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Orthodox worshippers found a home at St. Catherine's

March 27, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

After moving to Hagerstown from Johnstown, Pa., with her husband, Daniel, in 1974, Evamarie Koenig found herself cut off from her lifelong involvement in the Orthodox church and began exploring what was available in her new community.

"There was nothing in the telephone book at that time," Koenig said.

When it came time to baptize their two children, the family journeyed back to her home congregation of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Conemaugh, Pa.

One day, she spotted a small advertisement in The Herald-Mail which she clipped and put aside about an Orthodox church starting in Hagerstown. Later, when she became interested in seeking an outlet for her Orthodox upbringing, she found the clipping and called the telephone number.

Koenig decided she would try a service at the Franklin Street storefront where St. Catherine The Great Martyr Eastern Orthodox Church - now in its 25th year in Hagerstown - was meeting.

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"I remember walking in after the service had started," Koenig said. She heard chanting that sounded so familiar and smelled incense burning, and all the memories came flooding back.

Koenig said she instantly realized what she had been missing and became a member in 1982.

Vicki Hughes, who has been a member of St. Catherine's for 21 years, had a similar experience. A member of the Greek Orthodox church in New York, Hughes said she was thrilled to find a nearby church when she moved to Hagerstown.

Hughes, now the director of the church school, said she was happy that she found a church where she could raise her two children in the Orthodox faith.

At first, the congregation was led by a part-time pastor, Father Basil Summers, who founded the local group. The members met once a month on Sundays for informal services. There was also Sunday school for the children.

The congregation met in the storefront until 1984 when it moved to 433 Liberty St. and began renovating the building.

Father Dennis Buck let area people know that there was an Orthodox church for them in Hagerstown. Buck, the first full-time pastor, has guided the congregation into the 21st century.

"St. Catherine's is really growing," Koenig said, crediting Buck with being able to relate to people of all ages. "Some people leave and others come, including a lot of young families."

Koenig's children are grown but are still involved in their church.

"I really wanted this for my children," she said.

Although her husband is Roman Catholic, Koenig said that hasn't been a problem for the family.

"My husband comes with me to services and I go with him on occasion," she said.

For further information, call 301-790-2616 or visit the church's Web site at www.saint-catherine-church.net.

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