June 4, 2016
Coconut Creek, FL: Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan visits St. Luke the
Blessed Surgeon Church at Paideia Classical Academy
Monday, April 18, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, vicar of the Eastern
American Diocese, visited
St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon Mission at
Paideia Classical Academy
in Coconut Creek, FL, on his way to Haiti on an archpastoral visit.
Last year, His Grace visited the parish with the Kursk Root Icon of
the Mother of God. This year, Bishop Nicholas’ visit coincided with
the visitation to the school and church of the wonderworking and
myrrh-streaming Icon of the Mother of God "Softener of Evil Hearts,"
visiting from Russia.
"Every icon is wonderworking, and is in itself a window into the
Heavenly tabernacles," said Bishop Nicholas. "But this icon, in
addition to this, is also myrrh-streaming. We see droplets of myrrh
form on the glass and on the icon itself, and this is a great
People today yearn for a sign, although I cannot say if this is a
good sign or something else. But I can say for certain that God
reveals unto us His compassion, commiserating and co-suffering with
us, and so gives us this myrrh visibly, so that we might see it,
sense it, so that we can touch it and, as we see this holy myrrh,
faith might be confirmed within us, and we might understand that we
are walking the true path and living in a Christian manner."
Grace noted that the icon had come from Moscow and had already
traveled throughout the entire Eastern American Diocese, in order to
offer spiritual support to the clergy and faithful in the days of
Bishop Nicholas thanked the icon’s guardian, Sergey Fomin – who this
year (at 50 days) is carrying out the longest yet visitation of the
icon to the churches and monasteries of the Eastern American Diocese
– for his devotion and love for the Orthodox Christians in America.
Bishop Nicholas led a moleben and akathist to the Most Holy
Theotokos before her icon "Softener of Evil Hearts," co-served by
parish rector Priest Demetrio Romeo, Archpriest Daniel McKenzie
(rector of St. Vladimir Church in Miami), and local clergy. He
reminded the gathered faithful of the need to remain steadfast in
the remaining days of Great Lent, in order to worthily greet
Christ’s Glorious Resurrection.
Also praying at the moleben were local clergy of various
jurisdictions, school administrators, teachers, and students, and
faithful from neighboring cities. The choir sang prayerfully under
the direction of Katherine Lukianov. Upon completion of the moleben,
Bishop Nicholas anointed everyone with myrrh from the holy image,
and met with the school’s administrators.
Paola Weber, founder and current principal of Paideia Classical
Academy, explains that the funds needed to open the school were
gathered through donations over the course of thirty years by the
Spanish-language Holy Apostles Mission (now an Orthodox Church in
Miami under ROCOR), and is currently the only Orthodox comprehensive
school in Florida. The Academy is open to all students, and is
comprised of a pre-school, kindergarten, and grades 1-12.
The school’s motto is based on the words of the Holy Apostle Paul in
his epistle to the Ephesians: "Bring them [children] up in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). It is namely in this
epistle that the holy apostle uses the Greek word "paideia"
to mean the union of education and upbringing. So too here, the most
important thing in the educational and rearing process is bringing
up the students in the virtues, in love for beauty, and in directing
them toward good deeds.
"The goal of our school," continues Dr. Weber, "is the development
of the children’s mind through a classical education; the body,
through clean living, an organic diet, physical exercise, classical
dancing; and the soul, through the Orthodox Faith. Once a week, the
children pray at Liturgy, which is celebrated by the rector of St.
Luke’s Mission Priest Demetrio Romeo, who also teaches at the
school. If a major feast falls on a weekday, when we serve Liturgy
then, as well."
of various nationalities (including Russians) and socioeconomic
backgrounds attend the school. Today, roughly fifty percent of the
students are Orthodox, while the rest represent various other
Christian confessions. Teachers include Orthodox Serbs, Romanians,
Greeks, Americans, Moldovans, Ukrainians, German-Americans,
Cuban-Americans, and other Latinos.
"Classes in our school are taught in English. As in any classical
educational institution, our students study three foreign languages:
Greek and Latin, as well as – in addition to English – Spanish,
widely spoken both in our state and around the country. The youngest
students start with Spanish, then begin Greek in kindergarten, and
start studying Latin in third grade. The classical languages open up
a path for them both to other languages and to various professions:
engineering, medicine, law, and various artistic fields." Paola
herself has seven children, six of whom study at the Academy.
After studies, the children take ballroom dancing lessons, play on
the piano or violin, and play soccer. The wonderfully equipped,
10-acre school grounds include a playground, a garden where organic
vegetables are grown, and a butterfly garden, where you will
undoubtedly be informed that Coconut Creek is known as the
"Butterfly Capital of the World."
The Church of the Holy Hierarch Luke of Simferopol, the Surgeon, is
the only church in the United States dedicated to the memory of this
saint. The church also contains an icon with a piece of the saint’s
"The church and the priest himself are a great blessing for our
school," says Paola. The classes all have icons, and the children
pray before the start of lessons, at lunch, and at the end of the
"Originally, the territory on which the school complex was built was
named for the Holy Apostle & Evangelist Luke. We wanted to keep his
name, his prayerful intercession, and his blessing on our school.
And soon we received a blessing from Metropolitan Hilarion to
consecrate our church in honor of the Holy Hierarch Luke, who was
named for the Holy Apostle Luke. Now we have two intercessors, both
of whom were physicians."
"The decision to name our church in honor of St. Luke took place on
the very day that I served my first Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral
of the Sign in New York City," explains Fr. Demetrio Romeo. "The
Liturgy was taking place in the presence of the Kursk Root Icon of
the Mother of God, and that day, several of the servers all
simultaneously had the idea to name our church in honor of St. Luke
of Simferopol. With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, that was
what we named our church. When I arrived and served the first
Liturgy here, it was on March 18, 2013. As it turns out, it was that
same day in 1996 when the holy relics of Archbishop Luke
(Voino-Yasenetsky) were uncovered.
Demetrio is Italian, raised in Canada. He received Orthodoxy in
Florida in 2007; a year later, his wife Hannah converted, as well,
followed by their daughter. In 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion of
Eastern America & New York ordained him to the diaconate. Thus began
for Fr. Demetrio his service at St. Vladimir Church in Miami,
alongside the rector of that parish, Archpriest Daniel McKenzie.
Three years later, he was ordained a priest, and from that time has
been serving in the church at the Classical Academy in Coconut
"Our parish began with only handful of parishioners, but now has 45
members," says Fr. Demetrio. "The services are performed in the
Russian tradition, primarily in English, with some Spanish,
Romanian, and Slavonic exclamations and hymns added, depending on
who has come to church. Now
Services are held on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, and also
on all major feasts if these take place during the week. During the
week, a Liturgy and moleben to St. Luke are served specially for our
we only just started, the number of non-Orthodox students was around
ninety percent. Now, many students and their families have converted
to Orthodoxy, and the number of Orthodox students has reached fifty
percent. In addition to the divine services, we take the older
children on pilgrimage trips: we have visited Jordanville, and
toward the end of Great Lent hope to visit Panagia Vlahernon Greek
Monastery in Ocala."
With every passing year, the number of students in the school grows,
and next year will reach 75. This will be a full K-12 school, from
which students can matriculate directly at institutions of higher
learning. And the school will continue to adhere in every way to the
testament of the Holy Apostle Paul to "Bring the children up in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord;" for, as the Wise Solomon says
in his Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when
he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese