ITHACA – Alderman Joseph Murtagh joined the local Greek American community and the faithful members of St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church to help commemorate the 198th anniversary of Greek Independence Day on Sunday, March 24th.
Mr. Murtagh – who represents the city’s 2nd ward, where the church is situated – brought an official proclamation on behalf of Mayor Svante Myrick and the Common Council to mark the occasion.
“St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, a historic parish situated in downtown Ithaca, helps preserve the ethnic and Christian identity of its founding members and their progeny by faithfully celebrating Greek Independence Day every year,” the proclamation states.
Mr. Murtagh also noted that the local Greek American community has been observing Greek Independence Day each year for more than 55 years, “and that in and of itself is pretty remarkable,” he said.
After more than 400 years under ruthless Turkish occupation, the Greeks declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821 – the same day the Greek Orthodox Church observes the Christian feast of the Annunciation – so the intense Greek desire for freedom was firmly rooted in the Christian faith.
Nick Lambrou, president of St. Catherine’s parish council, said Christianity and Ancient Greek ideals both helped fuel the fiery hearts of Greek warriors who fought in the Greek Revolution for more than eight brutal years, pointing out that Greek waterways were the world’s trade and information routes.
“The seas of Greece were basically the worldwide web of that time,” he explained, which is why the Ottoman Turks so grudgingly relinquished dominion over Greece, noting that the Greek peninsula’s high strategic value from ancient times still persists today.
After services, the congregation gathered in the parish hall for a procession with the Greek and American flags. The community sang the Greek and American national anthems together, as well as the church hymn for the Annunciation, and then enjoyed a Lenten brunch with Alderman Murtagh.
The brunch was sponsored by the Lambrou family, and hosted by the local Philoptochos (Friend of the Poor) Society, the church’s charitable women’s organization, which is the largest organized group of Christian women in the country.
Featured image: Steve Hoskins (choir director), Nick Lambrou (parish council president), Alderman Joseph Murtagh (2nd Ward), Carol Dentes-Wilhelm (president of the local Philoptochos chapter) and Rev. Stephen Gousios after Mr. Murtagh presented the community at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Ithaca with an official city proclamation for the 198th anniversary of Greek Independence Day on Sunday, March 24th. (Evan C. Lambrou)