurs de la société québécoise.
S
ource: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

THE FIRST GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN MONTREAL «EVANGELISMOS»

The first Greek religious organization in Montreal was granted a charter by the Legislative Assembly of Québec on May 7, 1909 under the corporate name THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH EVANGELISMOS OF MONTREAL although religious services in the Greek language and an interim council of trustees are said to have existed as early as 1906 or 1907.

In 1910, this ecclesiastical corporation constructed the first Greek Orthodox church «Evangelismos» or «Annunciation» on a vacant lot on the west side of Saint-Laurent Boulevard between Milton and Prince-Arthur (where the Cinema Ex-Centris and Softimage company offices are now located, just north of Sherbrooke Street).

Later in 1912, a triplex on the east side of Elgin (now Clark Street) – immediately behind the church – was purchased and housed the first Greek day school in Montreal named «The Hellenic School Platon of Montreal».

Read more about the founding of the first Greek church and school in Montréal in a historical essay written by Greek-Canadian lawyer Demetrios Smirnios and appearing on pages 48, 68 and 69 of the May 25, 2007 edition of the Greek-Canadian Tribune «BHMA» Newspaper.

ΑΦΙΕΡΩΜΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΡΩΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗΝ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΣΤΟ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ «ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΜΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ» (1)

ΑΦΙΕΡΩΜΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΡΩΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗΝ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΣΤΟ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ «ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΜΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ» (2)

ΑΦΙΕΡΩΜΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΡΩΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗΝ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΣΤΟ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ «ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΣΜΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ» (3)

THE SECOND GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN MONTREAL
«HOLY TRINITY»

Photo:  Holy Trinity Church, 1945

Photo: Holy Trinity Church, 1945

In 1925, deep political divisions within the first «Evangelismos» congregation (paralleling divisions between «monarchists» and «republicans» in the mother country Greece)  led the «republicans» to separate and establish two new bodies under the names of Holy Trinity Church and Socrates School (housed in a former protestant church purchased on the corner of Sherbrooke and Clark Streets).

On March 24, 1926 – eve of the Greek National Holiday – the Quebec legislature adopted a private bill (Statutes of Quebec 1926, chapter 99) which amalgamated the two bodies Holy Trinity Church and Socrates School and created a second Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical corporation with a church and school under the name HOLY TRINITY GREEK ORTHODOX CONGREGATION OF MONTREAL.  For more than five years thereafter, there were two Greek churches and two Greek day schools near «The Main»  in downtown Montreal.

During the Great Depression, the first congregation «Evangelismos» faced a severe financial crisis and then Greek Archbishop of the Americas Athenagoras (later Patriarch of Constantinople) persuaded the members of the two churches to reconcile and as of December 1931 they all united under the second church and corporation HOLY TRINITY GREEK ORTHODOX CONGREGATION OF MONTREAL.  The insolvent first corporation ceded the Evangelismos Church and Platon School properties to its two founders (who had personally guaranteed the mortgage) and the latter two sold the properties in 1934 to the Roman Catholic Church and paid off all of the first corporation’s debts.

On February 2, 1956, HOLY TRINITY GREEK ORTHODOX CONGREGATION OF MONTREAL changed its name to HELLENIC-CANADIAN COMMUNITY OF THE ISLAND OF MONTREAL.

On June 18, 1980, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a controversial Private Bill 231 which granted the organization a new name HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF MONTREAL and was arguably the source of much debate, confusion and litigation opposing the lay directors and the religious hierarchs.

On June 10, 2010, the HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF MONTREAL merged with THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF LAVAL (the latter incorporated on June 4, 1971) and the new amalgamated corporation became known as the HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF GREATER MONTREAL.

As a consequence, the first corporation «Evangelismos» and its charter were abandoned and never formally amalgamated nor merged with the second corporation «Holy Trinity» … although the first «Evangelismos» congregation is considered by many faithful today as the spiritual predecessor of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal.

Read more about the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, «Private Bill 231» and an interesting compilation of historical anecdotes and quotations in an article written by Demetrios Smirnios and appearing on pages 42 and 43 of the June 24, 2005 edition and pages 42, 43 and 69 of the July 1, 2005 edition of the Greek-Canadian Tribune «BHMA» Newspaper.

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ; (1)
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ; (2)
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ; (3)
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ; (4)
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΤΡΕΑΛ: ΑΣΤΙΚΗ ή ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ; (5)

THE FOUNDING OF «OUR VERY OWN» ST. MICHAEL’S
by Demetrios Smirnios

In 1966, a group of 100 Montreal area residents of Greek descent, many of whom were English-speaking and first generation born in Montreal, proposed to build a new church in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville area.  They initially called their project “Our Very Own” Parish.  Their mission was reflected in the resolution they all supported and signed:

“We have resolved that we, the undersigned, are determined to exert all our efforts, both physical and financial, towards establishing an autonomous parish, under the guidance and jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, which will enable us to more effectively and realistically fill our propagation of our Orthodox Faith and the Greater Glory of God.”

In 1967, they petitioned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America to form what became commonly known as St. Michael’s Parish in memory of their popular Greek schoolteacher Michael Stavrides of Montreal.  The petition was approved by the Archdiocese and an ecclesiastical charter was granted in April of 1967.  The chairman of the interim executive committee in 1966 and president of the interim parish council later in 1967 was Mr. James Dimitrios Kotsos.

The first Divine Liturgy was held through the benevolence of the Order of the Sisters of Saint-Croix at the Sisters’ complex in Saint-Laurent with Reverend Father Panagiotis Sbilis officiating on January 1, 1968.

A provincial charter was granted on May 16, 1968 to incorporate as an ecclesiastical corporation “THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF THE ARCHANGELS MICHAEL AND GABRIEL” with Mr. Nicholas Stavrides, son of Michael Stavrides, as president.  In January of 1969 land was purchased on Elie-Blanchard Avenue in Cartierville.  His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos officiated at the ground breaking ceremonies.  Construction then began for the building of a church which was named “The Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel“.

In 1969 was founded the Ladies “Philoptochos” charitable auxiliary of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel.  The first president of the local Philoptochos was Mrs. Frances Panopalis.  The Philoptochos was very active in fundraising for the new church as it always has been since in addition to supporting various charitable causes.

In 1974 a group of parents organized and founded the Saturday Greek School of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel.  The first classes during that inaugural 1974-75 school year were held in the church hall and under the direction of the Community’s well-known member and Greek language schoolteacher Mr. Vasilios Iliopoulos.

In the seventies the Community welcomed many more immigrants of Greek descent that had begun to move to the surrounding areas of Saint-Laurent, Cartierville, New Bordeaux and Ahuntsic.  In 1984 major renovations and expansion of the church building were undertaken to accommodate the large number of new parishioners.

Twenty different presidents served the Community on a volunteer basis during its first thirty year history including, the first woman to lead a Greek Orthodox Community, Madam Justice Dionysia Zerbisias (1972) – later judge ad hoc of the Quebec Court of Appeal;  the Late John E. Hadzipetros (1975) – a Past Supreme Vice-President (Canada) of the AHEPA fraternity;   Mr. George Vathilakis (1979-80) – past Chairman of the PSBGM school board;  the Late Dimitrios Sifakis (1983-86, 90-91, 96-97) – the oldest member to serve as president, he presided over the renovations of the church building in 1984 as well as the formal consecration of church in 1997;  the Late Elias Scoufaras (1988-89) – he led a fundraising effort during his tenure together with fundraising co-chairs Constantine P. Papageorgakopoulos and Roubini Zakkas that raised more than $150,000 for the Community;  Mr. Emmanuel Spanoudakis (1992-93) – he presided over the paving of the large parking lot adjacent to the church in 1993;  Mr. Thomas Bouras (1994-95, 2010-2013) – former elected board member of CLSC Saint-Laurent.

Our beloved Archbishop Iakovos – a dynamic religious and civil rights leader who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was once recognized on the cover of Life Magazine – retired on July 29, 1996 at the age of 85 as Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America and its more than 500 parishes.

Shortly thereafter, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople reorganized and partitioned the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas into three separate geographical regions (Canada, USA and Latin/South America).  Consequently, what was then the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Toronto (Canada) became the Greek Orthodox Metropolis (Archdiocese) of Toronto (Canada) and His Grace Bishop Sotirios was elevated to Metropolitan Archbishop of Toronto and Exarch of all Canada.  His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos passed away in New York City on April 10, 2005 at the age of 93.

The Archangels Michael and Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church was formally consecrated on Saturday evening, May 24, 1997 by His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios in concert with all local Greek clergymen and representatives of other Orthodox Churches in Montreal.  Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy on May 25, 2007, a celebratory luncheon was held at the Palace Convention Centre in Chomedey, Laval attended by more than 400 faithful under the distinguished patronage of His Eminence Sotirios and in the company of many elected officials from all levels of government.

Classes in the Community’s Saturday Greek School Program founded in 1974 are now held at Parkdale Elementary School on Deguire & O’Brien Streets in the Borough of Saint-Laurent under the guidance of the Greek School’s principal and its devoted teaching staff and folk dance instructors.

Past principals of the Greek School of Archangels Michael and Gabriel in succession include:

  • Vasilios Iliopoulos
  • Nicholas Nicolaou
  • Mary Papageorgakopoulos Theophilopoulos
  • Eleni Papadopoulos
  • Katerina Limberis
  • Antonios Moschopoulos
  • Haralabos Boikos
  • Vasileios Bourmpounis

The Saturday Greek School today serves more than 250 students enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, elementary school classes ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 6 and high school classes ranging from Grade 7 to Grade 12.  The School Program includes instruction in Orthodox religious education and Greek folkloric dances.

The Community has also maintained very close ties with and supported other community groups over the years, such as:

  • the Hellenic Seniors’ Association L’Acadie (Centre L’Acadie),
  • the Hellenic Seniors’ Association Anagennisis (Galeries Normandie),
  • the Metamorphosis Project (substance abuse support group),
  • the Foundation for the Creation of Hellenic Chronic Care Hospital (since 1989), and
  • the Hellenic Ladies Benevolent Society’s Annual Fundraising Radiothon,

which evidences the Community’s commitment to serve and support the cultural and social needs of the Greek Community residing primarily in the Saint-Laurent, Cartierville, New Bordeaux and Ahuntsic areas which areas number about 15,000 residents of Greek origin.

After the 1997 consecration of the church, a number of necessary renovations were undertaken at the Community including the installation of an elevator for wheelchair access, the replacement of the old church roof, the renovation of men’s and women’s washrooms in church hall and, more recently, the renovation of large kitchen in church dining hall.

During the same period, a number of new church icons were commissioned and completed. Moreover, all long-term debt and three mortgages were retired and a final acquittance and discharge was obtained from the mortgagor National Bank of Greece (Canada) on November 7, 2004 – the eve of our church’s annual feast day.

All of this good work was once again made possible by the generosity of the members, parishioners and many volunteers of this Community. Messrs. John Zakkas (1998-1999), Constantinos Dracopoulos (2006-2007), and Nicholas Smirnios (2000-2005, 2008-2009) also ably served as presidents of the Community.

The Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church celebrates its annual feast day on November 8 each year beginning with an Evening Vesper Service on the eve November 7 and a Divine Liturgy on the morning of the actual feast day November 8.  The faithful named Michael, Gabriel, Angelo, Stamati, Stamatia and Matina traditionally also celebrate their nameday on this occasion.

A SCATTERING OF SEEDS – THE CREATION OF CANADA
A 1998 52-part television series celebrating the contribution of immigrants to Canada.  This television series features poignant stories about Canada’s first immigrants.  Produced by White Pine Pictures.

Rev N Salamis

Episode 31
Century Man: The Father Nicholas Salamis Story
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJ8YgCziP0

Director Stavros C. Stavrides’ film ‘Century Man : The Father Nicholas Salamis Story’, celebrates the quiet fortitude of a Greek born priest who witnesses almost a century of Greek immigration in Canada. At 103 years of age, Father Salamis brought comfort to over four generations of Greeks in Canada.

Born on the Greek Island of Samos in 1897, tragedy struck Salamis’ family five years later when his father Constantine died, leaving the family destitute. His mother raised her two sons by renting a mule to local businesses for transport.

Nicholas Salamis’ mother was determined to educate her sons. She enrolled both her boys in the highschool on the other side of the island where Nicholas received his training in commerce. Seventeen-years-old and armed with his certificate, Nicholas first emigrated to America in 1914, bound for Vancouver. There he worked as a waiter and became an accountant, and travelled to Ontario and Quebec, offering his services to early Greek immigrants.  He settled in the Greek community of Montréal in 1919.

Post-war Montréal’s Greek community had a population of 2,000 and 500 businesses. It was not long before Nicholas Salamis was the bookkeeper for the community. Despite this community and prospects for success, Nicholas felt something lacking in his life. At age 35, Salamis returned to Athens to study theology. He had decided to become an Orthodox Priest. In 1938 he became Father Nicholas Salamis and spent the first seven years of his priesthood in a parish in Toronto. In 1945 he was transferred back to his beloved Montréal.

The church is vital to the Greek community – a link to the past and the glue that binds the various factions of a people who are often divided by politics. Father Salamis arrived in Montréal just before a great change took place in the Greek community. Towards the end of the 1940s, over one hundred thousand Greeks emigrated to Canada. They were largely uneducated, unskilled, with little or no knowledge of either official language of Canada.

They were coming to Canada to escape the horrors that had plagued their country for the better part of the century – war, oppression and economic collapse. Father Salamis not only administered to their spiritual needs with baptisms, marriages and funerals, he also eased the frictions which developed between the established Greek Community and the new immigrants, who were referred to with disdain, as ‘displaced persons’.

Father Salamis became the rock of the community over the next forty years, watching over his flock from the time they arrived as desperate new immigrants, scared and clinging to the safety of their community. He shepherded the children of these immigrants as they became members of the greater Canadian society, learning the official languages, getting the education that their parents so desperately wished for them.

nota bene  A cultural icon in Montreal’s Greek community, Father Nicholas C. Salamis passed away on October 15, 2005 at the age of 108.

THE 80 GOES TO SPARTAimageCABIMO06

 A National Film Board of Canada documentary film directed by Bill Davies.  About the different faces of the Greek community in Montréal in 1969, with emphasis on cultural and economic problems encountered by new immigrants. 

Shows the Greek community of Montréal, Canada, their frustrations and difficulties, and how the political problems of Greece are reflected in their community.

The film title refers to the No. 80 city bus that ran along Park Avenue (from downtown Place des Arts to Park Extension) cutting through the heart of the old Greek quarter once centred in the Plateau-Mont-Royal area.  Total Duration: 45 min 15 s

https://www.nfb.ca/film/80_goes_to_sparta/

THE CANADIAN ENCYCLOPEDIA, 2012
– Ethnic Groups – The Greeks
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/greeks

BIBLIOTHEQUE ET ARCHIVES NATIONALES DU QUÉBEC
– Titre: Portrait statistique de la population d’origine ethnique grecque recensée au Québec en 2006 (Ministère de l’immigration et des communautés culturelles du Québec, Direction de la recherche et de l’analyse prospective, Montréal 2010)
http://collections.banq.qc.ca/ark:/52327/2162521

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA
– Genealogy and Family History – Ethno-Cultural and Aboriginal Groups – The Greeks
http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/history-ethnic-cultural/Pages/greek.aspx

ARCHIVES CANADA
– Hellenic Community of Montreal 1906-1981
http://www.archivescanada.ca/english/search/ItemDisplay.asp?sessionKey=999999999_142&l=0&lvl=1&v=0&coll=0&itm=260672&rt=1&bill=1

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