Greek Landing Weekend a Huge Success

St. Augustine, FL – The nation's oldest city was the backdrop for the celebration of Greek Landing Day. Greek Orthodox clergy, civic dignitaries and people of the Orthodox Faith as well as Philhellenes gathered the weekend of June 23-25 to commemorate the landing of the 500 Greek pilgrims who set forth from their homeland in quest of freedom and a self-determined future at Avero House, the site of St Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine on 41 St George Street in St Augustine.

The V. Rev Nicholas T Graff along with St Augustine Mayor George Gardner and Greek Consulate General Andreas Psyaharis welcomed the public at an evening reception held in the Constantine Sisters Courtyard at St Photios. In attendance were Archons Christos Daphnides and Basilios Theodosakis, who were the respected presenters of the first St. Photios Lecture Series: “The Asia Minor Events of 1922.”

Rare historical photographs of the events leading up to the massacres at Smyrana, Turkey were the backdrop of the Flagler Room on the campus of Flagler College as over 75 pilgrims made their way to attend the lecture. A truly insightful and moving one-hour presentation was made by Archons Daphnides and Theodosakis with the Very Reverend Nicholas T. Graff concluding the evening with prayers for the repose of the souls of those who perished during these tragic events. Chaired by Archon Nicholas J. Furris and Associate Director of the Shrine Polly Hillier, this is the first of many lectures the St. Photios board intends to host promoting Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

A Memorial Service and Proclamation by the Mayor of St. Augustine took place Saturday morning in the tranquil St Photios Chapel. Father Graff introduced attending dignitaries, trustees, benefactors and the godparents of the Shrine, Dr. and Mrs. George Croffead of Charleston, South Carolina.

A Board of Trustees Meeting continued with the operational reports of various committees. The Shrine's grand benefactor, Mr. Charles Masterpolis of Tybee Island, GA presented Father Graff with the second installment of his one million dollar endowment gift to the +Archbishop Iakovos Endowment Fund.

Mr. and Mrs. Gary Peterson, chaired a Cultural Extravaganza, which continued all day long on Saturday on St. George Street. The Grecian Strings of Orlando and the Folk Dancers of St Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Daytona Beach provided an afternoon of joyful music and dancing. Mrs. William Cakmis of St John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville chaired a successful food booth where spinach pies, stuffed grape leaves, cheese triangles and traditional Greek pastries offered a sampling of ethnic tastes to over 3,000 visitors.

Over 100 people gathered on Sunday, June 25th in the St. Photios Chapel to attend Matins and Divine Liturgy. Services were celebrated by Shrine Chaplain, Father Nikitas Theodosion. A memorial was offered for the Founders of the Shrine followed by the presentation of the St Photios Medal to Mr. Basilios Theodosakis. Father Nikitas also recognized Mr. Charles Masterpolis for his generosity and support of the Shrine. The Founders Hospitality Hour, organized by Connie Gaitanis and Vaso Poulos took place following Divine Liturgy.

The DeMesa yard was transformed yet again into a vision of blue and white by Marissa and Faye Peterson where celebrations continued. Dr Nick Louh chaired a Youth Rally which featured "An Amazing Race" for 30 youth from the North Florida area. The hugely successful event included children from the community at large and prizes were donated by St Augustine Trolley, Ghost Tours, IMAX THEATER, Fountain of Youth, Papa John's Jacksonville, Father Nick Jonas and Olga Fotiou.

St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine stands as a living and active memorial in honor and memory of the first colony of Greek people who came to America in 1788. For more information or to find out how you can support this national institution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, please visit or call 904-829-8205.

(Posting date 05 July 2006

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