On January 11, 2024, the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley, along with the Pan Icarian Brotherhood’s Philadelphia Chapter “Atheras,” organized a dinner and this year’s vasilopita event for all churches and organizations in the Delaware Valley. The event took place at the recently renovated Pan Icarian Brotherhood’s “Atheras Center” in Pennsauken, NJ, and was attended by over 100 people from each church and society of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley, from Atlantic City to Valley Forge.

The highlight of the evening was the historic first visit of Metropolitan Apostolos of New Jersey to the Federation’s first calendar event of 2024, as well as his first visit to the Atheras Center.

Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley’s Hellenic American Federation President Georgia Chlectcos and local Icarian Society President Kaliope Kokolis greeted Metropolitan Apostolos. A large multicolored sign at the front door of the Center welcomed His Eminence to the Philadelphia community.

Metropolitan Apostolos, assisted by the Chancellor, Father Nektarios of Piscataway, and the entire clergy of the Delaware Valley, conducted an Agiasmos service. The head table had two icons, one of Saint Marina, the patron Saint of the Island of Ikaria, as a tribute to the hosts, and the other of Saint Thomas, in honor of the local community’s church in neighboring Cherry Hill, NJ. The ceremony was heartfelt, and His Eminence blessed each and every participant, offering his thoughts, hopes, and blessings to the Federation’s participants for a healthy and happy 2024.

The Mayor of Pennsauken Township, Marco DiBattista, and his wife, Lemonia, were also present. The newly installed Mayor welcomed His Eminence to Pennsauken Township and noted that he was a member of Saint Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, having married Lemonia Frangos and that they are also members of the Pan Icarian Brotherhood. Then, the Philadelphia Federation members and clergy were treated to an official proclamation presented by Mayor DiBattista in honor of the Metropolitan’s historic first visit.

Following dinner, Demetrios Rozanitis, the AHEPA Supreme Governor of Region 3, delivered a welcoming speech to His Eminence, the Federation President, and the attendees. He discussed recent contributions to various notable projects, including Superstorm Sandy and the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas at the World Trade Center in the Philadelphia area. He also extended his support for any upcoming projects of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey.

George Horiates gave an engaging presentation on the history of the local Greek and Icarian communities. On behalf of the Icarian Society, he presented welcoming gifts, including products from Ikaria and locally sourced items, along with commemorative gifts from the Lacas Coffee Company. Mr. Horiates gifted a flag that had flown over one of the nation’s great monuments, the Battleship New Jersey, which is now docked as a museum in Camden, NJ. The flag case was made from the Battleship’s storied teak decking. Additionally, he presented the Metropolitan with a special commemorative clock encased in the Battleship’s World War II teak wood. He also added, “The history of the Greek American role in this region’s history is significant, Your Eminence. We warmly welcome you on this historic visit and wish you and the Metropolis well in your future endeavors with the Federation and all organizations as full participants.”

This article was first published on Cosmos Philly.