ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The St. Photios Foundation concluded the 250th anniversary of Greek Landing Day celebration with church services and a Mayoral Proclamation Ceremony on June 26 at the St. Photios Shrine in St. Augustine. Fr. Martin Ritsi- Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, Deacon Athanasios Kartsonis, and His Grace Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos- celebrating the 35th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, presided over the services. Rev. Dr. Nicholas G. Louh and Mayor Nancy Shaver were also among those present for the momentous occasion, the 36th Annual Greek Landing Day Celebration.
The event concludes the year-long commemoration, which began in June 2017 on board the Victory III Harbor Cruise. Dr. Kathleen Deegan, University of Florida archeology team leader in the 1977 excavation of the Shrine, presented that project to visiting Cuban marine archaeologists in August. The Federation of Hellenic American Educators convened in St. Augustine for a special weekend ceremony honoring the memory of colonist Ioannis Ioannopolis in November.
The importance of the 250th anniversary resonated through the essays submitted by teenagers of the holy Archdiocese and in February, over 200 people participated in the National Shrine Pilgrimage weekend. Greek Week, hosted by the Philoptochos of St. John the Divine, included a glendi, three lectures, and a re-enactment saunter in May. The Shrine, with sister organizations of St. Augustine joined the city of New Smyrna in their official 250thcelebration. “A Stroll Through History” was sponsored by the Volusia County Historical Society at the Old Fort Park in New Smyrna Beach.
Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America wrote, “This is our inheritance as Greek Orthodox Christians in this country as we look to both the witness of Saint Photios and of the early Greek immigrants and settlers who persevered. They are among the cloud of witnesses, together with generations of our fathers and mothers who followed them and who endured the challenges and sorrow of leaving their homeland to find opportunity here in America. We are strengthened by their courage. We are inspired by their faith. Through our remembrance of their plight and their sacrifice, we are renewed by the grace of our Lord to face the challenges and trials of our contemporary world. As we honor the blessed memory of our Greek ancestors who came to this land so long ago, and as we show our support for our Saint Photios National Shrine, may our minds reflect on their witness and our hearts be filled with the love of God, a true love that ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things’ (I Corinthians 13:7).”
Matins was held in the Chapel of St. Photios. Members of the Sts. Anargyroi Philoptochos Chapter of St. John Greek Orthodox Church hosted a light reception following the Civic Ceremony at which Mayor Nancy Shaver read the City of St. Augustine Greek Landing Day Proclamation. For over 30 years, mayors have honored that first Greek colony to arrive in America with a City of St. Augustine Greek Landing Day Proclamation.