History of Saint Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Catholic Church
St. Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Greek Catholic Church came into being early in 1980 through a chance encounter at Vespers at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church between Fr Daniel Munn, an Episcopal priest, and Mary McDonald, a Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic.
Mrs. McDonald contacted Fr. Nick (Olivio) Novarios, a bi-ritual Ruthenian priest in Milledgeville, Georgia, who came to Augusta to serve the first Divine Liturgy in the chapel at Ft. Gordon on 16 March 1980.
Throughout 1980, Fr. Nick came to Augusta, serving the Divine Liturgy at the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity on Sunday afternoons, through the good offices of Fr William Simmons, pastor of the church.
Fr Daniel had been in contact with Melkite Patriarch Maximos V, Archbishop Joseph (Tawil), Eparch of Newton for the Melkite Greek-Catholics in the USA, and Bishop Raymond Lessard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, requesting reception into the Melkite Catholic Church and ordination to Holy Priesthood. Through these contacts, Archimandrite William Haddad, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Melkite Catholic Church in Atlanta, came to Augusta to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in October 1980.
The Vatican announcement of the proposed reception of married Episcopal priests into the Catholic priesthood in 1980 and the meeting of several members of our community with Archbishop Joseph during the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting in Atlanta in February of 1981 led us to hope that Fr Daniel’s reception into the Catholic Church and ordination soon would take place; however, such was not the case.
Archimandrite Charles Aboody, Rector of St. Gregory the Theologian Melkite Seminary in Boston, came in January 1981 to serve the Divine Liturgy and Blessing of the Waters for Theophany and to bless the homes of parishioners. Throughout 1981 Fr Nick and Fr William served the Divine Liturgy more or less regularly every month.
Through the efforts of Fr Charles and Fr. Emanuel Pratsinkis (pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church), our “founding fathers” along with Fr Daniel, a Byzantine Catholic parish took shape. Our fans, processional cross, and tabernacle all came from the Greek Orthodox church.
The name of St. Ignatios of Antioch was chosen in honor of the second successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch and one of the most important writers of the early Church.
Fr Charles also engaged Mila Mina, a Romanian iconographer from Southern California, who totally adorned our church “like no other.”
As time wore on with no answer to the question of whether or not a married Episcopal priest could become a Melkite priest rather than a Roman priest, Bishop Lessard, Archbishop Joseph, and Fr Daniel finally agreed that Fr. Daniel would be ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Bishop Lessard, and immediately granted bi-ritual faculties by Archbishop Joseph. Fr. Daniel was ordained in November of 1982 and appointed pastor of St Ignatios Church.
1990s and beyond
After a spiritual journey from the Episcopal Church to the Russian Orthodox Church to Melkite priesthood, Fr Miguel Grave De Peralta came to St. Ignatios in late 1997.
Over time the parish has nurtured four vocations to the diaconate: Deacons, David Richardson, Kent Plowman, Robert Pride and Michael Willoughby.
Fr Damian Higgins, a Ukrainian priest-monk and accomplished iconographer, came to Augusta in late 2002. He traveled extensively for his bishop, teaching icon painting, tending to parishes, and painting icons in churches.
Archpriest Daniel died suddenly on 29 June 2006. At his funeral, the church overflowed with bishops, priests, deacons, and a congregation too numerous to count. He was indeed a towering figure, looming larger than life.
Fr Miguel directed the parish thereafter, with frequent assistance from Fr Damian. However, during the summer of 2011 Fr Miguel accepted a hospital chaplain teaching position in Atlanta, leaving St Ignatios without a resident priest. One of our three deacons, Fr Deacon Robert Pride, then died in September of 2011.
Fr Damian would stay as long as possible between trips and Fr Miguel would come back when Fr Damian had to be away. In 2012 Fr. Damian was elected Abbot of Holy Transfiguration Ukrainian-Catholic Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA, and the parish again needed a pastor.
On 8 September 2013, we were pleased to welcome Fr. Michael Hull as our new pastor. Fr. Michael served the parish faithfully until his unexpected and untimely passing to eternal life in July of 2019.
With a shortage of priests, Bishop Nicholas had to reassign other clergy as well as ordain a priest in order to appoint a pastor for the parish. In October 2019 he announced that Archimandrite Michael Skrocki would be coming to St Ignatios, and Fr Michael arrived in mid-December.