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St. Paul Church Founders’ Weekend Celebrates 18 Years in Naples, Florida

Metropolitan Joseph addresses the communityMetropolitan Joseph addresses the communityParishioners of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Naples, Florida, are just now beginning to wake up from a dream ... that our newly enthroned Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America blessed us with his presence this past weekend!

Awaiting the arrival of His Eminence, Fr. Joseph and Subdeacon Rassem El Massih at the Hilton Hotel were His Grace, Bishop Antoun, Archpriest George and KH Nouhad Shalhoub, Archpriest Elia and KH Odette Shalhoub and Archdeacon David Nimer and our Council Chairman, Dr. David Thomas. The Greeters disbursed very quickly in order to allow an interval before the scheduled dinner that evening.

Metropolitan Joseph didn’t have a trumpet fanfare announcing his entrance into any event but rather chose to quietly appear in the company of His Grace Bishop Antoun, our pastor, Archpriest Joseph Shaheen, and visiting clergy! He smiled often, was gracious in his acknowledgments and filled with praise for the accomplishments made by our parish since his first visit. The Archdiocesan Board met in Naples in conjunction with the groundbreaking ceremony for our church in October of 2004. (Incidentally, where the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy took place in a “tent.”)

The Friday night crowd assembled at the Beach Club at the Quarry, was an intimate gathering of our Parish Family who wanted to be in the presence our new Metropolitan, prior to the Founders’ Banquet on Saturday night. This gathering generated more excitement for the events of the next two days.

Saturday morning, Metropolitan Joseph requested a meeting with our very strong and active Antiochian Women of St. Paul, under the leadership of Betty Kavooras. Betty introduced all the women to His Eminence and briefed him on some of the many activities the group has undertaken. Metropolitan Joseph, in his remarks, stated that St Paul in general should not be identified or referred to as “small” because quality is more meaningful than quantity. He encouraged the group in their efforts to continue working for the good of the parish and the Archdiocese.

St. Paul is proud to have four members of the Archdiocese Board in our parish. Following the morning meeting, Dr. David Bojrab (in absentia), George Darany, Dr. Elias Hebeka and George Nassor hosted a luncheon in honor of our Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Antoun, clergy and visiting Archdiocese Board Member, Dan Abraham. The spouses were also cordially received by the hosts!

The highlight of the Saturday evening Banquet at the Vanderbilt Country Club, was the anticipation of His Eminence’s Keynote address.  The attendees were first welcomed by the Chairperson for the weekend, Lorna Husson D’Addio, who then introduced the Master of Ceremonies, Dr. David Thomas. Dr. Thomas formally presented the guests before delivering his remarks in which he referred to the proud history and the sense of family created at St. Paul– made up of Orthodox Christians from all over North America, regardless of ethnic backgrounds or jurisdictions that are living year-round in Naples and our seasonal members. The efforts of this parish, he said, are due not only to our love for the Antiochian Orthodox Church but our love for our spiritual leader, Fr. Joseph Shaheen. His humility and humbleness are unmatched.

Mention was also made that our Diocesan Hierarch Bishop Antoun has been very important to us over the past 18 years. David Thomas was grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with Metropolitan Joseph. “He has the humility strength and love of our Archdiocese in his heart and mind and will take us to new levels as our Chief Shepard.”  Many Years to our Master!

Mrs. Freida Darany, one of our original founders and the first Chairperson of the Parish Council told about the strong determination to establish a place of worship here in Southwest Florida. The founders were all devout members of the faith who wanted to have an Antiochian Orthodox Church and were determined in their efforts. She stated her gratitude to all who made this possible!

Father Joseph introduced Metropolitan Joseph to his faithful, devoted and loving parishioners. He described their struggles before finding the land on which to build this beautiful church.  St. Paul is a true family of God  - showing love and concern for each other at all times. Fr. Joseph first met Metropolitan Joseph at the Patriarchate in 1991, where he was treated to a private tour of the Patriarchate. He was among the many who rejoiced in the announcement of the new Metropolitan elect and his introduction of Metropolitan began with a petition for health, strength and length of days for many years!

Metropolitan Joseph described himself as a servant – in the Antiochian Orthodox Church – he couldn’t find a better definition of himself. From here on in the ministry of the Metropolitan is to serve “all of you” and we gather here in His name and whether we are from a modest church or a cathedral we worship the same Prince and the same King. “To serve the church to the best of his ability with honesty and transparency is his pledge!” He delivered a beautiful and inspiring message to a spellbound audience.

Sunday morning, Orthros began at 8:45 AM. At the conclusion of the Doxology. Metropolitan Joseph ordained Peter D’Addio to the rank of Subdeacon, to serve in the Altar and to assist Father Joseph. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was a very beautiful service. The voices of the visiting clergy, Subdeacon Rassem, who traveled with the Metropolitan, the St. Paul Choir, directed by Laila Corey, the children serving in the altar all helped make this a service to remember for many years. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, four members of St. Paul were inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch: Peter Caleshu, Albert Castley, Lorna Husson D’Addio and Peter D’Addio.

A lovely brunch followed the Liturgy at the Vanderbilt Country Club, where everyone had the opportunity to circulate and visit.

A fitting ending to a most beautiful event in the life of our parish was the Blessing of the Cornerstone of our Church and the Forgiveness Vesper Service, which signified the beginning of Great Lent. There was not a dry eye in the Church as the Metropolitan and Clergy asked forgiveness of each other, and each person in attendance, first asking forgiveness of Metropolitan Joseph, serving clergy and each other.

We praise, we bless and we give thanks to our Metropolitan Joseph for his kindness, his grace and his gentleness. MANY YEARS TO OUR MASTER!

By Khourieh Diane Shaheen