A historic building in the heart of America’s oldest city which once served as a place of refuge for this continent’s first Greek settlers is now providing a different kind of refuge to every priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
St. Photios National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida took the bold initiative to send a grey-colored, cloth face mask to more than 800 bishops, priests and assistant priests serving churches from Alaska to Florida and Arizona to Maine. The Shrine is an official institution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The project— to protect priests, as well as those they serve, is both symbolic and practical as states across the country begin their transitions to loosen up stay-at-home restrictions.
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the brainchild of the project and the hierarchical pastor of the Shrine wanted not only to provide the masks as protection to the nation’s clergy— but to also thank them for their dedication during what he called a “spiritually challenging” quarantine period.
“First and foremost we wanted to protect our clergy during these challenging times but most of all, we wanted to recognize their dedication and perseverance during these spiritually challenging times when they were forced to celebrate the holiest of days in empty churches and tend to the sick, sometimes risking their own lives in the process,” Bishop Demetrios told The Pappas Post.
The project was funded by “generous donors who support my various ministries and initiatives and repeatedly respond when called upon to support the Church,” the Bishop said.
The masks are triple-layered and washable and are charcoal colored so they blend with the dark robes worn by Greek Orthodox priests.
A note was sent along with the masks reminding each priest that the St. Photios National Shrine was founded to preserve the memory and legacy of the first Greek settlers who landed on the eastern shores of Florida in 1768 as indentured servants and eventually sought refuge at the building, known as the Avero House, in St. Augustine, after escaping from their servitude.
Featured photo: Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos delivers 800+ masks to the U.S. Post Office in St. Augustine for distribution to all corners of the United States.
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