Located 30 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, is a small, yet strong, and very close-knit Greek community. This weekend, that very community is celebrating its 60 year milestone, since the establishment of the parish community of St
Panteleimon Greek Orthodox Church, with an open invitation for people to come together for a two-day festival.
The foundations of the community were first laid in 1959 by a group of Greek migrants hailing from the village of Siana on the island of Rhodes, born out of the passion they felt for the homeland they left behind, their families, and of course their faith. The first president of the St Panteleimon Association was also the first to migrate from Rhodes to Australia in 1928, the late Stamatis Diakogeorgiou.
In the years that followed, more migrants from Greece, as well as Cyprus settled in the area, coming together to form their own little Greece.
Today the parish community has grown to be a gem of the region, catering to the religious, educational and social needs of its parishioners, as well as taking care of the wider community with wonderful philanthropic work.
“Since 1959, when the first General Meeting was held, until the founding of the church in 1968, and despite any difficulties encountered by the respective Boards, the Community is growing and on the rise,” Community President Steven Karamoschos told Neos Kosmos.
Despite his young age, Mr Karamoschos has stepped up, successfully continuing the good work of his predecessors, which he says is all about hard work and cooperation.
“The Board of Directors, Philoptocho, Youth and Elderly divisions, as well as the teaching staff, all work together with unparalleled zeal, willingness, courage and determination for the best possible outcome. Because everyone feels that they have a common goal: the smooth operation and progress of our parish community,” the President explains.
Over the years highlights have included a visit from former Australian Prime Minister, the late Gough Whitlam in 1974, the Miss Dandenong pageants held to raise funds, theatre shows, soccer games, participation in Greek national day parades, as well as the community’s exceptional fundraising efforts in 2014, collecting $70,000 for research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It is also worth mentioning that as part of the Feed500 program started in September 2018, the Community’s youth, with the blessing of the parish priest, prepare and offer sandwiches once a month to the homeless and underprivileged in the Dandenong area.
Such acts of philanthropy are high on the Community’s agenda; in 1962 the Philoptocho Society was established. Led by President Eugenia Tzimas with the guidance of Father Anthony Krinas, the volunteer group offers assistance to hospitals, schools for students with disabilities, community fundraisers, and to underprivileged members of the community.
Mrs Tzimas, who has been volunteering for 40 years, also acknowledges all the ladies who have given their time over the years, and those too who have since passed.
Additionally, since 1982, the community has been hosting gatherings for over 150 elderly, offering them a healthy meal and a chance to socialise.
The parish also runs a Greek language school catering to over 170 third and fourth generation students, led by Principal Niki Farfara-Pashou with classes held on Mondays and Saturdays.
“Classes take place in a pleasant and safe environment. We have made our students feel proud of their grandparents. They take part in important activities, they learn Greek dances, they regularly attend church, and the VCE success rate is 100 per cent,” says Mr Karamoschos.
“The beauty of our school lies in the fact that the school facilities are on the grounds of both the Association and the Church, making it an ideal environment to preserve not only the Greek language but also the Greek Orthodox traditions,” he adds.
“I am convinced that our youth with the blessing of Father Krinas, support our church and our community, and will continue to do so for the sake of future generations.”
The 60 year anniversary celebrations are taking place at St Panteleimon Greek Orthodox Church (19 Herbert St, Dandenong VIC) on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July. Free to attend.
* Translated into English by Anastasia Tsirtsakis