Hundreds of children welcomed the head of World Orthodoxy
By Revekka Papadopoulou
“What we have seen and what we have heard this evening altogether was not only a wonderful Christian experience, it wasn’t only a very successful performance, it was a very sweet dream. It was rather a very sweet reality. We thank all of you and congratulate all of you”, said Patriarch Bartholomew addressing on Saturday evening the over 500 kids participating in the 33rd annual Sights and Sounds Festival held at Holy Trinity Church in Westfield, NJ.
It was quite a moving experience and a blessing for the Youth of New Jersey to welcome the Head of the Orthodox Church worldwide at the first stop of His fifth visit to the United States and share their talents with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offering His All Holiness and His entourage a small sample of their unique performance at the Sights and Sounds Festival.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived at Morristown Airport in New Jersey late in the afternoon accompanied by Metropolitans of Austria Michael, France Emmanuel and Ikoniou Theoliptos and Deacon Maximos. He was welcomed by Archbishop Demetrios, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, Col. Michael Smith (representing NJ Governor James McGreevy), Metropolitans: Nicholas of Amissos, Nicholas of Detroit, Alexios of Atlanta, Paisios of Tyanon, Bishops: Philotheos of Meloa, Dimitrios of Xanthos, Savvas of Troas, Gerasimos of Krateia, Andonios of Phasiane, Deacon Elpidoforos, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, Consuls General of Greece and Cyprus in New York, Katerina Boura and Martha Mavromati respectively, Archdiocesan Council Vice President, Michael Jaharis, National Philoptochos President, Georgia Skeadas and local clergy and laity.
His All Holiness and his entourage then visited the Holy Trinity Church in Westfield New Jersey where they were welcomed by the children participating in the 33rd annual Sights and Sounds Festival, Fr. Demetrios Antokas and the parish Council, parishioners and many of the New Jersey area clergy.
Greek singing group of St. Athanasios Church in Paramus performed four songs. The St. George Community in Clifton Group presented “I have a Dream”, the important speech of the 20th century by Dr. Martin Luther King and the dance groups from the Assumption of Holmdel and St. George Piscataway presented hellenic dances.
At the end, Holy Trinity GOYA president. presented His All Holiness with an album containing pictures and messages from all the Youth participating in the Sights and Sounds program. “We hope You open it from time to time, so You remember us and this day, just as we wll remember You”, she said.
Fr. Demetrios Antokas
“Your All Holiness, we want You to know that Your presence has uplifted all of our hearts and all of our souls”, said Fr. Demetrios Antokas, parish priest, welcoming Patriarch Bartholomew at His first visit to the community. “By making this visit the first stop of this trip to America, you have shown to us your unique love to our children. This is not something new for us. Your reputation and leadership has always shown us Your love for the Youth, the young of Constantinople and for Orthodox children throughout the world”, he added.
“Sights and Sounds is a program that offers to all of our youth an opportunity to develop, project and share their god-giving talents and gifts within a Christian setting among their peers. The program has been a blessing for GOYANS of our Greek – Orthodox parishes in New Jersey, because it has helped these young persons discover, develop and share talents, that may have otherwise remain hinted”, noted Fr. Antokas referring to the annual song-dance-theater and artwork competition.
Chairlady Anita Kartalopoulos characterized the Patriarch’s presence as a “good and perferct gift coming from above” that brought great joy to all. “This day that has been granted to us certainly has been amazing”, she noted.
Thousands of young people have participated in Sights and Sounds program since its inception. Hundreds of various competitions take place every year, including theater, dance, instrumental solo, monologue. The program was inspired by the Anderson and Morris family in 1972 and was further influenced by the vision of several dynamic people, the efforts of Peter and Elaine Markos, Irene Panagakos and the present chairman Stamatis and Anita Kartalopoulos who working under the guidance of dedicated clergy, along with youth advisors and the parents, they present every year a “real miracle”.
“My dream became a reality today to present you our spiritual Father and leader, the successor of the Apostles, the successor of St. Andrew, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew”, said Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey.