In Memory of Founder Sonia Daly Belcher
A beautiful young woman named Sonia Daly, inspired by her own high school experience, had a dream that one day, Orthodox Christian children in the Boston area would benefit from a strong academic and spiritual education founded in the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church. Just barely 18 years old, but with enough determination to light the world on fire, Sonia set out to make this dream a reality. She gathered up Orthodox faithful from around the region and started something extraordinary. Theophany School, which began as a dream in her heart, opened its doors to 17 beautiful children when Sonia was just 21.
Sonia’s dedication to her Church and her unwavering faith in our Lord are what guided the School as it grew. The many highs and lows that came our way were always accompanied by Sonia’s mantra, “God will provide;” her confident and Christ-centered voice would quickly erase our doubts with the words we grew to know so well “All things are possible through Christ Jesus Who strengthens us.” Sonia, a model of faith for us all, was always right; He always provided for us and He did strengthen us. Though now but a quiet voice in our hearts, we pray that we will continue to hear those words, needing more than ever for Christ to strengthen us in these our saddest of days.
Our beloved Sonia, we promise to pick up the torch which you have carried so faithfully and to build on your dreams for Theophany School. May your memory be eternal, our dear sister in Christ, we will miss you more than words can begin to express.
About our Co-Founders
For over twenty years over 400 children have experienced a first-rate Orthodox Christian education at Theophany School, created through the vision, leadership, courage, and service of Sonia Daly Belcher and those who worked alongside Sonia during the School’s founding and early years. We are thankful to those whose ministry inspired the School’s widely-recognized quality education as well as its longevity.
This small group first met at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, then in their own homes and, ultimately, at the School’s first home, St. John of Damascus Church in Dedham. Given the opportunity to manifest their dreams for a pan-Orthodox Christian school, these exceptional people offered their time, talent, and resources to begin what has been, and continues to be, an outstanding preschool.
We recognize our co-founders: our departed beloved sister-in-Christ Sonia Daly Belcher, Sheila Hamwey, V. Rev. Fr. Antony Hughes, James Kostaras, Jane Kourtis, Nicholas Kourtis, Tina Papadopoulos, Faris Saba, and Rev. Fr. Anton Vrame.
Fr. Antony Hughes was Theophany’s first Spiritual Advisor. He is husband to Carol, father of Alex and Greg, parish priest at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge for twenty-three years, prison minister at MCI Concord, co-founder of OCF in Boston, committee member at the first meetings that gave birth to IOCC, IFS trained pastor/counselor.
“My memories are of the early days -- the meetings with Sonia, Richard Robbat, Nick Kourtis and Metropolitan Methodios, the discussions, the agreements and disagreements, the ups and downs and the dream that suggested the name ‘Theophany.’”
Sheila Tawa Hamwey served as Theophany School’s first School Director. Sheila also taught at Newbury College, Boston Public Schools, and then served in the Needham Public Schools, from where she recently retired after 15 years of service. She received her Bachelors’ degree in Education from Boston State College and her Masters’ Degree from UMass-Boston. Sheila currently lives in Needham and Ogunquit, Maine.
“Theophany School will always hold a special place in my heart. From my first meeting with Sonia, Nick and Jane, I knew I wanted to be a part of this beginning of something special. The love, warmth, and energy we created both in the classroom and with our Theophany families was extraordinary. I loved morning circle when we all sat on the rug and shared our stories. I loved watching the children become friends and loved how the parents never wanted to leave in the morning after drop off. We became one.”
“Apple picking, visit to the Brookline fire station, mornings in church when we just sat in front of the altar and talked about all the icons, the "must do" table full of crafts and projects, and recess where we hula hooped, rode little cars, led parades, and danced---such fond memories.”
“If I was asked to sum it all up in one sentence it would be, "Theophany is where we became family." I was honored to have been a part of this.”
James Kostaras supported Theophany School in its site selection and analysis and satisfaction of building requirements to become licensed under the Comm. of Massachusetts early child care regulations. Jim is an architect and urban planner with the Institute for International Urban Development, a Cambridge-based non-profit organization, which helps poor communities in developing countries create a better life for themselves and their children. He also teaches at Northeastern University and Wentworth Institute. Jim started his career as an architect in the U.S. Peace Corps building health clinics and community centers in rural villages in North Africa. Jim and his wife, Margarita, live in West Roxbury. His children—now adults—are his greatest achievement in life.
“What I remember most is the bureaucracy involved in launching Theophany. I remember long meetings with the Needham Building Department and Planning Board trying to convince them that Theophany would be a wonderful neighbor in the Town. I also remember rushing to get the State’s Department of Early Education and Care license two days before Theophany was scheduled to open at St. John’s in Dedham, our first location.”
Nicholas Kourtis, Esq. and Jane Kourtis, Esq. worked on all aspects of Theophany operations and legal issues, with Jane having a special focus on Theophany admissions and parent relations. Nick and Jane are the parents of Anastasia (Stacey) and Susan Athanasia Kourtis, both graduates of Theophany School; Anastasia being a student in the first Theophany class. Nick is a graduate of Univ. of Mass-Amherst and Harvard Law School. Nick began his career as a corporate lawyer and is currently a Director of Business Operations at Dell-EMC. Nick serves on the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston Council, and is active in the Alpha Omega Council, a Greek-American philanthropic service organization. Nick is currently a member of Theophany’s Board of Trustees. Jane is a graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School and is currently the Associate General Counsel of Bright Horizons, a child care and work/life solutions company. Nick and Jane are stewards at St. Demetrios Church in Weston where Nick serves on the Parish Council, and Jane is Director of the Junior Choir Program.
“A Memory: the great feeling among the founding team and the bold and faithful incoming families of the seventeen students at the School kick-off luncheon, held at the School the weekend before the School opened: We all held hands and prayed together and were overjoyed that we were creating a new chapter in our lives and a special place for our children.”
Tina Papadopoulos worked on Theophany publicity and fundraising. Tina is a seasoned professional fundraiser, event producer, and public relations specialist. She has worked with a variety of non-profits including the American Cancer Society, Anatolia College, an American secondary school located in northern Greece, and the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens Greece. Tina was also Acting Executive Director of the Maliotis Cultural Center in Brookline, MA. Tina is a graduate of Bentley University with a B.S. in Management. Tina is an active member at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Newburyport, where she was born and raised.
Faris Saba worked on Theophany’s finance and accounting matters. Faris received a B.A. in accounting from Northeastern University and attends St. George Orthodox Church in West Roxbury.
Rev. Dn. Anton Vrame, Ph.D. worked on structuring Theophany’s first Orthodox educational framework with its first teachers. Dn. Tony is Director of the Department of Religious Education for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Among Orthodox circles, he is well known for his dedication to issues of education within the life of the Church.
“A memory -- In one of the first years of Theophany, I assisted the teacher during the first day or two of class, just to get a feel for what we had created. It's a stressful time for students and parents! I remember sitting on the floor, near the door, to keep the new students who would rather be with their parents than in the unfamiliar classroom, drying the tears of a few students, and helping them acclimate to their new teacher and new educational experience.”