Home Church & Religion St. Thomas Community in Cherry Hill Honors Greek Independence           

St. Thomas Community in Cherry Hill Honors Greek Independence           

CHERRY HILL, NJ – [Story & Photos by Steve Lambrou]

On March 25th, the honorable day that we celebrate our modern Greek nation’s independence from the yoke of the Ottoman occupation, and, of course, even more importantly, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the good news that she will bear our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Hellenic Afternoon School held its annual celebration in the Danielle Kousoulis Cultural Center.

The program commenced as the school of approximately 150 students marched and processed to the dais where they jointly sang the National Anthems of Greece and the United States. They then chanted the great hymn of the Kontakion of the Feast of the Annunciation, the “Tη Υπερμάχω” , which was written centuries ago as praise and thanksgiving for Our Holy Mother’s protection of the Great City of Constantinople.  

V. Rev. Archimandrite Avgoustinos Psomas, presiding priest of Saint Thomas then spoke to the children and all attendees enlightening all as to the significance of the day and explaining the reality of the conditions and situations of our ancestors who sacrificed it all for our current day freedoms that we enjoy and, unfortunately, at times take for granted.

The School Director, Margarita Vrettos spoke to the students about the history of the day followed by the President of the Township of Cherry Hill Council.

Thereafter, School Board President, Tasso Efstratiades gave a very inspiring message to the students and all attendees suggesting that the work of the heroes of 1821 is not over. He mentioned the need to free the rest of the areas that remained occupied by modern day Turkey, and to extinguish the continued flames of threats from the current Turkish government. He also gave credit to  Senator Menendez of New Jersey, a Philhellene, who is our greatest national advocate against the continued Turkish threats. Efstratiades noted that Senator Menendez as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee seeks to assure that Turkey does not obtain more weaponized aircraft from the United States that will continue to be used as a threat to Greek Sovereignty.

The program then continued with poems, songs, presentations, and theatrical productions by the students from the youngest Pre-Kindergarten class through the more senior Sixth grade graduating class.  The First Grade class taught by Mrs. Effie Lavdas, a class of approximately twenty students, recited the names of the Greek Heroes of 1821 and placed wreaths in their honor on a fabricated monument.  Likewise, the third grade class taught by Spiridoula Gerakious dedicated their poems and songs to the 75th Anniversary of the reunification of the Dodecanese Islands with motherland Greece.  The Fifth Grade taught by Glykeria Fountoglou presented an amazing theatrical production of the hidden/secret schools that illustrated to the student body the blessings of the state art of the school that Saint Thomas offers.  Lastly,  the Sixth Grade Class under the instruction of Mr. Anastasios Fakinos offered a special presentation on the history of the Hellenic Presidential Guard and Evzones Costumes.

The program concluded with Kefi as each of the grades presented a separate dance performance.  The children’s dancing was amazing and credit is given to the talented dance teacher, George Kleftogiannis.

The students were rewarded for their excellent performances with Lenten desserts and treats offered by the Saint Thomas PTO.  The hundreds of parents, grandparents, family and friends were also offered Lenten treats, which were enjoyed by all in a joyful and celebratory atmosphere with the chanting of ZHTO H ELLAS!