His Grace Bishop Antoun arrived in Orlando, Florida on Friday, January 7th, 2011, to Bless and visit the faithful of St. George Church . Upon arrival, His Grace asked Fr. John E. Hamatie, pastor of St. George’s, to please take him to visit Monk James of the Orthodox Community of Ss. Cosmas and Damian. The Community has a long-standing ministry of housing, helping and caring for homeless HIV-positive men in the Orlando area. Afterwards, His Grace and his dear sister Marie Shaleesh, who accompanied Sayidna for the week-end, drove to St. George’s to attend the weekly Church feeding of homeless people. His Grace was very much impressed with this ministry of St. George’s and with the feeding of over two hundred men, women and children that day.
That evening, Sayidna was hosted at a wonderful restaurant, Mimi’s Cafe, for dinner by the Parish Council of St. George’s. On Saturday, Sayidna met with the Sunday school children of the parish, as well as their superintendent and teachers. The children really enjoyed His Grace and he seemed to really enjoy them as well. After Great Vespers that evening, Sayidna was the guest of honor of the St. George Ladies Guild at a delicious dinner. After dinner, Sayidna spoke to the ladies and they had a very good repartee.
On Sunday, His Grace arrived early at St. George’s for the matins service followed by a beautiful Hierarchal Divine Liturgy. In his address to the congregation, Sayidna spoke of his joy in witnessing the weekly homeless feeding at St. George’s. Following the Divine Liturgy, Sayidna inducted four people into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch: Dr. Michael Elias; Kh. Monique Hamatie; John Kern; and Jim Perigord, who is also a member of the Community of Ss. Cosmas and Damian.
Following the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy, a delicious luncheon was served in the Mama +Alyce Hamatie Fellowship Hall, during which our weekly discussion table had as its topic: "What is a typical day of a bishop like?" Sayidna answered many questions about his typical day, but mostly summed up his days as helping His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, Primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese, as well as his continuous work of visiting and blessing the parishes of the Diocese of Miami and the Southeast, as well as at times other parishes of the archdiocese. During the discussion, we had our monthly birthday cake for all those born in January with Sayidna [his birthday is also his name's day, January 17th] being asked to blow out the candles.
That evening a number of the faithful of St. George’s took His Grace to dinner at the Ginza Japanese Steakhouse in Orlando. The week-end was even more meaningful to the faithful of St. George’s because last year His Grace had to cancel his trip to Orlando due to health issues. Sayidna and his dear sister Marie departed Orlando on Monday, January 10th to return home. It was a very special week-end for all of us: not only were we Blessed to have His Grace with us, but also his very charming and beautiful sister. May Almighty God grant them both many, many years, Amen.
In Christ’s service,
+ Father John E. Hamatie, Pastor