Greek church closer to move
- Greek church closer to move
Finalizes purchase of Dartmouth land
By CURT BROWN, Standard-Times staff writer
JACK IDDON/The Standard-Times
The Rev. Constantine Bebis sits in a pew at St. George Greek Orthodox
Church on Ashley Boulevard in New Bedford's North End. The church
will close when a new site opens on Cross Road in Dartmouth.
NEW BEDFORD -- Seeking to establish a new church more centrally
located to its growing congregation and with better parking and
handicapped access, St. George Greek Orthodox Church is planning to
move to Dartmouth.
The Very Rev. Constantine S. Bebis, the church's 77-year-old pastor,
announced the purchase of the land for the new church during Mass
The new church will replace the current one on Ashley Boulevard,
which was built by Greek immigrants in 1935 and sits in what was once
the center of the Greek enclave in the city.
There is a sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the move, which
was overwhelmingly supported by the congregation.
"We like to serve the spiritual needs and growth of our children and
especially our grandchildren," the Rev. Bebis said. "The present
church has served us well. Now it's time for us to look forward and
to expand the church to the suburbs because people have moved."
He added plans for the new church -- which will be built on a six-
acre parcel on Cross Road across from the Potter School -- are in
keeping with the Greek saying of "Ta Panta Re," or "everything
The new site will include two separate buildings -- a church and a
two-story cultural center and church hall with space for
administrative offices, a Sunday school, a gymnasium and plenty of
land to hold Greek festivals, feasts and weddings.
The congregation, which includes about 300 families, stretches from
Wareham and Onset to Dartmouth and Westport.
The Rev. Bebis said the church started in a small wooden building on
River Avenue in Fairhaven in 1910 and moved to its present location
at Ashley Boulevard and Coggeshall Street in 1917.
Masses were said in a house at the New Bedford site from 1917 to
1935; the house was then demolished to clear the way for the present
church, according to the Rev. Bebis.
There is a strong emotional attachment to the present church, and
church leaders are planning to move the altar, the holy relics, icons
and artwork to the new church.
"It will be sad for us to leave the area, but again we have to look
to the future," the Rev. Bebis said.
The purchase of the land, which was completed last week, ends a 3½-
year search of suitable sites for a new church in Greater New
Bedford, according to George Bebis, the son of the Rev. Bebis and the
chairman of the church's Land Acquisition Committee.
"I'm very excited about the future of our church," Mr. Bebis said
He said the site is the best location they viewed and it provides
easy access off Interstate 195, is an equal distance for all members
of the congregation and offers expansion possibilities.
Although the site totals six acres, church officials said only four
are buildable because of wetlands.
Mr. Bebis said the church and orthodox religion is growing and this
site addresses concerns about parking, handicapped access and
"The current situation was too small for our needs," he said.
The timetable for construction is undetermined at this time,
according to Dennis Maniatis, president of the parish council.
He added they need to start construction within three years or else
the church will have to return to the Dartmouth Conservation
Commission for renewal of its wetlands permit, granted earlier this
"Before I retire I would like to break ground," the Rev. Bebis
said. "The priest who follows me will have his future (parish) ready
The Rev. Bebis said he hasn't decided on a retirement date.
Mr. Maniatis said they hope to consecrate the land in the near
future, possibly in the fall, with construction starting sometime
"Fund raising is the key to everything, and our work is just
beginning," he said.
He said they hope to construct the church mostly with money raised
by fund raising and donations, and a loan, if necessary.
"Hopefully, it won't be much of a loan," he said.
There are no immediate plans for the present church, although church
officials said eventually it will be sold.
Dartmouth officials are pleased the land situated between commercial
properties and residential developments will be used for a church.
Donald A. Perry, the town's planning director, said the church is a
nice transitional use between the business development at State and
Cross roads and the homes on Cross Road.
He said a church property is used only on Sundays and sometimes
during weekends for festivals, feasts and weddings.
Mr. Perry said the church needs approval of its parking plan by the
Planning Board. He added the church hasn't filed its parking plan as