They arrived from throughout New England and from almost every parish in the Metropolis of Boston.  As they have for the past 23 years, they came to celebrate stewardship of time and talents, to renew friendships and to make new acquaintances.  They came to receive the blessings and the appreciation of the spiritual leader and father of the Metropolis of Boston, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios.  Parishioners cheered the recipients from each community, applauding their commitment and dedication as the Metropolitan presented each the 2009 Ministry Award.

            Metropolitan Methodios instituted this annual gathering of the Greek Orthodox Family of New England in 1987.  It is a gathering which gives Metropolitan Methodios the opportunity to express appreciation to those who provide enthusiastic and continuous service to their parishes.  Again this year, the grand ballroom of Lombardo’s in Randolph, MA was filled to capacity.


           World renown guitarist Alexander Henry, the grandson of Fr. Leonidas Contos of blessed memory delighted the gathering for which he played Greek and classical music.  Alexander is a graduate of Yale College, where he received the Wrexham Prize in Music, and the Yale School of Music, where he was awarded the Eliot Fisk Prize in Guitar Performance. As the winner of the William Waite Concerto Competition, he was the first guitarist to perform as soloist with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. After graduating, Alexander received a Fulbright Scholarship to study early music in Basel, Switzerland. He has also studied in master classes in Siena, Italy, and at the Aspen Music Festival. In addition to performing, Alexander has worked as a teacher in Boston and New York, and in 2008 he was a guest teacher at the Second Annual Palestinian Music Festival in the West Bank.  


             Metropolis of Boston Philoptohos President Diane Miminos congratulated the recipients of the 2009 Award and announced  the Philoptochos 2009 contributions: $56,500 to the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center, $29,000 to the Philoxenia House, $10,000 to the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards (FOS) Program of the Metropolis, $5,000 to Project Bread which sponsors Boston’s Annual Walk for Hunger, $5,000 to the Greater Boston Food Bank, $5,000 to the national Philoptohos HIV.AIDS initiative, $2,500 to the HopeFound Shelter for Women, $2,500 to the Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center for Women, $2,500 to the Hellenic Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Canton, MA, and $2,500 to the Hellenic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Worcester, MA.


            George Behrakis, the chairman of the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center Committee apprised the gathering on the construction of the magnificent Retreat House at the Center which is nearing completion, while Michael Sintros the Director of the Center, offered a video presentation.  Also greeting the gathering was Fr. Christopher Foustoukos, the president of the New England Clergy Association and the pastor of the St. Vasilios Parish in Peabody, MA.


            Maria Contos, a member of the Metropolis Council was the Master of Ceremonies.  A young mother of two sons, Maria is a dedicated member of the Council.  The evening was very special to her because her mother-in-law, Katerina Contos of Wellesley, MA was one of the honorees.  Katerina Contos’ late husband Nicholas was the owner of the famous Boston waterfront restaurant, No Name, which the Contos family still owns and operates.

            The gathering was inspired by Metropolitan Methodios’ remarks which centered on the three celebrations of the day: The Feast of Saint Methodios,  All Saints Day, and Flag Day.  Said His Eminence:

            “This is the 23rd time that we gather as an ecclesial family to break bread together and to share fellowship. Tonight’s festive celebration coincides with three anniversaries or holidays:

            “First, we celebrate the Feast of my Patron Saint, St. Methodios, Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople.  We are all reminded of the goals of Christian Ministry which clergy and laity share.  As you know, Patriarch Methodios restored Holy Icons to  churches following over a century of iconoclasm.  In much the same way, our shared responsibility is to labor to restore the icon of God in our society.  Living as we do in a world mired in narcissism and nihilism, of cynicism and relativism, in an age of spiritual iconoclasm, we are all called to restore the icon of God on the iconostasion of the hearts, minds and souls of our fellow human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

            “Second, we commemorate All Saints Sunday, i.e. the Feast of all the Saints of our Church.  The Church celebrates all her known saints today, even though they each have their own special feast.  We celebrate as well the feasts of the saints who are not known, those who glory in anonymity, many of whom shed their blood to nourish the Tree of Christian Faith.  This great feast is always scheduled on the Sunday after Pentecost to remind us that sainthood is the normal flowering of every Christian.  We honor tonight the flowers which the earth brings forth in every age from the soil (which is) continuously refreshed by the streams of the Holy Spirit. 

            “Tonight, we gather from our communities throughout New England to thank God for our honorees who labor tirelessly to manifest God’s name in the world.  We gather to celebrate our unity.  To mentor and encourage  one another.  We gather to remember that the purpose of our communities is to preach the word of God.  To teach and sanctify the faithful.  Every Parish must be a modern day Jacob’s Well, a spiritual oasis where men and women may dialogue with Christ and quench their spiritual thirsts.  Every community must be a sycamore tree that the Zaccheus’ of our time may climb to have a clear view of the Savior.

            “For 23 years now our parishes gather to take pride in their achievements and to resolve to do even more to reach out to the unchurched.  Each year on the second Sunday in June, we gather to express our gratitude to the faithful who do so much for their local parishes and their Metropolis.  I refer to the elderly psalti who glorifies Christ by chanting without remuneration, the grandmother who brings her grandchildren to church as faithfully as she had brought her own sons and daughters, the lady in the Philoptochos Society who has dedicated her life to those who are homeless and hungry, forgotten and abused, to those in our midst who are innocent victims of greed and corruption.  In short, all those described by Jesus as “the least of our brethren.” 

            “We gather to honor the Sunday School teacher and the teacher in the Greek afternoon school who never ask for any recognition.  Every year we especially thank God for our dedicated Priests who work tirelessly to serve the faithful entrusted to their care.             

            “Recently, I visited the St. George Parish in Bangor, Maine, the Sts. Constantine & Helen Parishes in Andover and Webster, Massachusetts, and this morning the St. George Community in Lynn, Massachusetts.  In each of these parishes, I was impressed by the progress being achieved thanks to the visionary faith and dedicated efforts of clergy and laity alike.  Finally, I recently visited the St. George Community formerly of New Bedford, now located in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  It was such a joy to see all the stewards of the community led by Fr. Constantine Bebis, their Priest of 55 years, “work in one mind and one heart” to build a beautiful church and community center to glorify the name of Almighty God.

            “Third, and finally, tonight we celebrate a great American holiday.  Today is Flag Day.  I believe that it was God’s providence that our very first Awards Dinner coincided with Flag Day, just as it does tonight.  I am sure that all of us believe that Orthodoxy has a great role to play in American life.  We all share the conviction that it is our duty to undertake a new missionary effort in this nation.  To repeat St. Paul’s words, “We are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2,19).  While never ignoring those who were born in Greece, most of the faithful who comprise our parishes are second, third and fourth generation American born brethren.  Many of us are cradle Orthodox.  We were baptized in the Church.  But we must never forget that many (brethren) have come to our Church through marriage, and still more who are married to Orthodox partners who want to experience our faith, who want to quench their thirsts with the living waters of Orthodoxy.  Let us resolve to heed Christ’s command, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields (of America) for they are white already to harvest (John 4, 35).  Let us recall the theme of the last Biennial Clergy Laity Congress, “Gather my People to me.”  Archbishop Demetrios focused on the pressing need for Orthodoxy to reach out to the unchurched and to gather all in the welcoming embrace of our Faith.

            “Mike Sintros just concluded a wonderful presentation about our Retreat House which I hope will be a beacon of our Faith enlightening both those who are active in our Church, and opening its embrace to those who are unchurched.  Prayerfully, workshops and conferences will attract brethren of all ages to learn about their Faith and our priceless cultural Heritage.         

            “I conclude with the message from this morning’s Epistle reading: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race which is set before us looking to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of our Faith.” (Heb. 12, 1-2).  God bless you.”

            The 2010 Metropolis of Boston Ministry Awards Dinner will take place on Sunday, June 13.