ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – As part of the celebration of the Feast Day of St. Photios, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center held a “Go to All Nations” brunch reception on Feb. 6 at the OCMC headquarters. The reception followed the Archierarchal Divine Liturgy at the St. Photios Shrine in downtown St. Augustine for the feast day and the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Shrine’s dedication.
Speakers included Archbishop Demetrios, chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America whose jurisdiction includes the OCMC, Board President John Colis, OCMC’s founding Director Bishop Dimitrios. The Bishop recalled that, 35 years ago, he had started the OCMC in an upstairs office of St. Photios Shrine. “Archbishop Iakovos wanted it to be a mission center,” he said. “We started very small and it has grown beyond my dreams.”
Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, head of the American Carpatho–Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, also spoke, sharing a story about time spent in the mission field in Alaska.
OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi spoke of how grateful he was for the generosity that has been shown in support of missions around the world. He gave updates from the field and shared some developments that have taken place in the various countries reached by missionaries and mission teams. He emphasized the great work that is being accomplished, by the grace of God, through the help of all those who contribute prayerfully and financially to the work of missions.
In comments to the faithful at the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Demetrios noted that “this missionary movement didn’t just happen automatically.”
He said the seeds of the movement took root in Greece between world wars. “There was a strong and developing Christian movement to revitalize life in the parish, the community and family by strengthening workshops, teaching, and by increasing the scope of going beyond a specific parish.”
This resulted in internal missions, which expanded to overseas missions when a convert to Orthodoxy from Africa, Fr. Sparta, delivered lectures in Athens about the need for external missions.
His talks inspired great interest in overseas missions.
After the mission movement began in the U.S., Archbishop Iakovos and Bishop Dimitrios eventually decided to bring the Archdiocese program under SCOBA, the predecessor to the Assembly of Bishops.
Also attending the reception were OCMC staff, numerous clergy, board members, church members of surrounding Orthodox parishes, and seminarians from Holy Cross School of Theology.
The event was organized by the St. Photios Shrine’s Director Polly Hillier, OCMC Board Members Helen Nicozisis and Athena Economou, and Shrine Trustee Helen Carlos. Attendees enjoyed a meal, fellowship, and presentations on the history and importance of Orthodox missions. Cake was also served in honor of His Eminence’s birthday which was Feb. 1.
Kenneth Kidd, OCMC development officer, served as master of ceremonies.