To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On the Feast of Saint Photios the Great, February 6, we honor the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine in Saint Augustine, Florida. This Shrine, appropriately named after the illustrious ninth century Patriarch of Constantinople, is a vital institution of our Holy Archdiocese that aims to advance the spiritual and cultural legacy that was brought to America by the first Greek immigrants in the eighteenth century.
The 400 Greeks who arrived on the shores of Florida in 1768, at the colony of New Smyrna, endured many hardships. As they began to establish their presence in a foreign land, they were faced with an oppressive physical environment and unfavorable work conditions. Often, they were victims of unjust discrimination and prejudice. Relocating to Saint Augustine 10 years later, the community continued to persevere with patience and fortitude. It was here that a building known as the Avero House, built in 1741, became the center of their religious and cultural life. Today this structure continues to stand as an enduring testimony, a revered Shrine that tells an inspiring story of courage, faith, and the love of freedom.
As Greek Orthodox Christians in America, we are enriched by the experiences of our forefathers and mothers, whose story of determination and hope in a higher quality of life communicates an important message with broad implications for Christian living. With resolute patience, love, and every confidence in the Lord, we ourselves are challenged today to do everything that enhances human life and helps to improve existing social conditions. We are challenged within our own communities to articulate a brilliant future by sharing with our neighbors the loving and embracing truth of the Gospel. In these sacred efforts, the words of Christ resound with a particular clarity, You are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
We draw particular encouragement in this task on the day of this magnificent Feast, whereupon we commemorate the life of Saint Photios the Great, a towering figure of intellectual prowess who resolutely defended our Orthodox Christian faith from heresy—a remarkable man of vision who looked toward the expansion of Christianity and the embrace of other cultures, dispatching the great Saints Cyril and Methodios to the Slavic Lands to evangelize. Today, the legacy of Saint Photios continues to thrive in the work of this National Shrine, appropriately named in his honor. Each year on this day, many faithful from across our nation journey to the Shrine to participate in the active witness of this important ministry of the Church, a ministry which communicates hope and inspires others to proclaim Christ’s enduring and inclusive message.
As in past years, this year on Sunday, February 8, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine. Your contributions will directly aid the general operations of the Shrine, enabling it to continue to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration by documenting the dynamic and vibrant history of our faith and culture in America, which we generously share with our neighbors.
May the pure light of the divine wisdom and truth of God guide your footsteps as you inspire one another to lead lives of faith and prosperity, and as you strive toward the perfect attainment of an everlasting life with Almighty God, loving one another always and doing His holy will.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America