Diocese: Diocese of the South
Deanery: Central Florida Deanery
1895 Lake Emma Rd
Orlando/Longwood, Florida 32750
Lake Mary, FL 32746
Longwood, FL 32750
De Bary, FL 32713
Merritt Island, FL 32953
Winter Park, FL 32792
Deltona, FL 32738
From Volusia County
Take I-4 West to exit 98, Lake Mary Blvd. Turn left, go to the second light, and turn right on Lake Emma Rd. Church is about 2 miles on the left.
From Orlando area
Take I-4 east to exit 94, and turn right onto State Rd 434. At the 4th traffic light turn left onto Range Line Rd. At the next light turn right onto Longwood Hills Rd. At the next light turn left onto Lake Emma Rd. The Church is 1/2 mile on the right.
Schedule of Services
5:00 PM Vigil followed by confessions.
9:30 AM Divine Liturgy, followed by Church School and Fellowship Hour.
6:30 PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
Wednesday & Friday Evenings During Great Lent
6:30 PM Vigil.
Eves of Great Feasts
9:30 AM Divine Liturgy.
Mornings of Great Feasts
Confessions are heard following Vigil on Saturdays and Eves of Feast Days.
INQUIRER’S CLASS: as scheduled—call the church.
BAPTISMS: Held on Sunday before Divine Liturgy. MARRIAGES: Held Sunday afternoons. ALL OTHER SERVICES: Call 407-260-6003 for schedule.
On September 6, 1969, Fr George Gladky from Miami, FL conducted an organizational meeting for a new parish in the Orlando, FL area. This meeting was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Orlando. Present at the meeting were: M/M Timothy Gidus, Mrs Evelyn Reich, M/M Frank Spicer, M/M Alex Tamny, M/M Steven Kondratick, M/M Max Demianovich, M/M Edward Razook, M/M Theodore Hawranick, and several other families. Fr George Gladky informed the group that this meeting was an official declaration of intent to begin a parish under the Metropolia, and that an official petition was being sent to Metropolitan Ireney, the Diocesan Bishop of the New York-New Jersey Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America. Fr Peter Milanovich of St Nicholas Syrian Orthodox Church was also present at that meeting. Two months later he would disband St Nicholas and join the newly formed parish. At that meeting $800 was pledged to begin the new Orthodox Church in the Orlando Area for the Metropolia (Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church).
Another meeting was held the following week at the home of Steven Kondratick. The meeting was conducted by Fr George Gladky. Frs Basil Wagoner from West Palm Beach and Michael Karas from Titusville were in attendance. In addition to the priests, thirty people were in attendance. The new parish was listed for the first time in the 1970 Metropolia Yearbook as St George Eastern Orthodox Church. Until the arrival of Fr Eugene Vansuch in October of 1969 the new parish joined St Simeon Orthodox Church in Titusville for Sunday Divine Liturgy.
At the end of September that same year, Fr George Galdky received the official document, numbered 8807 and dated September 23, 1969, from the Metropolia Chancery establishing the Parish. It reads as follows: “This is to inform you that His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Ireney, by resolution number 3884 dated September 18, 1969, gives his Archpastoral Blessing to the formation of a new parish in Orlando, Florida. By the same resolution, His Eminence appoints the Rev Fr Eugene Vansuch as Rector of this community.”
On October 10, 1969, Fr Eugene Vansuch arrived in Orlando as pastor of St George. With him he brought the Antimens signed by Metropolitan Ireney. Fr Eugene was a priest of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. The Orthodox Church of St Stephen is that same church and Fr Eugene is its first pastor. Divine Liturgy was first served in the Mount Vernon Hotel in Winter Park, and later, in the Winter Park YMCA and the Maitland National Bank.
In December of 1970 Fr Eugene Vansuch was transferred. Fr Angelo Estrada-Rea was assigned in January of 1971. During his tenure, the parish purchased two pieces of property for future growth. One was located on 15-A south of Rt 50 in Orlando and the other was on Tuskawilla Rd in Winter Park.
After Fr Angelo’s leaving, the parish would have been without a priest. However, with the help of Fr James Kenna, the Antiochian priest in Fort Lauderdale, Fr John Hamatie of the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Toledo, was obtained on a loan basis. He was to temporarily serve St George until a priest of the Diocese was available. Under his leadership the parish was split into two. Fr Hamatie led the Syrian and Lebanese ethnic portion of the parish into the Antiochian Diocese of Toledo. The Antimens, signed and brought by Fr Vansuch, was turned over to Fr George Gladky by Fr Hamatie. This Antimins is still in the possession of St Stephen Orthodox Church.
This separation of the newly organized parish, under Bishop Shaheen, from the original OCA St George Orthodox Church greatly reduced the number of communicants for the OCA parish. This separation also meant that there were now two St George Orthodox Churches in the Orlando area. The original OCA parish did not have a priest and was served twice a month by Fr George Gladky of Christ the Savior Church in Miami and by Fr John Ealy of St Nicholas Church in Fort Lauderdale.
In April of 1975 Fr George Gladky asked Fr John Ealy if he would be willing to move to Orlando to serve St George. To facilitate this move, he and Fr Gladky met with the lay leaders and members of the parish at the home of Fr Peter Milanovich in May of 1975. At that meeting two conditions were set for Fr Ealy’s coming to serve St George: That the parish find a home of its own, no matter how humble, and that all efforts to try to regain all that was lost to the Syrian Antiochian parish be abandoned. Both conditions were agreed upon by all present.
In September of 1995 Fr John Ealy moved with his family to DeBary and began teaching at St Peter’s School in DeLand, FL, while preparing for his upcoming assignment to St George OCA parish. A small house was purchased in Fern Park to be used as the church. Fr John was assigned in January of 1976 and normal parish life began with greatly reduced membership.
Reconstruction of the small house began immediately after being purchased in order to make it suitable for use as a temple. The first service in the new temple was Vespers, served on January 16, and the first Divine Liturgy was served on January 17, 1976. A total of 12 persons attended the first Vespers and Divine Liturgy.
In August of 1978, because of the confusion that existed in the Orlando area with two St George Churches, the Orthodox Church in America parish of St George changed its name to The Orthodox Church of St Stephen. In doing so, it retained its original charter and incorporation in the state of Florida and remains the original parish that began in 1969.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, St Stephen continued to grow. A place was needed for fellowship after Liturgy, for Church School, and for choir practice. The worship space was increased by removing a kitchen and bathroom, and a parish hall was constructed in 1980. After the completion of the above projects the parish continued to grow. It was apparent that the current building and grounds would not be adequate for the growing church. It was therefore decided in 1982 that it was necessary to buy a piece of property with more acreage and build a new church. Efforts in all desirable areas met with resistance by the zoning board and by area residents who did not want a church in their neighborhood.
In 1987 the Church was approached to sell its property for development as part of a shopping center being planned on adjoining property. Immediately the search for land began again. After several setbacks a beautiful piece of land consisting of six acres was locatedon Lake Emma Road in Seminole County. This property was to be St Stephen’s new home. After the sale of church property in Fern Park, the Lake Emma Rd property was purchased and plans were made to build a new temple.
During the period of January 17, 1988 until November 3, 1989, St Stephen was without a permanent home because the Fern Park property had been sold. During this period the Liturgical Services were held at the FARE office building in Eatonville. On April 9, 1989, fifteen months after the sale of the church building in Fern Park, the Cross was planted and the grounds on Lake Emma Rd were blessed by Bishop Dmitri.
Construction of the new temple for the Orthodox Church of St Stephen Protomartyr began in June of 1989. It was completed for use by November 4, 1989, and on the evening of that day, at 6:00 PM, the Sunday Resurrectional Vigil was held. The first Divine Liturgy in our new temple was on November 5, 1989.
With the move into the new temple adult membership increased rapidly. The number of children attending St Stephen has also increased since the move into the new temple. Church School classes are held every Sunday for approximately forty children. A summer Church School program is also held for children from ages five to twelve. St Stephen has a very active youth program. The adult leaders of the parish are active in the Diocesan youth camp each year. Retreats are held each year at St Stephen for the youth, conducted by the youth under the guidance of parish adults and priests of the Orthodox Church in America. In order to provide space for Church School, two pavilions were constructed for classes during the summer of 1994.
On March 15, 2002, Fr Mark Stevens was assigned as Rector of St Stephen Church. Because of the parish’s steady growth five new classrooms have been added to the existing building. Future plans include the erection of a new temple to glorify God. Currently average Sunday attendance is 150, and about 70 children are enrolled in the Church Shool.