In our South End church, chanters preserved the ancient tones while Fr. Jacob Grigorieff of Salem helped constitute the choir as we know it today. Noli returned to resume his duties as head of an American diocese, women’s societies formed (Bashkimi, Daughters of Saint George) and the home perpetuated ancestral cultural and religious customs in the West End, South Boston, Somerville and other areas where our families lived and raised their children. Women arrived in greater numbers as spouses and mothers and our men no longer dreamed of returning to struggles abroad, but turned to establishing themselves as citizens here and ensuring the stability of their families. During the Depression, fruit peddlers would park their pushcarts in front of church – a block which we shared with an Orthodox Jewish synagogue across the street. Father Dhosi Katundi served us then until he formed Saint John the Baptist parish. King Zog’s sisters arrived to pay homage to Noli during their visit to the church while on tour in America.
SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF AMERICA: 1939-1948
War clouds gathering in Europe began this era as Albania was abruptly invaded on Good Friday, 1939 and we saw that country’s last arrivals to the U.S. migrate in large numbers. Off to World War II went our sons and daughters, solidifying our loyalties and ensuring our prayers. Fathers Vani Chani, Stavro Shkembi, Stephen Lasko and others served at the altar as our members opened cafes, ice cream parlors, variety stores and settled in to the American way of life. Newly returning soldiers and sailors formed their own veterans organization. Albania embarked on its socialist road and while we retained an abiding interest in the homeland’s fate, political factors focused our attention on the American scene all the more.
A loose collection of parishes were now organizing as an Albanian Diocese to share common concerns and problems, a theological fund for student priests was established and a uniform constitution was in the works. The youth organized the Albanian-American National Organization, and the Free Albania Organization faced the challenges of the post-War era. More church books were published; a Festal Menaion, Triodion, a choral hymnal and the beginning use of English in services made its debut in 1948.
THE GOLDEN YEARS: 1949-1958
A splendid “new” Cathedral on East Broadway became our home in 1949: men and women now worshipping together as families gravitated to church during this era of unprecedented church attendance across the country. Following Father Thimi Theodos’ tenure of devoted service, Father Christ Ellis brought a finesse and standard of quality to Cathedral life. We sponsored a baseball team, a new constitution for the diocese and a Sunday School Program organized by Dr. Andrew Elia formed with a new building acquired for this purpose. English services commenced on a regular basis as Noli preached of an “American Orthodox Church,” as well as of civil rights and the merits of a vegetarian diet.
A bright young restaurateur, Anthony Athanas, chaired our 50th Anniversary celebration which drew hundreds of people in May, 1958. By this time, the diocese had published over 20 church books in English and attempted to meet needs of the young.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS: 1959-1968
Following a warm lull of positive growth, Noli’s death in 1965 was followed by a period of turmoil and court suits which set families against each other and opposing positions solidify into animosity. Lay Chairman Gary Riska weathered this storm with discipline and intelligence as the new Bishop Stephen Lasko waxed strong in the community kiln. Father Sotir Dilogika served as our Dean with loyalty as we weathered an internal storm while our nation was enduring its own tragedy beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy and continuing through the ordeal of the Vietnam era.