Local church powers through era of pandemic

A look back at what KOIMISIS TIS THEOTOKOU church and its community went through in the last few decades and how its dealing with the pandemic moving forward—w/ in depth comments by City Councilor, Mary Deros

I was interviewing Mary Deros for another matter a few weeks back and it was she that brought up the church, telling me about a feast they were having back in August, and despite the pandemic. And it was in the way she spoke, that an adoration and respect shone through, as it always does when she speaks about maters of the community—matters that are so important to her.

It was on that day that I discovered the church, covering the early portion of the Dormition of the Mother of God feast, celebrated on the day of August 15th. See coverage of that event here: http://www.px-news.com/celebrating-the-dormition-of-mother-mary-in-state-of-pandemic-in-the-heart-of-park-extension/

But it was also on that day that I got the idea to look further into a church where it has been said that miracles occur and a place that so many adoring members of the community hold dear. I wanted to know why such a church was so heralded, and dare I say it, so much more by the members of this community as opposed to other communities city-wide. So, as always, I got to digging.

A history etched into the hearts and minds of the community

The Church is also known as “Panagitsa.” The Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal bought the church way back in 1968. The actual church was built a few years prior in 1962, but was inaugurated in 1968, as specified.

For years the church thrived in a community more than willing to accept it with open arms and open hearts and it served as a place of worship for one and all.

Sadly, it was in 2015, that a terrible fire rocked the foundations of what was such a pillar for the community, but the community and the church itself bound together to rebuild in just two years. They overcame that disaster and were flourishing quite nicely, being there for their community until yet another disaster washed upon our shores.

City Councilor, Mary Deros and what this church means to her

For years, Holy Trinity was her church. She sang in the choir there and even met her husband at that church, but following its burning to the ground, KOIMISIS TIS THEOTOKOU became their family’s church.

Of the Virgin Mary, City Councilor Deros says: “Virgin Mary plays such a role. We pray to her when we need comfort and guidance.” But she states that it is not just people of the Orthodox faith that pray to her. “People of different origins touch the walls and small icons and they pray … Muslims in the neighborhood and others.”

And I was witness to this, as I sat in front of the church, looking for a sign of someone to talk to, that a woman walked up to an icon on the side of the building, and she stopped to pray. It was an amazing sight to see, especially after having been told about it from Mary Deros only hours earlier.

A local woman stops to pray at the icon, paying her respects

And this dedication seems to be present in many. She stated that there are those that walk from Laval, north of the city and borough, all the way to the site of the church, to pray and pay homage.

And of the miracles, or as she likes to reference them as: “prayers that have been answered,” she has seen instances of this, as have others we spoke to, who wish to remain nameless.

And further, City Councilor Deros stresses that “all places of worship in the community mean a lot to us.”

Of the fire that occurred in 2015 she stated that she remembers standing there as it burned and says: “It was a part of us that died that day and all efforts were made to rebuild … to resurrect.”

And now, rising from this state of pandemic

And it was on the feast of Dormition of the Mother of God that I saw first-hand how the community came together to worship, despite the threat of the pandemic all around them. The amount of people at the feast paled in comparison to what used to be the numbers in the past, but yet they showed a united front and a dedication to their place of worship regardless.

Since the pandemic, the church has reached out to City Councilor Mary Deros, asking about how they can comply with the new rules set in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and she has told them to consult with the government website and postings, even giving them a number to call, letting them know that that is the best way to proceed and keep all safe, and she has done all she can to help, as always donating masks to the church—up to over 200 masks, she told me in our interview.

She is proud of the work they’re doing, as she has always been, saying that Father Nikolas, who has been there for over 40 years, always goes above and beyond, and especially in times of peril or difficulty.