Our Parish History
METROPOLITAN +ILIA OF PHILOMELION
At the border town of Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, where the Saint Mary's River connects Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes, a handful of Albanian immigrant workers found employment with the Northwestern Leather Tannery in the early XX century. It was to this place that 18-year-old Sotir Ilo Ketri (a.k.a. Sam Katre) came to work under the guidance of his uncle, Vangjel Cicani. In 1932, he returned to his native village of Sinica in the district of Devol, where he married Evgjenia, the daughter of Kosta and Lefteria Dimashi.
By 1936, the couple had made their home in Sault Ste. Marie and the next year become parents of twin boys, Ilia and Kosta, born on July 14, 1937. Two months later, Evgjenia succumbed to postnatal complications; she died of September 15, at the age of 24. Five years later, Sam was married to Greek-American-born Panagiota (Lula) Demetropulos, and together they raised their sons to be God-fearing communicants of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Strong familial ties united the six Albanian families living in one residential neighborhood, where contact and communication in the Albanian language was a daily occurrence. Spiritual life was centered at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, which attracted faithful from a number of ethnic backgrounds. Instructed in the faith by the monastic priest, Father Eugene Lucas, both Ilia and Kosta read and discussed matters of Orthodox teachings and practice extensively throughout their youth. During Holy Week in 1955, the brothers, now high school seniors, visited Saint Nicholas Church in Chicago, located on Rockwell Street, where they met Bishop +MARK Lupa and Father John Chaplain. It was during this meeting that Bishop +MARK agreed to arrange for Ilia to pursue theological studies in preparation for the priesthood at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts.
After graduating from high school with honors, Ilia went to Boston in September and entered Holy Cross Seminary for a six-year course of studies. Weekly, he would meet with Bishop Mark for lessons in the Albanian language, and every Sunday he assisted at the Divine Liturgy in Holy Trinity Albanian Orthodox Church, South Boston. He became the host announcer on the weekly Diocesan radio program Voice of Orthodoxy and wrote for the monthly Diocesan publication The True Light.
Following graduation from seminary in June 1961, with a Bachelor of Theology degree, Ilia was married to Helen, the daughter of Nikolla and Dhimitrula Sotira of St. Louis, Missouri, on May 20, 1962. They had two children, Sotir Mark and Eugenia. Prifteresha Helen reposed in the sleep of Christ on October 19, 2001.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 17, 1962, Deacon Ilia was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop +MARK in Holy Trinity Church, South Boston, and assigned to be pastor of that Parish, which he served until August 31, 1983. During Father Ilia's ministry at Holy Trinity Church, the membership was increased, a religious education program was implemented, and a plan for financial stability was adopted. At the same time, he served as secretary to the Bishop and to the Diocese. Father Ilia developed several other aspects of his priestly ministry, including being spiritual advisor to college and university students, working on Pan-Orthodox committees in the Boston area, and representing Bishop +MARK and the Diocese at various inter-Orthodox and ecumenical activities. He held the post of Assistant Director of Holy Cross Orthodox Press, overseeing the operation of the bookstore and the sales of publications, and functioning as managing editor of The Greek Orthodox Theological Review. He is past treasurer of the Orthodox Theological Society of America, past vice president of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion, past treasurer of Holy Cross Alumni Association. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute of Berkeley, California. Furthermore, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972 from Hellenic College and the following year a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross School of Theology.
In 2002, Father Ilia accompanied Metropolitan +ANTHONY of San Francisco to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the service of Sanctification of the Holy Chrism. Ecumenical Patriarch +BARTHOLOMEW proposed that the widowed Father Ilia to be ordained bishop for the Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He was elected unanimously titular Bishop of Philomelion by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on May 7, 2002, and was consecrated a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on May 12, 2002, by Metropolitans +ANTHONY of San Francisco, +MELITION of Philadelphia, and +DEMETRIOS of Sebasteia.
At the request of Archbishop +ANASTASIOS, the Primate and Head of the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, and with the permission of Ecumenical Patriarch +BARTHOLOMEW, Bishop +ILIA has ministered in the Church of Albania. Frequently he visited the Theological Academy, the Resurrection of Christ at the Holy Monastery of Saint Vlash, Durrës, to lecture and to consult on administrative matters. He represented the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania on two official international theologial dialogues: one with the Roman Catholic Church and the other with the worldwide Anglican Communion. As a member of the delegation representing the Church of Albania, he participated in the Inter-Orthodox Conference in June 2009, at Chambésy, Switzerland, which approved the final document on the Orthodox diaspora.
In March 2008, accepting the invitation of Bishop +NICON of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America, the two hierarchs concelebrated the hierarchical Divine Liturgy in Saint George Cathedral, Boston, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Divine Liturgy in the Albanian language in the United States by the then-priest Theofan Noli. Present was Archbishop +ANASTASIOS, who blessed the throngs of faithful.
By appointment from Patriarch +BARTHOLOMEW and the Holy Synod, he served as Acting Abbot of the Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, New York, from December 2010 to May 2012. In 2019, Bishop +ILIA was elevated to the rank of archbishop and granted the title of Metropolitan. Metropolitan +ILIA is a member of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States, where he serves as Chairman of the Theological Education Committee. He also sits on the Canadian Conference of Orthodox Bishops.
Për shumë vjet, o kryezot!