Our church narthex is blessed to have an impressive, antique icon of St. Markella that greets all visitors as soon as they enter.
The history of this icon begins in 1928 in Sabraton, West Virginia, a small town near Morgantown, where Greek immigrants sought permission from the Pittsburgh Diocese to build a church. The project moved forward and a church was built, despite the difficulties of the Great Depression. One of the main benefactors of the Sabraton Church was Nicholas Kougoulis, a local grocer. Since he and many of the other parishioners were from Chios, it was decided to dedicate the new Church to St. Markella. Once the church had chosen its patron saint, Mr. Kougoulis commissioned the monastery of the Holy Fathers in Chios to paint an icon of St. Markella and paid all the expenses for its production and shipping. The icon arrived in Sabraton in early 1930, around the time that the church was completed. The parish of St. Markella thrived until the late 1940’s until declining industry led the remaining members to move the church into Morgantown, where they purchased a new church building in 1955. The new church, however, was named the Church of the Assumption, and, for one reason or another, its parishioners did not wish to display the icon of St. Markella. Upset at this decision, Mr. Kougoulis offered to take the icon back and kept it in his home. Subsequently, his daughter Lily, of Charleston, WV, inherited the icon, which was displayed in her home until she moved to Tucson, Arizona, and placed the icon in storage. For many years, Marlene Apesos, whose husband Chris is Mr. Kougoulis’ godson, encouraged Lily to find church home for the icon. Upon learning that our parish would be dedicated to Sts. Mary Magdalene & Markella, Mr. and Mrs. Apesos begged Lily to send the icon to our Church. After several years and much persuasion, Lily agreed to contact then presiding priest, Fr. Manuel Burdusi. Arrangements were made, and the icon arrived on June 30, 2009.
We are very grateful to both Mrs. Lily Kougoulis for her generosity and Mr. and Mrs. Apesos for arranging this great blessing for our parish. We pray that St. Markella intercede for the health, wellbeing, and salvation of Mrs. Kougoulis, her family, and all the parishioners of Sts. Mary Magdalene & Markella.