A small group of Greek pioneers living in Corona met for the first time on March 28, 1926, with their primary concern being the establishment of a Greek Orthodox community in Corona, to meet the spiritual needs of the Greeks in the area. Their decisiveness manifested itself one week later, on Palm Sunday, when they held their first Divine Liturgy in the church converted from what was formerly a store on Roosevelt Avenue. and 94th Street. In September 1926, the purchase of a house located between 28th Avenue and 99th Street was decided, which was consequently converted into a church and remained in use until the opening of the new church, in April 1957.
The first priests who served the community were Presbyter Daniel Skarpas, who remained for a short time, Fr. Nikolaos Andriopoulos who stayed until 1928, at which time Archimandrite Alexandros Gerontidakis assumed the duties of parish priest and teacher for 28 years, until the assignment of Archimandrite Evmenios Tselentakis, on December 1, 1956. He served the community for 27 years and it was during this period that the new church and school were built.
The year 1955 was a milestone for the construction of the new church. It was then that the privately-owned lot on 38th Avenue and 98th Street was chosen as the site for the new church, which was built through collections and the publication of a special journal, along with the cooperation and participation of all the community members, the tireless workers of the Lord’s vineyard.
On Palm Sunday 1958, the opening of the present day Church of Transfiguration took place amidst a jubilant atmosphere, with the blessings of the Archbishop of America at the time, Michail Konstantinides. The dreams of so many thousands of residents were realized. The decades of toils and sacrifice from the tireless faithful, both the notable and the anonymous, had taken form. The beautiful new Byzantine church became home to the love and prayers of the Greeks of Corona and greater New York. Up until today, this church is the jewel of the neighborhood and the pride of the Greeks who established it, adorned it and continue to maintain it, with ample care and sanctity. Even those who do not live in Corona now, but who trace their roots from here, this church stands as a unique spiritual center point.
he harmonious working relationship of all the community officials and constituents, especially the presiding priest and parish council president, is a basic necessity to ensure the smooth operation of a community, based upon the uniform by-laws of the Holy Archdiocese of America. The parish of Transfiguration had the good fortune to have been established and developed through the sacrifices made by its hundreds of members, for seven and a half decades, and those of its leading figures, the devoted clergymen, presidents, and members of all of its parish councils. It is these people who made the unceasing elevation of the spiritual, cultural, and financial life of the community a priority in their service. They stood out for their spirit of innovation, subtlety, teamwork, and creativity. It is due to this that the Community of Corona was the largest in the United States in terms of membership for many years, and today, it plays a leading role in the Greek community, maintaining an exemplary Greek-American day school for thirty-five years now. We express our deepest gratitude to all those leaders of the heroic spiritual efforts of the past, who watch over our community with a vigilant eye from the dwelling place of the righteous, as well as the contributors of our community’s progress today.
The love possessed by the faithful people of God, for the wonder-working saint of the 20th-century, was especially felt in the Church of Transfiguration. At the beginning of 1997, a suggestion was accepted that the small room to the right of the Holy Sanctuary, which did not have any particular function previously, be converted into a chapel dedicated to St. Nectarios. A special community account was opened for this purpose, so it could receive donations for the beautification of the area. There was a fair number of icons, of about normal size, in the room above the Chapel of St. Nectarios, which were used during worship in the first church. After being restored, ten of these were placed in wood carved veneration-stands and adorn the chapel today. These icons depict Sts. Spyridon, Athanasios, Paraskevi, Andrew, Peter, Constantine, and Helen, George, Panteleimon, Anastasios the Persian, and Paul. An oil-lamp burns ceaselessly before every icon. Mdms. Alexandra Leondis, Akrivi Molfetas, Ekaterini Loukatos, Eleni Karamouzis, and Paraskevi Fragias contributed by making velvet curtains and a new set of veils for the chapel and the entire church. The veneration-stand with the icon of St. Nectarios, donated by Dr. Thomas Mastakouris, stands grandly in the center of the chapel, in the shape of a baldachin, in front of which there is a silver relic-case with a piece of the holy relics of St. Nectarios, which faithful from all across the United States come to venerate. To the right of the baldachin, there is one more veneration-stand with a silver cross, inside of which is a piece of the Holy Cross. The baldachin is separated from the rest of the chapel with wood carved gates. At the entrance to the chapel stands a full-body icon of St. Nectarios, of regular dimensions, which was placed in a new wood carved veneration stand in 1998.
One year following the establishment of the Chapel of St. Nectarios, in 1998, the Philoptochos Ladies Society of Transfiguration gave a donation of five thousand dollars for the establishment of the second community chapel, named after St. Matrona of Chios. St. Matrona was chosen as patron of the chapel because a large icon depicting her stood in front of the chapel. Built-in veneration-stands were placed with eight icons that were worked on by the iconographer, Mr. Konstantinos Yiousis. These icons are: Christ blessig, Panagia Vrefokratousa (the Theotokos holding the baby Jesus), St. John the Forerunner, St. Nicholas, St. Onoufrios, St. Neilos, and the Theotokos enthroned, in a position of prayer, receiving the offering of Constantinople by St. Constantine, and the Church of the Holy Wisdom (St. Sophia) by Justinian. Standing grandly in the center of the chapel is a baldachin with a large icon of St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia, St. Markella of Chios, St. Matrona of Chios, and St. Artemios the Great Martyr, who celebrate their feast together on October 20th. Shown above the saints, is Christ blessing in His transfigured state, and to the left and right of Who stand His disciples. Amidst the four saints depicted and the transfigured Lord hover two angels, holding a scroll with the inscription: “the God-bearing Saints Gerasimos of Cephalonia, Markella of Chios, Matrona of Chios, and Artemios the Great Martyr offer their Holy Shrine to the Transfigured Lord.”
On Holy Monday, April 9, 2001, at 9 p.m., the museum was officially opened by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, before a group of dignitaries and scores of Christian faithful. The Archbishop made a gift of an archieratical egolpion to the museum’s collection. The glass casing of the museum contains silver holy vessels from the first church, a letter containing the signature of the national holy-martyr, Bishop Chrysostomos of Smyrrna, and a monk’s cap belonging to His Beatitude, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, along with a letter form him. The Russian gold-threaded epitaphios from the church is housed in the museum, along with old gold-threaded banners, Russian portable icons, the Estavromenos (Christ hung upon The Cross) of the first church, and other rare display-pieces
People all around the world tearfully watched the terrorist attacks upon New York and Washington, minute by minute, on the morning of September 11, 2001. The parish of Transfiguration was plunged into mourning from the tragedy that struck our city, the capitol of the world, as it is referred to, because many Greek-Americans were among the thousands of innocent victims. Among those lost were two graduates from the School of Transfiguration. They included, firefighter Demetrios Papageorge, age 29, who dutifully ran to the scene immediately after the double strike upon the Twin Towers, in Manhattan, to help in the rescue efforts, along with George Paris, age 27, an insurance broker who worked at the World Trade Center for eight years.
The Greek and American flags at the entrance of the Church of Transfiguration flew at half staff for several days. Everyone’s thoughts were focused on how to keep the memory of our unjustly killed compatriots and fellow men and women eternal and undimmed. At the corner of 38th Avenue and 98th Street, in Corona, inside the grounds of our community’s church, a monument was erected on December 14, 2001. Its base, made out of white marble, with ancient Greek design, resembles that of an empty memorial. The inscription, “IN ETERNAL MEMORY”, is carved under the date that the tragedy took place: “September 11, 2001.” A magnificent eight-foot golden cross was raised upon the base as a symbol of the sacrifice and heroism of the Great Mother Church of Christ in Constantinople, from where we gather spiritual strength in the wake of our recent trial