By Magdalena Wegrzyn
Longmont Times-Call Colorado
FREDERICK, December 12, 2010
|Council president Nicolae Toderica gets ready to frame the icons of Jesus Christ, left, and St. John the Baptist on Wednesday at St. Dimitrie the New Romanian Orthodox Mission Church in Frederick. Photo by Lewis Geyer, Times-Call.|
Although he was baptized into the Orthodox Church, the government’s opposition to religion led him to focus more on academics than on spirituality, he said.
It was only after immigrating to the United States in 1980 that the 58-year-old Longmont resident embraced his faith, he said.
“I learned about God, and then I realized I was missing this all my life,” he said. “And then I found there were others like me.”
There were enough people like Toderica that on Sunday, St. Dimitrie the New Romanian Orthodox Church will open, more than two years after breaking ground on its 5-acre parcel in Frederick.
“For myself and most of us, it’s a big-deal accomplishment,” said Toderica, who is the church council president and oversaw the construction of the 5,000-square-foot church. “It’s a good feeling that we got something we wanted for so long. And it’s a relief.”
Securing the land, receiving clearance to rezone it from agricultural to commercial use and raising money for the project have been challenges, said church priest the Rev. Ioan Bogdan, 40, who lives in Frederick. But the project has been worth it, he said.
Orthodoxy means the church adheres to original apostolic teachings and worship styles. Divine liturgy on Sunday usually takes about two hours and is mostly conducted in Romanian, though Bogdan said he steers toward bilingualism if English-speakers are present.
“My intention is to be here for all orthodox or those who want to be orthodox,” he said.
The majority of the congregation is Romanian. Bogdan has performed a chrismation for only one American convert since being appointed to head the church in 2007.
At this time last year, the congregation included about 40 people. Now, nearly 70 cram into a temporary space in a Methodist chapel in Boulder, where they have met for services for the past three years. Church membership is composed of 25 families, Bogdan said.
The church — named after the patron saint of Bucharest, the Romanian capital — is the second Romanian Orthodox church in Colorado. The other, St. John the Hozevite Mission Church in downtown Denver, started six years ago.
Census numbers from 2000 counted 4,431 Coloradans who identified as Romanian-Americans. Numbers from the 2010 census have yet to be released, but GO2RC, a website that connects the state’s Romanian community, estimates the current number exceeds 6,000.
Bogdan hopes his church’s proximity to Interstate 25 — it is less than a mile northwest of I-25 and Colo. Highway 52 in Frederick — will attract people from throughout the Front Range.
Members hope the church will function as a hub for Romanian culture. After each Sunday service, they gather for agape (the Greek word for love), a time for fellowship and food. They also hope to put together a small museum inside the church with traditional Romanian costumes, orthodox iconography and literature.
Boulder resident Lidia Simon said the church helps her pass along religious and cultural concepts to her 8-year-old son, Christian. It also allows her son to be around other Romanian children, she said via translator Ludwig Gall.
“He learns good things there, among other things to discern between good and evil,” said the 37-year-old long-distance Romanian runner, who has competed in three Olympics, taking home a silver medal at the 2000 games.
Although construction on the new building wrapped up this week, church leaders said they already are looking ahead. The long-term plan is to build a 7,000-square-foot church on the southeast edge of its property, Bogdan said. The finished building will serve as a temporary church while the larger structure is built, and then it will become a social hall.
So far, the project has cost about $800,000, and fund-raising will dictate the timeline for the second phase, Bogdan said. He said he hopes the entire church campus will be finished within four to five years.
“The building is an expression of faith,” he said. “It’s hard work and lots of sacrifice.”