St. Mary's Holy Dormition Orthodox Church
A Parish of the Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of the West
19485 N. Calhan Hwy. Calhan, CO 80808

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What’s in a name? The historic names of St. Mary’s, Calhan

Monday, October 16, 2012 (NS) - The Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion

Beloved Parishioners of St. Mary Orthodox Church of Calhan, Colorado,

Christ is in our midst!

I am writing this brief article about the name of our church on the parish’s new letterhead with a draft of the new logo. It is the comments I have received on this new logo that generated the research that led to this article.

When the graphic artist, who is Orthodox, and I discussed the logo, we debated whether to use “St. Mary” or the canonically appropriate “Dormition of the Theotokos.” After some thought and prayer, I made the decision to use Dormition of the Theotokos in the logo, and St. Mary’s Holy Dormition on the text of the letterhead. After my research, I chose to switch the letterhead to St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Calhan, as that is our legal name in Colorado.

The logic behind this was to continue to call us St. Mary’s, but have our “official” logo have the canonically appropriate name. Doing this eliminates the frequent accusation that “they” (usually referring to both us and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption in Denver) don’t know how to properly name their parish, yet maintains a connection to the customary name of “St. Mary’s.”

When I shared this new logo with a few people, however, I have had an almost evenly split opinion on the title. Some people think that Dormition was never part of our name, and there is a clear memory of always calling this parish St. Mary’s. Other people acknowledge that we were always called St. Mary’s, but there is also a strong opinion that we need to be “canonically appropriate” in our name. When I heard this, it got me to thinking: “What was this parish historically named?” So I went to the archives and found some interesting things.

The original stamp says, in transliterated Slavonic, Ruskaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov Uspeniya Bog*ien, which is the abbreviated form of Bogorodichen, and the stamp is not clear for the rest. What is visible translates as “Russian Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos.” The inner circle, however, says, in English “Russian Orthodox St. Mary’s Church, 1905.”

The articles of incorporation from 1929 have our official name as “the Karpato Russian Orthodox St. Mary’s Church. In 1956, George Eurich, president, and Frank Mikita, secretary, filed a revision and changed the name to “St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Calhan, Colorado, Inc.” In 2004, Fr. Lawrence and Joe Eurich re-filed paperwork to reinstate us as a non-profit corporation in Colorado, retaining the name as revised in 1956. In 2007, paperwork was filed with the State of Colorado to formally change the name of the parish to St. Mary's Holy Dormition Orthodox Church, Inc.

Clearly, then, our official name of the church, in English, has been some variation of St. Mary’s for a very long time. However, it also appears that in Slavonic, the Church’s name was “Dormition” because, in the Orthodox Tradition, one does not refer to the Theotokos as “St. Mary.” She has her own title, Theotokos, to differentiate her from the many other “St. Marys” on our calendar, such as St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Mary of Egypt. This leaves us with several questions. Why did they call our church one thing in Slavonic and another in English, and why did we not use the “correct” Orthodox terminology from the beginning? The answer, I believe, is less complicated than it can seem, and it has more to do with evolving Orthodox terminology and evolving theories of translation from the original languages into English.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when our church was founded, “Liturgical English” and English theological terminology was well established by the Church of England.  In this era, to translate into English meant that one translated into the existing idiom. This idiom was very Western, and did not always match Orthodox terminology precisely. In fact, Isabel Hapgood, whom St. Tikhon commissioned to make the first translation of Orthodox Services into English was an Episcopalian, and her existing theological tradition likely influenced her translation and influenced our translation decisions for years. Hence, in Slavonic our Church was called Dormition of the Theotokos, and in English it was called either St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, or, following the example of the Greeks in Denver, “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

By the late 1950’s and mid 1960’s, our translations committees began to realize that following this Western model, which was deeply influenced by Roman Catholic and Anglican theological understandings, was not effectively translating the Orthodox understanding of our terminology. In 1967, the OCA Synod officially designated the Virgin Mary’s title to be “Theotokos.” Not long after, in 1969, Archimandrite Kallistos and Mother Mary produced The Festal Menaion, which was the first scholarly translation of the festal hymns of the Orthodox Church into English, and they chose to translate the “falling-asleep of our Lady” as Dormition. Both of these terms are the Greek term from which the Slavonic was taken, and help convey the Orthodox understanding of who the Theotokos is, and how she is the “New Eve” who restores mankind to God by giving birth to Christ.[1]

In Christ,

Priest Simeon B. Johnson                                                      

Rector, Dormition of the Theotokos Orthodox Church, Calhan, CO


  • Baptismal record for Dalmar Kobilan with the “original” seal from 1928
  • Articles of incorporation for the State of Colorado from 1929, and the revision of said articles in 1956, and the reinstatement of our charter in 2004.

[1] The Greek term “Theotokos” renders into English, literally, as “Birthgiver of God.” Dormition is rendered, literally, as falling asleep, or repose.



St. Mary's Holy Dormition Orthodox Church owns two cemeteries.

  • St. Mary's Cemetery ~ sits on the east side of Calhan Hwy
  • St. Michael's Cemetery ~ sits on the west side of Calhan Hwy

No changes to the cemetery ground may be made without permission of the Parish Council.

St Tikhon's 1905 visit to Colorado

St Tikhon visits - 1905

A while back, Fr Paul Fedec provided me a copy of a document he had detailing St. Tikhon’s 1905 visit to Calhan, Colorado.  The full document is attached here.

St. Tikhon’s travels from Pueblo and his stay in Calhan.

On . . .  June 20th, [1905], His Eminence was again aboard a train continuing on his great missionary journey, this time heading toward Calhan Station, where he was to lay the cornerstone for the future church. He arrived at the small wooden station at 3:04 pm and was met there by many farmers and their “familiias” (a humorous word play on the English word “family”, which sounds like the Russian word for ‘surname’ - familiia – trans.), as well as by a crowd of Americans who came to gaze upon such a never seen before “Event.” After the blessing, (and following a traffic-jam of all sorts of wagons and carriages) the people returned to the town. At the head of the procession were two heralds mounted on horses swathed in the colors of the “Home of the Free,” followed by a carriage decorated with American flags and driven by a team of white horses. Following them was the rest of the column of gaily-decorated wagons and farmers all decked out in their Sunday best. His Eminence and Father Kalnev rode in the carriage. This festive procession reminded me of the way in which Hierarchs are typically greeted in Russia, but only in its externals, for much was lacking in the way of comfort and elegance. His Eminence, the Most Reverend Archbishop Tikhon, already exhausted and weary from his five-day cross-country journey from the East Coast was settled not in a suitable guest room but rather in the best that the farms could offer, a very old, dilapidated farm cabin that had a rather “specific” odor.  Here the Archbishop stayed for two days. It is probably unnecessary to describe just how difficult it was for him, but I will only say that it was impossible for him to recover any strength or to gain sufficient rest despite the best efforts of the farmer’s wife, who fussed over her dear guest, gave him the farm’s only bed to sleep in, and fed him the next-door kitchen — where the lucky Father Kalnev and Father Shutak slept on straw laid down on the floor. During the night all they heard were the Archbishop’s deep breaths and moans coming from the room next door. Next morning, when I inspected the bed and threw back the covers, I discovered that the surface of the mattress was as rough as the Colorado mountains themselves, nothing but peaks and valleys, valleys and peaks, and I felt very sorry for the Head of our Mission, that he had to bear such a crown of thorns. Please forgive me this digression. I return now to my narrative.

When the festive procession reached its destination, the Archbishop was shown the schoolhouse, which was going to serve as the temporary chapel for the next few days. Having given some specific instructions, the Archbishop was taken to the poor, but spiritually welcoming cabin of farmer K.  That evening, it pleased the Archbishop that both Vespers and Matins be served by Father G. Shutak, while Father V. Kalnev joined the farmers in singing the responses and hymns in their plaintive “Krayan” chant.

On June 21st at 10:00 am, His Eminence arrived at the schoolhouse for the Divine Liturgy.  The parish representatives welcomed him in front of the school and thanked him for coming to Calhan to visit them. During the Liturgy, Father Shutak gave a sermon after the reading of the Gospel, while afterwards, His Eminence gave a sermon entirely in keeping with the celebratory occasion of their gathering.

After the Liturgy all of the parishioners and clergy went to the building site of the new church for the blessing and the laying of the cornerstone. After the blessing, Father Kalnev gave a moving sermon in the field. The farmers were deeply touched by this sermon and many of them wept out loud. Once again they witnessed the fatherly love and care given them by His Eminence and were grateful to him for giving them such a good and talented priest like Father Kalnev, who was expending so much of his efforts in helping them to return to the path of Truth. After the ceremony was concluded, we returned to the house of the same farmer K., where, thanks to the efforts and labors of Matushka Kalnev, a trapeza was served.


Originally published in the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, Vol. IX, No. 151, August 1905. Translation from Russian by Sergei Arhipov.