Priests of St. Mary's:
Orthodox priests (presbyters) are the second order
of ordained ministry. Priests or Pastors of local churches or Parishes are primarily responsible for preaching and celebrating
the Eucharist and other Sacraments. They teach, preach, counsel and exercise the ministries of forgiveness and healing. They
answer directly to the Bishop, the third order of ordained ministry. Priests assist the Bishop in his work. Bishops administer
their dioceses and are responsible for the ordination of other clergy. The present ArchBishop of the Diocese is His Eminence
Benjamin of San Francisco.
The priests of Saint Mary's are listed below. Up until 1950,
some of these priests were
temporary or assigned to other parishes and also served St. Mary's. There could have been
Father Enna Kubikoff 1905-1918 Church on the Hill
Father Pahomey Delemen
1918-1919 Church on the Hill
Father Peter Semashko 1920-1923 Church on the Hill
Father Theodore Grishan 1921-1925
Church on the Hill
Father Harry J. Stroyan 1926-Feb 1928 Church on the Hill
*Father J. Tkoch/Joseph Takach Feb 1928-1931
Church on the Hill
Father Theodore Grishan 1931 (temporary) Church on the Hill
Father Jakim Tkach (Koch) 1933-1934
Church on the Hill
Also served Sproch Church.
*Father Takach was attached or assigned to
The Holy Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox
Cathedral, Denver, Colorado, 1926-1931. He also served The Assumption of
the Blessed Virgin
Mary (Church on the Hill) from 1928 to 1931.
Father Michael Zaharkow 1929-1938
Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Father Pahomey Delemen 1938-1940 Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Kolodiuk (Baptized parishioners between 1938 and 1942 although Father
Delemen and Father Grachev were priests of the
Father Peter Grachev 1940-1944 Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
FatherVasily Demidov 1944-1945 Karpato-Russian
Father Michael Konuch 1945 Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Father Peter Pripisnoff Temporary priest
Father Eugene Olendy 1946-1950 Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Father Alexander Sportun 1947-1948
Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Also served at Sproch church
Father Nicholas Shambura Unknown Karpato-Russian Orthodox
Father Paul Hicha 1948-1955 Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Father (Very Reverend) Paul S. Fedec 1956-1993
Karpato-Russian Orthodox Church
Re-named St. Mary's Eastern Orthodox Church
Father (Very Reverend) Paul Mayemick
1993 - Temporary priest, nine months
Father Nicholas Dotson 1993- 2003
Re-named St. Mary's Holy Dormition Orthodox
Father Lawrence Gaudreau Oct 2004-Aug 2012
Father Brett (Simeon) Johnson October 2012-present
To try and capsulate 100 years of history in a few short pages is never an easy task. While we do
not have many accurate records of the past 100 years, we do have the collective memory of the faithful and the historical
connection to the development of this land.
Most of our faithful are descendents of those who immigrated to this country
primarily from Czechoslovakia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1880 to 1917. Many first found themselves working in the
coal and steel mines of Pennsylvania. Later many moved west, after the completion of the railroads in 1888, to take advantage
of work opportunities in the steel mills of Pueblo, Colorado. With the completion of the railroad out West, land became available
as a result of the 1862 Homestead Act. The Slovak immigrants were attracted to this land for two reasons. First, they were
farmers and ranchers in the old country. Second, was that the land resembled the country side from which they emigrated.
As soon as a few Slovaks came out to what is now El Paso County, word spread quickly about the good farmland and that each
settler would receive 160 acres to develop. To gain clear title to their plot of land they would have to be a resident of
the property for five continuous years and pay a registration fee of $30.00. If the homesteader desired, the title could pass
into his hands after six months residence and the payment of $1.25 per acre.
Life for the early Slovak settlers was
difficult at best. The first "homes" were dug out of the earth or were made of blocks of sod and rock. Wells had
to be dug by hand. Many found employment in Colorado Springs and had to leave their families for a week or more at a time
in the dugout homes. Life on the prairie had an assortment of other challenges such as floods, hail, severe winter storms,
drought, and the "dust bowl" and grasshopper invasions.
In the winter of 1913 a storm deposited 45.5 inches
of snow on the days of December 4th-6th. Winds reached a high of 5Omph producing drifts up to 30 feet. Livestock valued at
thousands of dollars perished and damage to buildings was devastating. Homesteaders shoveled snow to form paths
the house to the barns and grain storage buildings tying ropes around their waists to make sure they could find their way
back to the house. From that point, only 7.78 inches fell between December and April of 1914. The people of St. Mary's are
certainly no strangers to drought as they endured the Dust Bowl and many droughts over the years. The drought of 2002 was
the worst in recorded history. The community is still recovering from that difficult year.
These settlers not only brought
with them a willingness to work hard and sacrifice for a better life, but they also brought with them their Orthodox Christian
Faith. In 1903, Archbishop Tikhon consecrated the ground for St. Michael's Orthodox Church in Pueblo, Colorado. Many of the
faithful from Calhan were present which inspired them to have their own church. By 1904, our ancestors organized themselves
to build their own church. In 1905, Archbishop Tikhon traveled to the very isolated area north of Calhan on his way to New
York and consecrated the ground on which the first St. Mary's Holy Dormition Church would be built. Fr.lna Kibikoff, the first
priest to serve at St. Mary's, was also in attendance. The church was completed on July 4th, 1905 and dedicated on August
28th, 1905. The first church affectionately known as the "Church on the Hill" of course did not have electricity
and a coal stove was used for heat. Two cemeteries, St. Mary's and St. Michael's were eventually established next to the church
and across the road.
1917, on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, Archbishop Tikhon who had previously been called back to Russia was elected
the first Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia since Tsar Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchate in 1700. With the onslaught
of the Bolshevik persecution the Russian Church suffered tremendously. The effects of the problems in Russia eventually reached
America. The nascent Orthodox Church here in America faced hardships and confusion when almost all contact with the Mother
Church was cut off. Even our little corner of the world was affected. Shortly after the Soviet backed "Renovated Living
Church" was established in Russia, the same made claims of authority and property ownership to 115 parishes in this country
including St. Mary's. In 1927, a fire, "which mysteriously started" shortly after the "living church"
took control of St. Mary's, brought the church building to the ground. As a result of the fire and issues surrounding the
"Living Church" the community split into two factions. By 1932, construction of the "Church on the hill"
and the present church was completed about the same time. At that time the community reunited and continues to worship in
the present day temple. The "living church," while laying claim to the original property ceased to function in Calhan.
It is interesting to note that it was not until 1977 that St. Mary's legally gained title to the property on the hill, which
had been taken illegally by then "Archbishop" John Kedrovsky of the "Living Church".
our history we had a succession of priests, some staying only a short while and speaking very little or no English. Services
were in Church Slavonic and some of our older parishioners attended Russian School. Given the isolation and the revolving
door of priests it was no secret that our community in Calhan, until recently, was not considered a "plum assignment"
for many of these Russian Priests. During the height of the Revolution and shortly thereafter, it was difficult for St Mary's
to get a priest, especially from 1917 to the 1930's. Sometimes people would write to the old country or New York looking for
a priest. This process often took months and even years before a priest could be found. Priests from Denver would pass by
and perform a necessary wedding or baptism. It was also not uncommon for our early founders to have their children or grandchildren
baptized by an itinerant Roman Catholic Priest.
In 1956, Fr. Paul Fedec was assigned as Rector of St. Mary's. Fr. Paul
dedicated the best years of his ministry to this community in serving here for 37 years. With Fr. Paul, a regular church life
was established and the introduction of English as the primary language, church school and the establishment of the Rose Marie
Club, a charitable arm of our community. In 1974, Fr. Paul and St. Mary's were the catalyst in starting SS. Constantine and
Helen Orthodox Church in Colorado Springs. In 1982, St. Mary's switched to the Gregorian or "Revised Julian" Calendar
by a parish vote of 61 to 40. In 1993, Fr. Paul retired and Fr. Paul Mayernick served for nine months until another permanent
priest could be found. Fr. Nicholas Dotson became the Rector in 1993 and served until 2004. During Fr. Nicholas time the parishioners
advanced in their understanding of Orthodoxy, many converts joined the church and the rectory was completed. In the summer
of 1995, at the parish's 90th Anniversary his Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon rededicated
the church on the hill as a chapel dedicated to St. TIKHON, the founder of St. Mary's Holy Dormition Orthodox Church.
February 2004 to August 2012, Fr. Lawrence Gaudreau was assigned as Rector of St. Mary's and strived to strengthen
its financial footing and envisions developing a strategic plan for the next five years of service to Christ and witnessing
to the Holy Orthodox Faith on the high plains of Eastern Colorado. He then was relocated to St. Elizabeth's Church in
Washington State. Fr. Simeon Johnson of Juneau Alaska is assigned as the new Rector.
With each challenge we have encountered, we became stronger in our faith. We may provide links to other
sites that provide more detail on our church history or particular events in our past.
We invite you to become
a part of the church today and a piece of its history tomorrow.