Short history of the Saint Stefan Romanian Orthodox Church

In South Saint Paul, Minnesota, the first Romanians came in early 1904. Many of them came just to work and then return to their families in Romania. The beginnings of the organization of the Romanian Orthodox Christian community were made by a group of Romanians organized in the Brotherhood Society Alexandru cel Bun, founded on 1 January 1918. In August 1922 the company will change its name to the National Romanian Club, registered in Minnesota. The president of this company was Nicholas Choban.

The Romanian National Club initiated the foundation of a Roman Orthodox parish in South Saint Paul starting with 1923. Father Stefan Opreanu from Detroit, Michigan has come to administer the new parish. The first constituent meeting was on February 12, 1923. The parish took the name of the Holy Prophet Elijah. Divine Liturgy and other services religious events took place at 265 N Concord Street at the top of the Eva Albu family home.

At the first official meeting in which the formation of the Romanian Orthodox Parish was decided, took part: George Ivascu-president, Simion Securea-vice president, Andrew Sarbescu-secretary, Nicodim Barsan and Nicolae Bretoi – controllers, Eremie Rcataian – financial secretary and Michel Choban – administrator. This group immediately began to raise funds for the new church, also organizing numerous outdoor dining or other forms of collecting donations. The information at that time tells us that they were on a salary day at the companies they were working on Romanians to ask for their help

On June 12, 1923, a piece of land was purchased on the site of the current church building, to which another part of the land donated by the city of South Saint Paul was added.

Emil Neagoe, nephew of Nicholas Bretoi, one of the founding fathers of the parish, was appointed to coordinate the project, and Emil was then a student at the University of Minneapolis. The ahitectural form was agreed to be still Byzantine, like the churches in Romania.

The building of the church was largely contributed by the members of the parish, giving them time and work to build the beautiful building. Mentioned as other emigrants of other nationalities coming from Romania helped build churches, including George Waldhauser, Otto Kramer, Nick Woog and Nick Barti, who also came from Sannicolau Mare

On May 1, 1924, work began at the church. The first money was borrowed from Drovers State Bank for $ 8,200. In fact, the entire construction cost $ 25,000.

On 7 July 1924 the building and the land were registered as property of the Roman Orthodox community, the president of the parish council being Stefan Secarea and the secretary Mitchell Choban.

It served for the first time in the new building on 24 September 1924 and the priests took part in the celebration of the first Holy Liturgy: John (John) Stanila, Gregory Coste and Victor Muresan. Stefan Dochita was the largest donor, the patron of the church being changed from St. Prophet Elijah to St. Archdeacon and Intiil the Martyr Stefan, and the nose of the churches being John (John) Stan who also made a substantial donation

On 30 October 1926 the Queen Maria of Romania visited the Romanian community in South Saint Paul

One of the greatest celebrations of the parish is on July 11, 1935, when the parish was visited by the Orthodox Bishop Policarp Morusca, the first bishop of Orthodox Romans in the United States. At that time, the sanctification of the church was made in the presence of a hierarch.

The following priests served the parish over the years:

P.C. Stefan Opreanu 1923
P.C. Ioan(John) Stanila 1924-1925
P.C. Traian Birau 1925-1927
P.C. Andrei Moldovan 1927
P.C. Grigorie Coste 1928-1938
P.C. Vasile Pascau 1938-1939
P.C. Eugen Lazar 1939-1947
P.C. Ilie Motu 1948-1999
P.C. Timothy Sas 1999-2001
P.C. Sabin Cicsa 2001-2002
P.C. Gheorghe Pop 2002-2005
P.C. Ioan Poptelecan 2005-prezent


Also interesting are the information of those times in which the construction of the church began and one of those times of encounter is worth mentioning. Ms Eleonora (Barbu) Choban tried to come from Romania with his mother, Patricia Barbu, but they could not leave when planned due to incomplete papers. It is assumed that someone else more influential was wanted in their place, and so the two ladies stayed in Romania. The delay was proving to be for them, because they were scheduled to come with the unforgettable Titanic. Still, they did to come later

Returning to the historian of St. Stephen’s Orthodox Parish, it is worthy of note that the parish was also visited in 1999 by Archbishop Victorin Ursachi at the beginning of the month August when the young Timothy Sas was ordained to the parish.

His Coming to His Holiness Nicolae Condrea as Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas constituted a new episode of the parish life. As he did it everywhere in the Archdiocese, visiting and guiding and blessing, so the Saint Stephen’s parish enjoyed the care and guidance of His Highness, who visited the Parish every year.