NEW BUFFALO — The Annunciation-Agia Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church in New Buffalo again has a bell (located atop a tower finished earlier this year), and that was a cause for celebration on Sunday, Oct. 13.
Mike and Louisa Kerhoulos were honored for donating the bell and tower in honor of their parents (Theodore and Vasiliki Kerhoulas; Spiro and Marika Papaeliou) at a luncheon following liturgy at the church on Oct. 13. The bell tower (or “kabanargio”) was blessed as well.
Ted Kerhoulas said his dad grew up in a village called Arahova and the bell tower in New Buffalo is a replica of the one back in Greece.
“It was something that he had in mind for many years,” Ted added.
Mike Kerhoulas said the original bell tower has been standing in Greece for over 200 years.
“I took a picture, I gave it to the engineer, and he drafted one exactly like it.”
Louisa noted that her husband was very determined to get the new tower built.
“I’m very happy,” she said during the Oct. 13 luncheon.
“Every church in Greece has a bell, and the bell is very significant. Now our church has a bell.”
For years, a large ceremonial bell was mounted near the entrance to the Annunciation-Agia Paraskevi Church, but it was stolen in November 2013 and never recovered. That bell originally rang every Sunday from the parish’s former home at 735 Broadway in Benton Harbor that was built in 1949. After the congregation sold the Benton Harbor church in 1996, the bell, along with pews, icon screens and religious artifacts, were relocated to the 18000 Behner Road site.
George Lepeniotis, a member of the church board, said the church has been a member of the Berrien County community for almost 100 years.
“Mike and Louisa have been a big part of everyone in this room’s life. Mike has been a spiritual father to all of us. I remember going to chichi with Theo Mike before I remember going to church with my mom and dad … Theo Mike and Thea Louisa always made sure I had a safe way to get to church and I was with family.”
He said a fund-raiser was held after the original bell vanished, “but that wasn’t enough for Mike and Louisa.”
“The Orthodox Church is full of icons, and the reality is that for us in the church Mike and Louisa are those icons. They are the personification of the Greek community as well as the Orthodox faith in that they believe in this church, they believe in God’s message and what they can do to make it truly a better and more loving place.”
Lepeniotis said he sees the bell tower is an outward expression of that lifelong commitment.
The tower construction was supervised by Derrick Payne of Bradford Payne Construction.
The Rev. Paul Martin has served as the church’s pastor since 2005. The facility also includes a museum chronicling the history of the parish and displays of traditional Greek mementos and icons.