The annual meeting of the St. Photios Foundation convened the weekend of February 5-7 in St. Augustine, FL. Presided over by His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, the memorable weekend events celebrated the Feast of St. Photios the Great, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The weekend began Friday evening with Great Vespers and the Blessing of the Five Loaves in the St. Photios Chapel. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Louh and V. Rev. Joseph Samaan celebrated, with assistance from Deacons Athanasios Kartsonis of the Metropolis of Atlanta and Photios Dickos of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh. Vespers was followed by a moving concert of sacred music by Cantorae St. Augustine and by the students of Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology.
The ecclesiastical services, celebrating the Shrine’s patron saint, began early Saturday morning and included a memorial service for the Shrine’s Founders. Mrs. Constance Gaitanis and Steve Xynidis represented the Founders’ families. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios honored the memories of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, Archon Ernest A. Villas and all those who worked so diligently to build the Shrine. He recognized St. Augustinian founders Steve and Gerry Sarris and Despina Xynidis, wife of the late Tom Xynidis.
At the Trustees luncheon which followed, John Galanis, AHEPA Supreme President, gave a brief history and clear description of AHEPA and its role on the international, national, and local levels. He presented, on behalf of AHEPA, a check for $500 to Mrs. Hillier in support of National Shrine Day.
The 34th Annual Foundation Meeting then convened and was brought to order by 1st Vice President Archon Dr. Manuel Tissura. He called for a moment of silence in blessed memory of Eula Carlos and Archon Angelo Koukoulis, Trustees Emeritus Benefactors, as well as for departed Shrine Friends, Dolly Demetris, Jerry Felos and Ceia Rogers.
During the business meeting, Archon Christo Daphnides cited Archbishop Demetrios’ St. Photios encyclical. He urged on behalf of the Marketing Committee, “Distribution of paragraphs 2 & 3 in a framed format for posting in every parish of our Archdiocese for in those two paragraphs is the essence of the Shrine and its story.” This was unanimously received as was Dr. Angelo Kliossis recommendation for instituting an Archives Committee which would serve the function of compiling an index and the shelving of items of historical interest amassed over the past 35 years. It could also ascertain which items to store in the 2018 time capsule, an event planned in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Greek Landing day.
Sunday’s Archieratical Divine Liturgy took place at St. Augustine’s Holy Trinity Church. Assisting His Eminence were Rev. Dr. Christopher T. Metropulos, Father Theodore Stavru, Father Demetri Leussis and Deacon Athanasios Kartsonis. His Eminence thanked Mrs. Helen Carlos for sponsoring the ambassadors of Hellenic College Holy Cross. He commended Demetrios Constantine, Cassandra Garibaldi, Sarah Livick-Moses, and Alexander Kamilaris for chanting all the services throughout the weekend and gratefully acknowledged the hospitality of the chanters of Holy Trinity for receiving these students in their parish. The faithful then adjourned to the Feast Day banquet which followed.
The 34th Annual St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine Pilgrimage Feast Day Banquet was chaired by Mrs. Elaine Tissura. Archon Nicholas J. Furris served as Master of Ceremonies. Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta was escorted to the Dais by Rev. Dr. Christopher T. Metropulos. Archon Furris called upon Archon Dr. Manuel N. Tissura, the Shrine’s 1st Vice President, who greeted everyone and thanked them for their patronage and their devotion to the St. Photios National Shrine. He then presented a check for $50,000 to the Foundation Enhancement Account from the Hellenic Tower Board of Trustees of Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Tissura recognized Mrs. Polly Hillier for her 10 years of devoted service and dedication as Director of the St. Photios National Shrine.
Greetings were offered by Joanne Stavrakas on behalf of the Philoptochos Society, by Ambassador Cassandra Garibaldi of Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology on behalf of the students, and by Connie Pilallis, Grand President of the Daughters of Penelope, for her organization.
Metropolitan Alexios awarded emeritus status upon Archon Angelo Koukoulis for over three decades of service. The award was received by his son, Charles Koukoulis. His Eminence then awarded the certificate of participation in the Wall of Tribute program to Angelo and Sherry Kliossis. Theodora and Sotirios Sergiou were called to the dais to accept the $500 prize and Essay Contest Certificate for their daughter, Florentina, who placed first in the 2015 Essay Contest.
After a delicious lunch, Rev. Dr. Christopher Metropulos gave his keynote address. Father Christopher introduced the newest video produced for HCHC. His address focused on the Church as a vibrant, growing entity and its needs for the future. He conveyed the important relationship between St. Photios National Shrine and Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology.
In conclusion, His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios praised the family presence and the meaningful, positive accomplishments of the weekend’s events. Following his pastoral blessing, Benediction was given by His Grace Bishop Dimitrios, assisted by Father Nick Louh.
All in attendance came away spiritually nourished and with a sense of fulfillment in the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine.