Many of our parents who migrated to the United States brought the tradition of the Orthodox Church with them. They kept their faith by founding churches wherever they landed, in their native language. Many of us, therefore, born in this country, were baptized Orthodox and were taken right along to church with parents as a matter of course. It was just taken for granted that we would follow the "Faith of our Fathers". It is quite a different story today! We, as American parents, want to follow our Faith, not because of our fathers, but because we, through understanding, have found it to be a true and apostolic faith, and wish our children to know and to feel the same way. To undertake the education and understanding of our Faith by our young people, it had to be done in the language we, as well as they, understood. Because of our American birth and schooling, this had to be the English language. The above ideas were not just idle thoughts! In 1961, following a Baptism, a very small group of Orthodox were gathered around a dinner table talking with the Celebrant Priest, Rev. Nicholas Kobbs of Akron, Ohio. They expressed their desire to have him travel to Youngstown once a month to teach our children the Orthodox Faith, and perhaps, once in a while, to celebrate the Vesper Service for us in English. A young man, while attending the St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary, heard of our endeavor, and wrote to Fr. Kobbs offering his services during his summer break. Fr. Kobbs, of course, was overjoyed to hear this as the travel time was getting to be quite a task for him.
We still did not dare to believe we would ever found an Orthodox Church with services completely in English! But, in June 1962, through the persistent efforts of this small group, and our young Seminarian, it became a reality. A canonical ALL English Service Church, under the Archdiocese of the Anthiochian Patriarchate, headed in the United States by the late and beloved Metropolitan Archbishop Anthony Bashir (who was also the first Bishop to allow English in the Orthodox Service), St. Mark Orthodox Church of Youngstown, Ohio, was founded. Our young Seminarian, Reverend Mark Campbell of Warren, Ohio, (who had been ordained by this time) became our very first priest. We rented an old church building at 3309 Idlewood Avenue and cleaned, scrubbed and painted. We begged liturgical supplies from other sister Orthodox Churches. We even trucked in a portable Iconostasis from St. Elias Church in Toledo, Ohio. It was not an easy task - but we found it a very rewarding one. In 1963, we purchased the building and the parish house next door. St. Mark was on its way! As a result of Rev. Mark Campbell's leave of absence in June, 1967, Rev. Fr. Michael Azkoul was assigned as parish priest and served until the arrival of the Rev. Fr. Philip Koufos in September, 1968. It was at this time that reorganization became necessary and immediately commenced. We realized we needed a new church and social hall in order for us to continue to grow.
By this time we had grown to forty families! Fr. Philip Koufos proved to be a most capable, energetic and loving Pastor, who continually and persistently inspired us to work towards this necessary and urgently-needed edifice. In the spring of 1971, four acres of choice land was purchased on Logan Way in Liberty, Ohio. A short time later, His Grace, Bishop Elia blessed the land and a building committee was appointed. Fr. Philip, along with the Parish Council, worked together diligently to create and design a most worthy and suitable structure in the traditional Byzantine style. The Iconographic decoration of St. Mark has proven to be one of the most outstanding traditionally painted Churches in the country. This outstanding work was beautifully rendered by our very own Rt. Rev. Fr. Philip Koufos, now a nationally known Byzantine Iconographer to whom we are eternally grateful. An example of his work is the twenty foot interior dome with Christ "Pantocrator" surrounded by a host of angels depicting the "Angelic and Mystical Heavenly Divine Liturgy" along with the iconographic wall murals in true Orthodox Byzantine Tradition. Truly and most firmly, we believe this is all due to our Lord's blessings and guidance. It was though His grace that a small group of people with unshakable faith could accomplish such amazing things. And His never-ending compassion for His beloved, faithful children will continue to fortify us as a parish for years to come. The Dedication of St. Mark Orthodox Church and Center on April 23rd and 24th, 1977 was only the beginning of our story.
These past thirty-five years have seen many changes to our parish family. Father Phillip went on to Chicago to lead the parish of St. Nicholas. Fr. Paul Graycar came to us in the year 1979 continuing the growth of the parish untill 1987.
Fr. Dan Rohan brought his young family to St. Mark in 1988 and has been with us to this day. His tenure has seen remarkable growth in our small parish.
Over the years, we watched our Sunday School and Teen S.O.Y.O. programs flourish, added adult Bible Study programs, raised awareness and understanding of the Orthodox Faith throughout the Mahoning Valley, grew our parishioner base, established a visitation program for shut-ins, collected and delivered hundreds of pounds of food to local food banks, and established several other outreach programs. The Sunday School students have grown to be Sunday School teachers. The altar boys have grown to have altar boys of their own. The youth of St. Mark past are now the leaders of St. Mark present. And it is our hope that this tradition will continue, unceasing, for many years to come!