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Character Produces Hope: Archon’s Annual Celebration
Amid the veritable sea of new and familiar faces in attendance at the 2017 Archon’s Weekend Gala was a remarkable success. The weekend generally focused on efforts to secure religious freedom for the Mother Church in Constantinople, to honor the humanitarian achievements of the 2017 honorees, to induct the 2017 Class of Archons, and to celebrate Archbishop Demetrios Geron’s 50 years of hierarchical service. Members from all over the country were in attendance for this special jubilee celebration.
A series of executive meetings and discussions were conducted at the Metropolitan Club, followed by the annual Archon Dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown which included very moving speeches in addition to the distribution of honors and awards – and concluding with the induction of the newest Archon members at Holy Trinity Cathedral the following Sunday.
In his speech at the Archon’s Dinner, Archbishop Demetrios touched on the strength of character that the 2017 honorees share, which enabled them to bring hope and support to others. “Character produces hope,” the Archbishop says as he recognizes the humanitarian actions of the 2017 Athenagoras Human Rights Award recipients, Mrs. Emilia Kamvisi and Mr. Efstratios Valiamos from the Greek island of Lesbos, who demonstrated outstanding and selfless virtue in saving and tending to the needs of countless refugees.
Mrs. Kamvisi and Mr. Valiamos are true embodiments of philotimo, a term that is often used but rarely seen at this level. In the case of Mr. Valiamos, an island fisherman, we see a Biblical tale come to life as he truly transforms to a “fisher of men” through this experience, saving and serving with humility and appreciation for all human life. A remarkable documentary video of our honorees’ joint efforts was shared at the dinner. In addition to the lovely award accepted by Mr. Valiamos at the annual Archon’s Dinner the Archon is awarding $50,000 to the people of Lesbos in the hopes that they will continue their humanitarian efforts. We asked Mr. Valiamos for his thoughts: “It was a big honor for me personally and for all of us and the island of Lesbos. We see that we are not alone, that there are people who care about the refugees and about helping our fellow human beings.”
Paulette Poulos, Executive Director of the Leaderhip 100 endowment initiative, offers her perspective on the 2017 honorees. “This year’s Archon Dinner was an emotional evening. It was an opportunity for all of us to witness firsthand the beautiful video and the sacrifices that these people [in Lesbos] made to help those in need because this is basically what it means to be a Christian – to give and to help – and these people did it so unwillingly and are so deserving of every honor. I thank God for them. This was one of the most moving dinners that I’ve ever attended and I’ve been to just about all of the Archon dinners, but to see firsthand how people came forward to help others and not to care for their own safety but to care for the safety of others first… this is an example that we should all follow. So Panta Axios and I pray for all of them.” Mrs. Poulos also shared the story of Lee Gounardis, who was also honored with a cross presented to him at the conclusion of the evening by Archbishop Demetrios. “It was so wonderful to see Lee Gounardis at the dinner. He used to organize all the Archon events, and then he suffered a stroke. He took care of every event, which is basically what Alex Pritsos does now. It was so amazing and so emotional to see him last night…a beautiful person.”
Dr. Zenon Christodoulou, Archon of the Order of St. Andrew, Owner of Fulcrum Consulting Group, Somerset County Democratic Vice Chair, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at William Paterson University, offers his thoughts about several of the event honorees: “This year’s Archon’s Weekend was a very special event that brought together Orthodox Christians from all over the world. We were honored to pay tribute to truly worthy individuals, from many different parts of society. John Catsimatidis represents the best of the business and philanthropic worlds, while never forgetting the essential value of Hellenism. Reince Priebus explained how Orthodox values have impacted his life and continue to make the nation a better place. But our most unexpected admiration belongs to Efstratios Valiamos, who represents the fishermen of Lesbos and the Greek Islands. These selfless islanders saved thousands of migrants as they fled the Civil War in Syria. They didn’t do it for glory, fame or riches. They did it for philotimo – that uniquely Greek concept that lives in the hearts of all Greeks and now in the lives of the thousands they saved and in the minds of the millions they inspired. AXIOS!”
John Manos, Archon Eutaxias Regional Commander-Metropolis of Chicago for the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate says, “I am so very humbled and honored to be able to serve this Great organization and to defend and promote our Most Holy Mother Church! The honorees this year, Emilia Kamvisi and Efstratios Valiamos, Nobel Peace Prize Nominees representing the People of Lesbos who helped thousands of Refugees, exemplify how humble and proud people can help change the lives of so many!” Mr. Manos also comments on the productivity of this year’s Archon Weekend: “It continually amazes me as to the amount of work and dedication that the Archon National Board and our Archons do, not only in the United States but around the world. Our New Boot Camp Committee introduced this year’s newly-vested Archons to the Order and what to expect in the coming years.”
Gus Pablecas, Archon Ostiarios Regional Commander for the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Metropolis of Chicago, said that “Archons travel from all over to attend and be part of the magnificent Archon Weekend, which culminates in the Investiture of new Archons. We travel to NYC to support and to be part of this important event under the leadership of our Archon National Commander, Dr. Anthony J Limberakis and the Archon National Council. We are honored, proud and humbled to be Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will continue to actively defend and support our beautiful Holy and Great Mother Church.”
Mr. Pablecas provides a lovely spiritual and historical account of the Archons as Defenders of the Faith: “We were once again honored to have witnessed the Investiture of 25 new Archons to the Ecumenical Patriarchate… truly a moving and awesome experience, as you can feel the mystical transformation of these faithful and worthy men who now join the ranks of the Archons. By taking the Affirmation, these men take on the tremendous responsibility and duty to defend and promote our Holy and Great Mother Church….[The Archons] were engaged in fighting for Religious Freedom and in doing so, have been successful in having 45 States adapt Freedom Resolutions, have secured a victory in the European Court of Human Rights, have hosted two Archon International Conferences of Religious Freedom, with a third planned for December 2017 in Washington DC, and much more. The Archons appeal to all the faithful to learn more about the issues facing our Patriarchate, especially the Five Key Issues.” For additional information in the Archons initiatives, visit www.archons.org.
Several local and national Hellenic Young Professionals were in attendance. Yiannis Metaxas, who recently graduated from Boston University and whose father, famed WCBS Newscaster John Metaxas has served as an Archon for many years, comments on the impact that the event has for young professionals: “I was invited tonight by Nektarios Antoniou, from the Byzantine Music School at the Cathedral and am also accompanying my father tonight, who is also a member of the St. Andrew Archons…. It’s a great pleasure to witness and I’m very pleased and fortunate to be here. It’s amazing that the Archons are able to generate a function like this to show support for the good cause of defending our religion, which is an important part of our heritage as all Greek Americans know through and through. It’s always terrific to see familiar faces, watching as everyone comes together with the understanding and sincere commitment to celebrate our faith. It’s a solemn weekend, but the dinner is also a fun event for all.” When asked how he sees young professionals participating towards the fulfilment of the Archon’s initiative for the preservation of our faith, Yiannis says, “As a young professional this is a good opportunity to network with like-minded people. One can only hope that with every new success in whatever industry one pursues one’s ability to impact these sorts of causes will enhance and increase with the years. It’s my hope to one day follow in the footsteps of my father and be that Archon representative who he has been as was his father before him. It would be an honor to continue that legacy, not only within my family, but also within the church community, which really is what it’s all about.”
The Archon assembly also honored Archbishop Demetrios with a special staff to commemorate his 50 years as a Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and has been an exemplary spiritual shepherd and inspiration to many throughout this time.