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"A Tribute of Love": October 22-26, 2014

"...Put on LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:14

In that perfect harmony rooted in love, Saint George Cathedral in Coral Gables, Florida joyfully and gratefully offered "A Tribute of Love" during the historic and memorable weekend of October 22-26, 2014.

Saint George Cathedral was honored to host His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, who presided over the Fall 2014 Archdiocese meetings of the Bishops, Board of Trustees, the Order of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and the Antiochian Village Council.
This historic meeting was the first for His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph as Chief Shepherd and newly-elected Metropolitan. The parish was so grateful to have had the opportunity to host this monumental event.

His Eminence arrived at Miami International Airport around noon on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, where a score of Clergy and Council Members greeted him with chants, asking for his blessing. Sayidna JOSEPH was escorted to the Cathedral where he was awaited by many other Cathedral members, local Clergy from the Archdiocese as well as local Clergy from other Orthodox jurisdictions, local Eastern Rite Clergy, as well as the Mayors of the cities of Coral Gables and Miami and other local government officials. It was a beautiful and exciting feeling when the Church bells began to ring in anticipation of the arrival of his motorcade.

All the Clergy led by His Grace Bishop ANTOUN, the Council members, Antiochian Women, and faithful lined up from the Altar to the narthex to greet his Eminence. After his entrance, midday prayers were said and all convened in the newly-renovated Cathedral Hall for a grand Welcome Luncheon prepared by the Antiochian Women led by Maysoon Mobassaleh. There were about 60 people in attendance, mostly clergy and local government officials. During luncheon, the Mayors of the cities of Coral Gables and Miami presented His Eminence with a "Proclamation of the City" naming October 22, 2014, "Metropolitan JOSEPH Day!"

That Wednesday evening, the Cathedral Council and the Antiochian Women Officers hosted a private dinner to welcome His Eminence. Dr. Sabah Shalhub graciously sponsored the dinner, which was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Coconut Grove. The evening was special and warm as it was a small gathering giving many a chance to meet and welcome His Eminence before the events of the week unfolded.

Even though the weather was rainy days before, Thursday was a beautiful day for a boat ride. Council member, Yamil Zacur, and his lovely wife and Weekend Coordinator, Salma, warmly hosted a beautiful boat ride and tour around the islands of Miami Bay, followed by a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, also on an island! His Eminence had an opportunity to enjoy a relaxed event for the busy days ahead. All the while, Nasser Soufia and his committee shuttled Bishops and Trustees from the airport to the hotel, welcoming them personally to the Saint George Cathedral Family.

On Thursday evening, the scheduled meetings began lasting until Saturday afternoon. This included meetings of the Antiochian Village Council, the Bishops of the Archdiocese, the Order of Saint Ignatius Governing Council, and the Board of Trustees. May God bless them all for their commitment to this Antiochian Archdiocese! They deliberated on many subjects, all for the spiritual well-being of future generations. His Eminence delivered a powerful message, outlining his vision for this new chapter in the history of this Archdiocese. All the meetings ended with prayers and offerings of thanks to God, from Whom all good things come.

All throughout, the Antiochian Women of Saint George Cathedral were gracious hostesses, offering coffee and homemade Middle Eastern sweets for the attendees to enjoy during their meetings.

The Antiochian Women were doubly blessed on Saturday afternoon when His Eminence blessed the newly-renovated Cathedral Hall, which was renovated entirely by the hard work of the Antiochian Women in the past several months. His Eminence presided at the Blessing and the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, witnessed by all the Venerable Hierarchs, visiting Clergy, the Board of Trustees, and the faithful of the Cathedral. After the Blessing and Ceremony, the Great Vespers Service was beautifully sung and celebrated.

Evident by all attendees looking so handsome with the men in their tuxedos and the women in their gowns, the special event of the evening, a black tie social and the most anticipated event of the year, "The Love Ball," took place in the Cathedral Hall after the service. Homemade Maa'moul cookies in the shape of a heart baked by the Cathedral Antiochian Women awaited all the guests at their seats. With special thanks to "The Love Ball" Chairlady, Andrea Abu-Akel and her committee, Saint George Cathedral hosted a very special evening anticipated for some time by all the distinguished guests.

During this elegant evening, the Cathedral Dean, Rev. Fr. Fouad Saba, officially welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH, presenting him with an engraved Engolpion asking His Eminence to pray for his spiritual children at the Cathedral!

The evening also included honoring His Grace Bishop ANTOUN and offering "A Tribute of Love" to Our Beloved Father and Metropolitan PHILIP of Thrice-Blessed Memory with a brief video presentation and a special oil painting of the late Metropolitan, which will be gifted to the Antiochian Heritage Museum. Present was the family of Metropolitan PHILIP and a special Saint George Cathedral Medal of Merit was presented in memoriam.

Several members of the Cathedral were also recognized for their dedication.
The Cathedral Council President, Michel Nasr, was a recipient of 'The Antonian Silver Medal of Merit,' bestowed upon him by His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH. The evening concluded with live entertainment, enjoyed by all present in this celebration of Love!

The Sunday services were celebrated with joy, presided over by His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH, assisted by the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese, and several Priests and Deacons. As it was 'SOYO Month,' the teens ushered and read the Epistle. The liturgy was followed by Sayidna blessing Archdeacon David and Patricia Nimer on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Immediately afterwards, the induction of new Members into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch took place.

"The Stewards Luncheon," was magnificent, as it was in honor of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, the 'stewards' of this Archdiocese of North America. The committee, chaired by Tony Zammar, did a fabulous job. Humble gifts were presented to the Hieararchs, Clergy, and the Board of Trustees and their spouses. This was an opportunity and a very modest way to say 'thank you' and 'welcome' to their home, Saint George Cathedral!

This extraordinary weekend concluded with a special event unlike any other: The Officers of the Fellowship of Saint John the Divine and the Officers of SOYO hosted His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH for a private dinner, where they asked questions of His Eminence and received candid responses to some very important questions regarding the youth and the role they hold in the life of the Church.

There are words, but insufficient they are, to truly express appreciation and gratitude to the Weekend Coordinator, Salma Zacur, and the Weekend Planning Committee for an excellent achievement! This weekend would have never been the success it was without her hard work, dedication, and leadership.

May God bless His Grace Bishop ANTOUN and Rev. Father Fouad Saba and keep them in the midst of this Cathedral and may God grant them many, many, years. Their leadership and commitment are above reproach. Thank you!

His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH returned home to New York on Monday morning, ready to continue working and being, what he calls himself, a 'servant.'

Please pray for the Saint George Cathedral community as preparations continue for the 2017 Archdiocese Convention and also pray for His Eminence as he begins his new journey as the spiritual leader and Shepherd in North America. May God grant him many years! Axios! Fr. Saba and the faithful delegates travelling to Brooklyn in December are looking forward to his Enthronement which will be held December 5-7 at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York and presided over by His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X! Hope to see you there!

Finally, a message which sums up this historic weekend and surpasses all other thoughts. A message from the Apostle Paul:

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these, put on LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
(Colossians 3:12-14)

Respectfully Submitted by Zena Bardawil-Farah
On Behalf of Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Coral Gables, Florida, and
The Weekend Planning Committee

* A complete photo gallery of all the events of the weekend may be viewed on the Cathedral Website.

* In addition, a special video presentation of "A Tribute of Love" to Metropolitan PHILIP of Thrice-Blessed Memory may viewed on the Cathedral Website.