The Greek Orthodox
Mission St. Paul
Early in 1946 ownership of the Byron
Hot Springs transferred from its
original owners, the Lewis R. Mead
family, to The Greek Archdiocese of
North and South America, New York,
NY. The acquisition was envisioned by
Athemagoras, then Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdioceses of North and South America, as his legacy to the Archdiocese. The Right Reverend Athemagoras I was titular Bishop of Elaia, Western Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Byron Hot Springs property was to be his lasting gift to the Church. At the time of the purchase, Athemagoras was on his way up the ecclesiastical ladder to become Grand Patriarch of the Church at its offices in Istanbul, Turkey. He attained this highest of all offices in the Church and held that position until his death in the 1990’s. Mission St. Paul was envisioned as the bishops see, a spiritual retreat, and center of Greek Orthodox Church activity for the western United States. The diocese encompassed 10 western states and part of Canada. Expectations for the parcel and its improvements as a retreat and mission were high.
On Wednesday, December 8, 1948, Athenamegoras I, first United States citizen to hold the position of Grand Patriarch, assisted members of the clergy, numerous dignitaries, and parishioners dedicated the Byron Hot Springs property as Mission St. Paul. Reverend Benedict Pappagiannacopoulos (also known as reverend George Paulson), formerly pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco, was consecrated head Abbott of the new Mission. Reverend Pappagiannacopoulos resided at the property for a short while thereafter. Father Superior Benedict and Father Naom resided at the property from time to time.
Physical improvements to the property were begun. The "Lewis R. Mead Memorial" also known as the "Liver and Kidney Springs Building" was rededicated as the "Life Giving Spring" or "Zothohou Peeyee." An Alter and Icon were installed beside the two springs within the spring building. Finally, a cemetery, "Memory Park," was consecrated near the western edge of the property.
A lively religious and social calendar filled the Byron Hot Springs Resort during its tenure as Mission St. Paul. The swimming pool was a favorite destination. Religious services and retreats were conducted. Summer camp for boys known as "St. Paul’s Boy’s Town" was held under the direction of Father George Paulson, Abbot of the Mission. Gregory G. Kosmos, a returning WWII veteran, was enrolled as Camp Director. Campers from all over California and two from Wyoming lived twenty-five days of religious education and camp life at the Mission. The campers lived in tents and enjoyed the diversions of hiking, fishing, swimming lessons, baseball, and religious education. The summer concluded with a well attended Labor Day Picnic
Regrettably, the full vision for the Monastery was never fully realized and the property was sold in 1956. Icons and equipment used at the Monastery scattered to other properties owned by the Church. The Icon prominently displayed in the in the "Health Giving Spring" now adorns the convent of "Zothohou Peeyee" located at St. Nicolas Ranch outside of Fresno. Silverware, china, linen and valued family photographs scattered and reappear as keepsakes or collectibles when least expected.
© 2004 Byron Hot Springs