Brief History of St. George's Parish
A Brief History of St. George’s Orthodox Church
Troparion in Tone 4
You are great among the Saints, O victorious George;
The deliverer of captives and defender of the poor,
A physician for the sick and companion of kings:
Intercede with Christ our God
That He may save our souls!
St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church, located in Pharr, Texas is a Parish of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in the Diocese of the South. Priest Antonio Perdomo is the current Rector of the Church. His Eminence, DMITRI (Royster), Archbishop of Dallas and the South, is our Diocesan Bishop. Archbishop DMITRI is the founding Bishop of our Southern Diocese as well as being the Exarchate Bishop of Mexico. His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of all America and Canada is the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
St. George's Church was founded by Archbishop DMITRI on February 9, 1979, with the event of a Vespers Service which was held at the University of Texas Pan-American’s Catholic Student Center. After the initial Vespers, monthly services began at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in McAllen and continued there from March until August of 1979. Beginning in September of 1979, services were held twice a month at the Valley Garden Center in McAllen. By June of 1980, the newly formed mission began holding weekly Reader’s Services. Approximately once a month, when a Priest was available from another Orthodox Church, Divine Liturgy would also be served.
In 1978, an inquiry article from the OCA Chancellary Office in Dallas was published in the local newspaper called The Monitor. It was Alex Paraskevas who first responded with an initial letter requesting and petitioning that an Orthodox Mission be formed in the Rio Grande Valley. Among the Church’s founding members were Peter and India Peters, Thomas Peters, Norma Hodge, the late Edinburg builder and developer, James Shwery and his wife, Antoinette, the late Alex (Alexander Nicholas) Paraskeves of Edinburg and the late Rio Grande Valley restaurateurs, John and Evangeline Vasos.
John Reeves, a former Episcopal Priest, came to live in the Rio Grande Valley during the summer of 1980. In April of 1981, he was ordained by Archbishop DMITRI to the Priesthood in the Orthodox Church in America. After that time, the Mission began holding regular Divine Liturgies and services. Father Reeves’ most pressing initial task was to help build up the mission. In the early days, Fr. John and his family hosted many services, served meals and led Bible studies and services in their home.
In January 1981, the budding Parish purchased its present site, which is located at 704 W. Sam Houston in Pharr, Texas. The mission’s building project began, into which the Parish moved during July of 1981. Edinburg’s Shwery and Hodge families of well known contractors and developers helped considerably in the construction of St. George’s Church. On Palm Sunday, April 13, 1982, the first worship service was held at in the new building on the Church’s current site. In 1996, St. George’s founding Pastor, Fr. John Reeves, departed the Rio Grande Valley for State College, Pennsylvania, where he currently resides.
Fr. Aaron Archer then served as Rector from 1996 until the summer of 2001, leaving the area for medical reasons. He now serves in upper state New York. The South Central Diocesan Dean, Fr. Dimitri Cozby, who resides in San Antonio, served as Interim Rector until Fr. Antonio Perdomo and his family arrived in December of 2001.
Fr. Perdomo, born in La Vega, Dominican Republic is among the few native Spanish speaking Orthodox Clergy in the United States. His family lived outside of Atlanta, Georgia for many years, part of St. Mary of Egypt (OCA) Church. Later, the family lived in New Mexico and Father served the small St. Dimitri of Rostov Mission in Los Alamos before being asked to come and serve on the South Texas/Mexican border region.
In spring of 2003, the Parish paid off its mortgage. It is now in the process of planning and fundraising for the construction of a new and much-needed larger Church Hall which will have better facilities for ministry, Christian education, service projects and social activities. St. George’s outreach activities now include St. George’s Food Pantry, which is open weekly in the Church Hall, continuing to assist the Casa Ampara Orphanage for girls in Reynosa, Mexico and supporting our Episcopalian friends who operate a free health clinic in a very low income colonia in Reynosa, Mexico.
The year 2004 was St. George’s 25th Anniversary. On the weekend of Friday, April 23rd (Our Patron St. George’s Feast Day) – Sunday, April 25th as we honored our unique heritage, ancient Christian tradition and years of service to the Rio Grande Valley by hosting a special 25th Anniversary Celebration, which included a visit by His Emminence, Archbishop DMITRI, our Dean, the Very Rev. Fr. Dimitri Cozby and other clergy and laity guests from both Texas and Mexico. St. George's continues to serve the diverse Orthodox community found in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as reaching out to serve its neighbors, both in the Valley and across the border in nearby Mexico. The Parish is made of of people from many ethnic and national backgrounds - including Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Lebanese, Arabic, African, Asian, Mexican and others of Hispanic descent. It is a mixture of both life-long Orthodox Christians and of converts newer to the faith.
Orthodox Christianity began in 33 AD at the time of Pentecost with the Holy Apostles. It first came to the North American continent in 1794. The Orthodox Christian faith was first shared by dedicated Russian missionaries, such as Saint Herman of Alaska, Saint Innocent and many others. In 1970, the Orthodox Church in America, or the OCA, was granted Autocephalous status (self-headed and self-governing status) within the various world-wide Orthodox Churches by the Patriarch of Moscow. To learn more about Orthodox Christianity, please see the About Orthodoxy section of this website. To read more about the History of the Orthodox Church in America, please see: www.oca.org
Some photos of the exterior and interior of St. George's Church are found at: