St Augustine Muslim Community Celebrates Eid al-Adha

First Coast.TV got a chance to see the St Augustine Muslim community celebrate Eid al-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”), and speak to Imam Anas Benjelloun about this holy Muslim day.

Eid al-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”) the “Sacrifice Feast”, is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year, and considered the holier of the two. It honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God’s command, before God then intervened sending his angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) to inform him that his sacrifice had already been accepted. The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.



Four hundred and fifty-one years ago, on September 8, 1565, Capitán-General Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés stepped ashore at Matanzas Bay and founded St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied, European city, port, and parish in the continental United States.

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, the annual, historical re-enactment of Menéndez’ landing and anniversary commemoration was presented by the volunteers of non-profit Florida Living History, Inc. ( ), at the traditional site of Menéndez’ landing – Mission Nombre de Dios ( ) – the Birthplace of America and Cradle of Christianity in the continental United States, in St. Augustine, Florida.

Holy Patron’s Day at Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, FL celebrated the 50th anniversary of their Patron Saint St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco. It was a special event for this church, the ceremony included Bishop Mitrophan, visiting from New York and the Northeast. The event also included an exhibition of the works of photo artist Ivan Zhuk. This event started on the evening of July 1st (Friday evening) and continued on Saturday July 2nd.

A Brief Bio on St John of Shanghai & San Francisco

St. John was born Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch in 1896 in the village of Adamovka in the Kharkov Governorate (in present-day southern Ukraine). He came from the same family of Serbian origin as that of St. John of Tobolsk, whom he was said to resemble in several respects. From 1907 to 1914 he attended Poltava Military School. He received a degree in law from Kharkov Imperial University in 1918. His family brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Russian Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of John after his saintly relative. Later that same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Rusiian Bishop Gabriel of Chelyabinsk. For several years afterward he worked as an instructor and tutor in Yugoslavia. He worked as a religious teacher in the Gymnasium of Velika Kikinda between 1925 and 1927. In 1929, Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church appointed him a teacher of the seminary in Bitola. The principal of the seminary was Nikolaj Velimirović. In 1934 he was ordained a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.

In Shanghai, Bishop John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church, he was elevated to archbishop by the Holy Synod of ROCOR in 1946.

When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop John travelled personally to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

In 1951 John was assigned to the archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.

In 1962 John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of Holy Virgin Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.

Deeply revering St. John of Kronstadt, John Maximovitch played an active role in preparation of his canonization.

 The Relics of St. John

On July 2, 1966 (June 19 on the Julian calendar), St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of all who Sorrow, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district. In 1994 he was solemnly glorified on the 28th anniversary of his death. His unembalmed relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral’s nave. His feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to July 2. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Greece (Church of Saint Anna in Katerini) Bulgaria, Romania, United States, Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.

Russian Orthodoxs Celebrate Easter In Northeast FL

Many Russian & Ukrainian Americans of the Russian Orthodox faith came as far as the state of Georgia and the Miami area to celebrate Easter. First Coast.TV got a chance to talk to some of the attendees to this event, to explain how they celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ. The ceremony was close to 3 hours long and truly a beautiful event of Christian worship and tradition.

Interfaith Service Lights the Soul

A community-wide Interfaith service took place at 6 pm on Wednesday, April 27 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, 38 Cathedral Place on the downtown plaza.

The service paid tribute to the ‘Golden Rule’, a core teaching shared by local faith groups. It celebrated St. Augustine as a diverse, loving and inclusive community, creating a unified response to a local billboard that unfairly labels Islam.

The one hour program featured uplifting music, prayer and commentary led by local clergy and parishioners ranging in age from teen to senior. All were welcomed to attend and the response was amazing.

All Are Welcome to a Community-Wide Interfaith Service

A community-wide Interfaith service has been scheduled for 6 pm on Wednesday, April 27 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, 38 Cathedral Place on the downtown plaza.

The service will pay tribute to the ‘Golden Rule’, a core teaching shared by local faith groups. It will celebrate St. Augustine as a diverse, loving and inclusive community, creating a unified response to a local billboard that unfairly labels Islam.

The one hour program will feature uplifting music, prayer and commentary led by local clergy and parishioners ranging in age from teen to senior. All are welcome to attend!

Russian Orthodox Church Gets Ready For Easter

Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world often celebrate Easter Sunday at a different time to the date set by many western churches.

Easter is the day of the resurrection of Christ. The holiday came to Russia from Byzantium together with Russia’s christening in the end of the 10th century. Since then, this Christian holiday has been widely celebrated all over Russia.

The day before Easter (April 30th) all churches hold night services and organize religious processions around churches. By that time, kulich, the traditional holiday baking symbolizing the body of Christ, had been already baked and Easter eggs painted. The morning (May 1st) starts from visiting neighbors and giving away Easter eggs. The common phrase you can hear on that day is: “Khristos voskres!” (Christ is risen!), which is to be followed by “Voistinu voskres” (Truly He is risen! This traditional greeting followed by hugging and triple kissing is called “kiss of peace”. And, of course, the old Russian tradition of Easter is to send and deliver gifts to poor families, relatives and strangers, orphanages, hospitals and prisons.

First Coast TV had the opportunity to talk to Father Ioann Voloshchuk about the upcoming celebration in Jacksonville by the Russian Orthodox Church on April 30th, and May 1st.

Prayer Service – Cities for Life

Cities for Life – Cities Against the Death Penalty

 On Monday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m., the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine joined six other dioceses in Florida for the International Day of “Cities for Life – Cities Against the Death Penalty.” The day is part of an international project spearheaded by the lay Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, based in Italy, to call attention to the need to abolish the death penalty worldwide.

 Each year, people in nearly 2,000 cities in more than 89 countries commemorate the day. This year, Cities for Life commemorated with an evening Prayer Service in St. Augustine at the Cathedral Basilica with Father Tom Willis presiding and Deacon Jason Roy as the homilist. Deacon Roy is the Florida Catholic Chaplain for inmates on Death Row and Father Willis is the pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

 Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of St. Augustine is calling on all Catholics to stop what they are doing Monday evening at 6:00 to “Pray for life, pray for mercy and seek reconciliation.”

 There are more than 1,988 cities in the world that have declared themselves “Cities for Life” and show their commitment to abolish the death penalty by lighting up cathedrals and other significant religious and civic landmarks – including the coliseum in Rome on November 30.


Thanksgiving Service of Gratitude

The St. Augustine interfaith community once again came together at San Sebastian Catholic Church for a (Thanksgiving) Service of Gratitude on Thursday, Nov. 19th, before the national holiday.  People from a variety of faith traditions (Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Center for Spiritual Living, Unitarians, etc.)  offered prayers, readings, music and more as a way to show that gratitude transcends the particular way different people approach the sacred.  Following the service there was a pot luck dinner so people could have a chance to share a meal with strangers who might of became friends.

A Prayer Wall on the Commons at St. Cyprian’s

The Prayer Wall was constructed on November 7th with over 150 “stones” each weighing between 25 and 60 lbs.

The Prayer Wall on the Commons at St. Cyprian’s” – inspired by the Western Wall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  The Western Wall is part of the foundation of the Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.  Devout Jews pray at the Western Wall and put prayers written on pieces of paper in the cracks between the large stones.  The Prayer Wall on the Commons at St. Cyprian’s will be available to people of all faiths (and those who have no formal connection to a faith tradition) to place their prayers, concerns, special thoughts, and blessing on pieces of paper in this sacred structure.