LITCHFIELD, Conn. (Photos: Dimitrios Panagos)
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America was received with much enthusiasm, joy and love; and repeated exclamations of AXIOS, as he made his first Archpastoral visit yesterday, July 11, 2019, to Camp Saint Paul, the Direct Archdiocesan District’s youth camp located in Connecticut’s scenic Berkshire Mountains.
Camp Saint Paul, is in its fifteenth year of operation, is growing every year and hosts almost 700 campers during its total five weeks of sessions.
Campers, counselors, all the staff and serving clergy led by Fr. Elias Villis, welcomed enthusiastically their new Archbishop with cheers and excitement, characteristic of a youthful crowd, at the picturesque campsite next to Bantam Lake, the largest lake in Connecticut.
Following the His Eminence’s arrival, they all gathered under the tent, which serves as the chapel for the camp. They chanted the apolytikia of the Camp and the Virgin Mary followed by the Fimi of the Archbishop. The Archbishop said he was overjoyed to be with the campers and spend the day with them in such a beautiful natural setting in harmony with the faith of the Orthodox Church. His Eminence gave his blessing to all the campers and staff and a small symbolic gift.
“I am very proud of being here in our Camp Saint Paul of the Archdiocese,” said the Archbishop describing it as “a place that can build friendships of the kind that last forever,” and added: “this camp offers a possibility to teach children the doctrines and the practice of our orthodox faith in a lasting and deeper way. We find what children, through doing what they like, through their experiences, their games, through enjoying nature, they build faith in a lasting way.”
In an idyllic lakefront setting, under the shade of the trees, Archbishop Elpidophoros had a barbecued lunch with the campers and staff and then took a group photo with everyone. He also had the opportunity to enjoy some leisure and play time with the children and observe them dancing and singing.
Camp St. Paul, the camping youth ministry of the Direct Archdiocesan District, functions under the guidance of His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese; also present at the the Archbishop’s visit was His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia. The camp runs under the care of camp director Fr. Elias Villis and with the support of the district’ s Youth Director, Fr. Panagiotis Papazafiropoulos. Also present, were Fr. Nicholas Dassouras, Fr. Peter Orfanakos, Fr. George Livaditis and Deacon Eleftherios Constantine.
The success of Camp Saint Paul is only paralleled by the success of the other camping programs of the Metropolises, across the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. They all offer an opportunity to our young people for physical wellness and spiritual edification. The camp provides them with all that is necessary to stay close to the Church and the Faith. It is a great service and ministry to the youth, building and cultivating their Orthodox and Hellenic character.