Valentine’s weekend is usually a time for sweethearts to get together and celebrate their love for each other. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during this time, parishioners of St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church and members of the Archdiocese were celebrating love as well, but love for the Church in the form of stewardship. The ground breaking ceremonies for the new John and Hooda Germack Hall took place over this wonderful weekend with lots of events and fun.
The events started Friday night with a dinner welcoming His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP  where the plans and the model for the new hall were presented by Architect Alex Khoury to the Metropolitan, Parish Council, and a few Archdiocese Board of Trustees members. This event was hosted by Salim and Deborah Khoury at the Coral Ridge Yacht Club. There was a short question and answer session about the new hall which was very informative. At the same time, the weekend chairman, Richard Zakka, Spoke about the new St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church Home for Children Program, which will “serve a greater cause than ourselves”, to help orphaned children in need. He stated that “There are over 1 million homeless children in the United States and someone has to take the initiative of changing that number”. Mr. Zakka, who is spearheading this effort, asked “If we don’t do it, who will? If not now, then when?”
Saturday morning started off with the 1st annual St. Philip Church Golf Tournament at the Bonaventure Country Club in the town of Weston with many teams playing against each other and the elements. Many prizes were given away at the tournament. When asked about the event, Golf Tournament Director David Dorta said: “It was a successful tournament and everyone had fun."
While the Golf Tournament was being played, as it was sponsored by David and Terri Dorta, the Metropolitan was set to meet with the children of the Parish. His Eminence was greeted by the children with their smiles and love for their Father in Christ. Metropolitan PHILIP was asked many good questions by the children and he answered them all humbly and in a caring manner. He then talked to them and encouraged them to follow Christ.
When asked about what they thought regarding His Eminence’s visit with them, the children responded very positively. Peter Weber, 9 years old, said: “I was very excited to meet the Metropolitan and ask him questions”. Deanna Dorta, 16 years old, remarked: “It was eye opening, I learned a lot about the Church that I never knew and it was nice to learn it from such a wise and respected figure in our Church." The children and teens benefited profusely through the time that the Metropolitan spent with them helping them to grow spiritually.
Saturday night was capped off with the wonderful Valentine’s Day Formal Banquet and Dance at the lovely Bahia Mar Beach Resort on Ft. Lauderdale Beach. The Pastor of St. Philip Church, Father Nicholas Ozone, told a true, an interesting, and a thought provoking story about giving and stewardship. Fr. Nicholas stated that a little girl was sobbing as she stood near a small church. She was sobbing because she was being turned away from the church as the church was too small to accommodate many. "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus. Some two years later, this child laid dead in one of the poor apartment building and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn out and crumpled purse was found. Inside, there was 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school." Fr. Nicholas stated that if you would like to see those 57 cents at work and subsequent donations resulting from the 57 cents contribution, you should travel to Philadelphia, PA and see Temple University, the large Temple Church, the Good Samaritan Hospital, and the large Sunday School building associated with the church.
Fr. Nicholas spoke about His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP as a father in Christ who vehemently has supported St. Philip’s and presented him, to a long standing ovation by the crowds, as a man who needs no introduction. His Eminence spoke about giving to the church “not from your surplus, but from your needs” as is stated by St. Paul in I Corinthians 9:6-9: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver." His Eminence added that this is true of the late John and Hooda Germack who granted St. Philip’s $1,000,000 for the building of a new hall. Metropolitan PHILIP thanked all the parishioners, especially the group leaders: Richard Zakka, Weekend Chairman; Salim and Deborah Khoury, host of the Friday evening event; David and Terri Dorta, sponsors of the Golf Tournament; Diane Perez, Chairwoman of the Souvenir Journal; Lisa Khoury, chairwoman of the Sunday Luncheon; Workenesh Gulilat, Chairwoman of flower decorations, and attendees over the weekend who made it possible for St. Philip Church to exceed its fundraising expectations and goals. His Eminence handed out plaques, bearing his signature, to the Gold Sponsors: Drs. Walif and Carol Aji; David and Terri Dorta; Salim and Deborah Khoury; Esa and Mary Natour; Richard Von Houtman; Ernest A. Younes, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Zakka. Also Silver Sponsors Deacon Basil and Barbara Ritchie; Charles and Paola Weber, and Adel Younes were recognized for their generosity with their own plaques by the Metropolitan.
The night went on after the dinner with dancing to the songs of the Michael Anthony Orchestra and special guest appearances by recording artist Milky Jean, who sang gorgeously. Lots of door prizes were given away and the evening was emceed by Richard Zakka who was an entertaining and dynamic host.
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning leading up to the groundbreaking ceremony was breathtaking and full of wondrous traditions, angelic chanting, and even a surprise. After Holy Communion, Father Nicholas, the Pastor of the Church, was brought before His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, and was elevated to the dignity of Archimandrite with cheers of “Axios”, “He is worthy”, being shouted and chanted by all. His Eminence stated that this elevation is not only an honor to Fr. Nicholas, but also and honor to St. Philip’s. Then shortly thereafter, five new members were inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius: Nicholas Khoury, Life Member; Jordan Zakka, Knight; Luke Zakka, Knight; Subdeacon David Dorta Jr., Knight; and Cory Dorta, Knight. All were inducted into the Order by the Metropolitan in the presence of the President of the Order of St. Ignatius for the Diocese of Miami, Hikmat Saoud, and President of the Order of St. Ignatius for the Archdiocese, Daniel Abraham. After the faithful received their blessing from the newly elevated Right Reverend Father Nicholas, they exited the church to attend the actual groundbreaking ceremony of the New John and Hooda Germack Hall. His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP gave his blessing and prayed over the new site, breaking ground with golden shovels in hand, together with The Right Reverend Father Nicholas Ozone, The Very Reverend Father Joseph Rahal, The Very Reverend Father Elia Shalhoub and the Mayor of the Town of Davie, Judy Paul. Then the children of the Parish, with their small sand shovels in hand, broke ground on the site along with many of the parishioners and attendees, while His Eminence sprinkled Holy Water blessing the site and the people therein.
Afterwards everyone convened in the hall for a luncheon and fellowship, enjoying their time together and recounting all of the wonderful events and memories from the weekend, while beautiful music from a string trio filled the hall air almost as a prelude of what is to come.
In retrospect the weekend was a complete success! Thanks to all of those who worked hard and who gave their time, talent, and donations of love in order to help St. Philip Church grow. Being good stewards, as those who have contributed in every way have been, spell a bright future for Orthodoxy in South Florida. Following the Christian example set by the wonderful widow Hooda Germack, it continues on today in all of those who supported this weekend of events. Like St. Peter said “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (I Peter 4:10)
Sadly, His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN fell ill and was not able to make it to the events over the weekend, but his presence was felt in spirit. He has since made a full recovery and is doing very well.