The “Three Holy Hierarchs” Romanian Orthodox Church has its origins in the small community of Romanian immigrants of the 1980s and their deeply felt need for spiritual guidance and for remaining true to their ancestral traditions. Recognizing this need, Father Gheorghe Calciu Dumitreasa, a missionary priest from the Episcopate of Vatra, Romania, arrived in Seattle on February 27th, 1988 to discuss the possibility of establishing a Romanian Orthodox Mission in the Pacific Northwest.
This initial meeting was to be the prelude to a difficult period during which the group of 24 participants reached out for support among the members of a Romanian community that was still relatively small and virtually unorganized. Losing neither faith, nor hope, the initial group continued to add new members until, six years later and in the presence of Father Constantin Tofan, representative of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, the “Three Holy Hierarchs” Romanian Orthodox Mission was finally established. This memorable event, witnessed by a General Assembly that by then was numbering 114 members, led to a long awaited conclusion on March 16th, 1994 when the Mission was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization in Olympia, Washington.
The period that followed was characterized by the continued growth of the Mission’s role and activities. For the next four years, under the guidance of Father Marin Oprea, followed by Father Petru Voin, the Mission’s first appointed priests, religious services were held every other week at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Seattle. The arrival, in 1998 of Father Ioan Catana marked the beginning of a period of increased relevance of the Mission in the spiritual life of the Romanian community. The Sunday Divine Liturgy, along with various other weekday services started being held at the St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle. At 86, the number of such services held in 2005 represented a three-fold increase compared to 1995. Participation in the midnight Easter Divine Liturgy, traditionally one of the year’s most important religious celebrations in the lives of Orthodox Christians, has jumped from 150 people in 1994, to more than 700 in 2006.
As a result of the Mission’s efforts and fueled by an increase in the number of Romanian immigrants, the ranks of the Romanian Orthodox community have steadily expanded. In 2006, our mission officially became a parish numbering 468 registered parishioners, while the Parochial Bulletin “Cuvantul”, a monthly publication whose inaugural number was mailed in 1994 to 120 families, now reaches 485 households. As further evidence of growth, it should be noted that 36 baptisms were carried out during 2006, compared to only two eleven years before.
Over the years, the Parish’s work and ministry also involved the establishment of philanthropic activities in the form of the "Helping Fund", a secular charity dedicated to providing financial assistance to people from underprivileged socio-economic environments. Between 2002 and 2005, this program successfully completed six projects, most of them involving youth in dire need of medical care.
In addition, the Parochial Church Council worked tirelessly to organize each year an average of three social events meant to proclaim the Orthodox Christian Faith while embracing and uniting those with close ethnic ties or common religious beliefs. Over time, such events brought together an increasingly diverse population. Old and young, first generation immigrants along with Americans of Romanian and other descents could experience a stronger and stronger sense of community.
Despite its difficult and modest beginnings, the Parish’s reach has steadily increased over the years. Its income, which has been growing annually by an average of 13%, has seen a significant boost during 2006 when members of our community joined forces and pledged their financial support so that the aspiration of building a Romanian Orthodox Church may become a reality. Significant steps have already been taken in this direction with the acquisition, in 2004 of a property in Mountlake Terrace and the completion, in 2007 of the architectural project. Looking ahead, the year 2008 has the potential to mark yet another remarkable milestone in the history of our parish, that of being able to attend services in our own parish church and, in doing so, to introduce the diverse Seattle community to the rich religious, cultural and architectural Romanian traditions.