What You Can Expect
Our Mission and Core Values
We are a Christ-centered community, pursuing transformative growth
through fidelity to Orthodox Christian truth and worship,
sharing the Gospel, and serving our neighbors and community.
Our Core Values are
1. Christ-centered Life
2. Worship-centered Life
3. Sharing the Gospel Message
4. Communal Unity
5. Community Service
6. Transformative Growth
7. Fidelity to Holy Tradition
8. Being Faithful Stewards
Fr. Mark Lichtenstein, Priest
Choir Director &
Presbytera Suzanne Lichtenstein,
the Priest's Wife
Christmas Gospel Reading
An altar server holds a candle at right for the reading. Jesus is the Light of the World!
Father Mark & Presbytera Suzanne
Father and Presbytera at a wedding reception for a parishioner
Making Goods for the Homeless
These are mats we made from recycled plastic grocery bags. They will provide insulative cushioning for the homeless to sleep on, if they prefer to sleep outdoors.
Making Palm Crosses
Every year we gather together to make fresh palm crosses for Palm Sunday. It's a group activity we all enjoy. Some people even know how to make donkeys out of palms, reminding us of the donkey colt Jesus rode from Mary, Martha, and Lazarus' home to Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.
Decorating Christ's Tomb on Holy Friday
Here we are preparing Christ's Tomb for the Holy Friday Lamentations service, which will be in the evening.
Father Mark Lichtenstein
Fr. Mark Lichtenstein and his wife, Presbytera Suzanne, came to us here in Texas in 2017. Before that, he was at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which is near the state capitol in Harrisburg. He was the assistant priest there for approximately seven years. This is the third time he has lived in Texas, having spent much of his growing-up years in San Antonio.
For a few years before seminary and his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Mark and his wife owned and operated an organic cow dairy farm in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Before that he worked for thirteen years in the scientific world, first as a pharmaceutical chemist, specializing in antibiotic research. Realizing that he was a people person, and still loving Chemistry, he eventually moved from the laboratory into sales of scientific research equipment, specializing in the needs of researchers in pharmaceutical laboratories and research universities.
Today, as an ordained priest, Fr. Mark continues his love of science, both working at Angelo State University and giving presentations to school and church groups about the intersection of Science and Theology.
Like most Orthodox priests, Fr. Mark is married (more than 30 years now!). He and Presbytera have 4 children in their twenties and teens.
Fr. Mark has many and varied interests in addition to church. These include leadership training and development, chemical- and film-based photography, oil painting, woodworking, gardening, music, and science fiction.
Fr. Mark also loves to talk with people. One of his favorite discussion topics is the relationship of science and religion — specifically, need there be a conflict?
Fr. Mark is an Eagle Scout.
Why Our Name?
What Does It Mean?
Who are We Worshipping?
The name "Assumption" is a mistranslation, to be honest. But the intention was good: Our parish is named after someone God thought was worthy to be His Son's mother.
She wasn't picked at random to be Christ's mother.
She wasn't picked simply because of her ancestry.
She alone, of all humankind, was chosen to contain the Uncontainable.
To give birth to He who had created the world.
Think how mind-boggling that is.
So, why was she, of all women of all time, chosen for this honor? Because she had dedicated her life to following God's will as completely and cheerfully as humanly possible.
Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus Christ honored His mother? And not just because it was required in the Law, which He had come to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
No, it was more than that. He respected her. When someone called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you," He took it to another level. He exalted her by saying she was not merely His mother, she was more: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
God honored Mary, so we honor her. If we are going to call ourselves Christians, how can we not honor someone God Himself does? Are we smarter or better judges of character than He is?
So, back to our name: Our parish is named after Mary's Falling Asleep in the Lord, meaning her earthly death with faith and hope in the Resurrection. Even when facing her own death, she completely trusted in God.
What about the mistranslation? The name our parish founders actually gave us in 1932, in Greek, was Kimisis Theotokou. In English words, it says "The Dormition of the Theotokos."
Here is what the actual name means, in Biblical Greek:
Kimisis = Falling Asleep in the Lord = Dormition (In other words, Kimisis means earthly death, but not forever death. Because of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, we can have eternal Life.)
Theotokos = Mother of God (Theo = God, and Tokos = "bearer of")
But somehow that name Kimisis was translated into English as "The Assumption," and that is what went on the legal papers when the church was incorporated in 1932. So now you know.
The central point to remember is that Mary, as the Mother of God, never glorified herself. Just as she did at the Wedding of Cana, she always said, "Whatever He says to you, do it." (John 2:5)
And in every icon of Mary the Theotokos, she is gesturing to her Son, reminding us He is our Lord, Savior, God and King, Jesus Christ. "Whatever He says to you, do it." Let us follow her example. Let us put aside pride and selfishness, and live truly Christ-centered lives.
For His is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Parish Past, Present,
Trying daily to be more faithful, to serve God, and to be a blessing to others
Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish (St. Mary's) has been witnessing to the Christian faith and serving West Texas for over 80 years. Its founding tells a truly amazing American story of faith, strength, and perseverance.
In the early 20th century, there were no Orthodox Christian parishes in this area of Texas. Orthodoxy had been brought to America in the 1700s by missionaries and tradesmen, but mostly in Alaska and on the east coast. It wasn't until the men and women who would go on to found our parish fled terrible religious and cultural persecution in the former Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey), and also poverty in Greece, that Orthodoxy finally came to West Texas.
Many of them had had their property confiscated, had been driven from their homes, and had even witnessed family members beaten and murdered. They came to America, like all immigrants to this country have, seeking peace and a chance to build a better and more prosperous life for themselves and their children. They eventually found such a place here, in San Angelo and its surrounding area. And they brought their Orthodox faith in God with them.
Exactly when the first Orthodox service in San Angelo was held is unknown. The first recorded mention of Orthodox clergy in San Angelo was Fr. Emmanuel Panos, a Greek Orthodox priest visiting from San Antonio, who participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Emmanuel Episcopal Church building in San Angelo on March 28, 1929. Fr. Panos was the first pastor of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in San Antonio, which had just recently been established.
On November 23, 1929, eight months after Fr. Panos' visit, a large group met in San Angelo and created the "Hellenic Educational Society." Part of this organization's purpose was to promote religious studies, meeting the needs of members of the Orthodox faith.
In February of 1932, the Society began holding meetings in the dance hall above the City Café on Chadbourne Street. Later that year saw the formal incorporation of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary San Angelo, on November 28, 1932. The parish moved to its current building in 1937, and has been there ever since.
Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish was the first established Eastern Orthodox Church outside of the larger metropolitan areas of Texas, such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Therefore our San Angelo parish ministered to the needs of Orthodox Christians in all of West Texas. Parishioners travelled here to worship together from as far away as Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Midland-Odessa, El Paso, and some places in Eastern and Southern New Mexico.
As our Orthodox parish grew and flourished, we were able to encourage the establishment of other Orthodox parishes in some of these surrounding cities. Even so, Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish still ministers to and cares for the faithful all over West Texas, as well as a growing population here in San Angelo.
Over the years, our parish has grown and flourished. Originally, all services were in Greek because the founders were Greek and spoke only Greek.
But "Greek Orthodox" does not mean that the Church is only for Greek people. Just as "Roman Catholic" does not mean that only Romans attend, Greek Orthodoxy is a universal religion. You will find Orthodox Christians in Russia, Egypt, Syria, Great Britain, Japan, China, Romania, India, Greece, Turkey, Ethiopia, Uganda, and indeed almost every country in the world. Everywhere Orthodoxy goes, it is translated into the language of the people.
So, today, all of our worship services are in English. And most of the participants are converts to Orthodoxy, and are not of Greek descent. When you visit, you might see people of Irish descent, Mexican descent, African descent, and more. Everyone is welcome in the Orthodox Church.
Of course, you can still find homemade Greek cookies at coffee hour after almost every Sunday liturgy (the Sunday-morning communion service). But coffee hour nowadays might also have Mexican dishes, Mediterranean hummus, Southern pulled pork, or any variety of delicious food you can imagine.
In our congregation, we come from many backgrounds, because Orthodoxy is not about Ethnicity. Orthodoxy is about Faith. It's not about who we are. It's about Whom we serve.
We also say the Lord's Prayer at every Sunday liturgy in all the languages of the people present. So, when you come, you will hear the prayer "Our Father Who art in Heaven" in Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Romanian, Greek, and English. Even though the rest of the service is in English, we love to say the Lord's Prayer in languages from around the world. Come join your voice with ours!
If you are looking for a church that welcomes you and encourages you, that accepts everyone and doesn't judge, that reads the Bible and fills its worship services with teachings from the Scriptures, and that still believes in the same, unchanging beliefs that Jesus Christ taught to His original apostles and followers, then we hope you will join us.
Does the original Church still exist, the one founded by Christ at Pentecost? And can a living branch of it really be growing right here in West Texas? We'll say what Philip the Apostle said to Nathaniel under the fig tree in the Gospel of John: "Come and see!"