Our History

Our ancient origins and where we are today

History and Importance of Assyrian Orthodox Church of The Virgin Mary

Today’s Assyrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary dates back to the 3rd century in southeastern Turkey in the city of Diyarbakir, where St. Mary Church has been a surviving landmark in Syriac history, tradition, and culture. Over the years, the Diyarbakir church has contained valuable literature, books, pictures, and even a piece of wood from the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.

Our original church in Diyarbakir

Before this city was named Diyarbakir, it was called Ameda, which in the Syriac language testified to the fact that it once was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. It is also a known fact that five Patriarchs and Saints have been buried on the Mar Yakup section of the church.

St. Mary Church, along with its historical and religious importance, is also famous for its one of a kind architecture with its unique portraits of our Saints, hand-carved walnut tree doors, stone and brick walls, and silver lanterns (kandiller).

In recent years, the church started to deteriorate and is in need of renovation, refurbishing, and physical maintenance. St Mary Church needs to stay as a Suryani church.We are all obligated to maintain the Diyarbakir church as one often oldest landmarks of Suryani culture and achievement. Our forefathers have left a priceless monument, and now it is our responsibility and duty to be able to pass it on to new generations. For information on how to support it, please contact our Board of Trustees here in Paramus.

Our original church in Diyarbakir

The Founding of Our Church in the United States
Diyarbakir St. Mary Church has survived 18 centuries throughout history and continues to inspire a strong and growing presence in the United States. With roots planted in 1915 in West Hoboken, N.J., (now North Bergen), the first Assyrian Orthodox church in the U.S. took its name from the original church in Diyarbakir, Turkey. Our early 20th Century parishioners and family members were predominantly from that region at that time.

Early success created the need for larger quarters and, in April 1927, the parishioners finished building a new church at the corner of 62nd St. and Monroe Place in West New York.

With attendance continuing to grow, the Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s polled its congregation in the 1960s to choose another new location, with a social hall and parking infrastructure to support its future growth, and broke ground here in Paramus, New Jersey, a beautiful suburban landscape a short drive from New York City.

On April 7, 1968, our founding church leaders and parishioners celebrated Holy Liturgy for the first time in a full Consecration Ceremony in the church that we call home today. That same year, a second parish was established in Detroit, and others followed in Chicago and West Roxbury, MA, to support Boston-based faithful. By the 1990s, the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States was created as part of three Patriarchal Vicariates in North America: One for the Eastern United States, which is ours, one for the Western United States and one for Canada.

We thank our Board of Trustees president from 1968 Thomas Esehak, Rev. John Khoury, our first priest, and His Eminence, Mar Athanasius Samuel, the Assyrian Orthodox Archbishop of the U.S. and Canada for their vision and hard work to create today’s church in Paramus and lead the way for generations to come.