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Couple was eager to plan Orthodox celebration

December 04, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - It was a good match 48 years ago when Gene and June Aleshin blended their Orthodox and Baptist backgrounds and became a married Orthodox couple.

Fairly new residents of Washington County, the couple has been attending St. Catherine the Great Martyr Eastern Orthodox Church of Hagerstown for several years.

So when the call went out for someone to chair the 25th anniversary weekend observance, they answered.

The celebrations began on a Saturday afternoon with the annual St. Nicholas Party for the children. The children decorated the Christmas tree, heard the true story of St. Nicholas from St. Nicholas himself and received a gift from him.

The next highlight of the weekend events was Great Vespers Saturday with a reception for Herman, the Metropolitan of All America and Canada.

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"I'm the convert, and there was a lot for me to learn," June Aleshin said. The couple was married in the Orthodox faith.

As she looks back over the years, June Aleshin said converting to the Orthodox faith made her life wonderful.

"I was here last weekend for the cleanup and I was so happy to be in this place," June Aleshin said.

Gene Aleshin, on the other hand, is what is known as a cradle Orthodox.

"My father was from Russia, brought over with his brother by a priest at the time of the revolution," he said.

"We have a congregation of all ethnic groups," Gene Aleshin said. More than half of the congregation - like Gene and June - were raised elsewhere.

When the Aleshins lived in Rockville, Md., they attended St. Mark's Orthodox Church in nearby Bethesda. They met Father Dennis Buck there and when they moved to Myersville, Md., they began attending Buck's church in Hagerstown.

Almost immediately, they both jumped into business of the church. They have each served on church council for 18 months. June Aleshin is also the congregation treasurer.

Gene Aleshin was a research scientist in geochemistry and later a consultant. June Aleshin was a Montessori school director for 10 years, then switched to a banking career.

Now retired, the Aleshins volunteered for the task of coordinating the 25th anniversary events.

The local Orthodox congregation began holding services at the Sheraton 25 years ago under the guidance of Father Basil Summers.

It moved briefly to the old Henry's Theater on South Potomac Street and then to a storefront on East Franklin Street.

The church on Liberty Street became the congregation's home in 1984.

"It was my first assignment," Buck said.

The Aleshins said while there was a lot to do to get the anniversary celebration on track, they were happy to volunteer.

"This is a nice group of people ... everybody is helping with the anniversary," Gene Aleshin said.

Sharon Morgan was busy tidying up the church but took the time to agree with the Aleshins about the people at St. Catherine's.

"I'm not Orthodox but my husband is," she said. "They make you feel very welcome. After all, it's all God's work."

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