North side church gets ready for Eastern Orthodox Easter
LA CROSSE, Wisc. (WKBT.) — “When they walk in here, they feel God,” explained Rev. Dionysios Wilhelm, Pastor of St. Elias Orthodox Church.
A week after most, the Church is getting ready for Easter.
“The Custom of having Easter, or pascha, on the first Sunday, after the first full moon of the spring equinox,” explained Wilhelm.
Orthodox Christians try to practice faith as it was 2,000 years ago, which means celebrating Easter before the calendar we use today was established.
“So this is what everyone was doing back before all the calendar changes happened.”
The Church was built in 1911, and primarily served Arabic Christians.
“At one time this entire neighborhood was Lebanese Syrian. The street signs, a lot of them are Arabic names,” explained Wilhelm.
But as time went on, the church struggled, the Arabic community had to bend tradition, and receive financial help from the local Greek community.
“I told other priests about this and they said ‘that’s impossible, Greeks and Arabic’s never work together in a community,’ well they do here.”
From that point, it was clear that the church would only grow if it was open to any and all who wanted to enter. Now it hosts many who are not born into orthodoxy
“Typical European roots so I don’t necessarily have any of that behind me,” explained parish member Kevin Dinsmore.
“I am just an average Midwestern American with normal European roots,” added parish member Elizabeth Rodgers.
“I’m thankful they’re welcoming because I was raised a roman catholic,” revealed Wilhelm.
Although diversity has not fixed all their problems,
“The issues we’ve faced, it’s financial,” noted Wilhelm.
The church knows they’ll find a way to persevere
“We always seem to rise to the occasion, it’s part of the faith. It’s a very deep and abiding faith.”
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