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Icon makes visit to Greek Orthodox church

WARREN — It was almost standing-room only as community members gathered this past week to view and pray to the Icon of Saint Paraskevi, which made a stop at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and Windsor House in Champion.

Kitsa Aivazis of Warren said the miracle-working icon made its pilgrimage to Warren from an island in Greece, where she and many other church members’ families are from.

“It is a great honor for the icon to be here. It is more than just a selection process for the churches to have a visit from the icon,” Aivazis said.

St. Demetrios Church was one of 19 selected in the eastern part of the United States to have a visit. Others were in other parts of Ohio and in Michigan, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

She said the icon was taken to Windsor House in Champion, where her mother, Irene Vardavas, and aunt, Paraskevi Zanetakis, are residents, had the opportunity to see it.

“My mother was crying when she was able to see the icon. We couldn’t get tickets to go see it in Greece, so we were able to bring the icon here,” she said.

The large religious artifact was brought to Trumbull County by Pater Zacharias Koutellarou-Mavroudis of the St. Paraskevi and Skiathi Monastery. The icon is from St. Paraskevi Church on the island of Rhodes Greece in the village of Kattavia.

“This is the church where the icon is from and where my mother and aunt prayed to when they lived in Greece,” Aivazis said.

She said the icon, which is more than 150 years old, was taken to local homes for blessings and then cemeteries in Trumbull County for special services. The icon has been the cause of numerous miracles and continues to be a source of inspiration for countless faithful Orthodox Christians, she said.

Irene Culetsu of Warren said her late father is from the village where the icon is from. Culetsu said her mother, Panaiota Magiassos, also remembered the icon.

“This is a healing icon and why it is so important,” Culetsu said.

Brenda Zannetakis of Lordstown said it meant a lot for her family to get to see the icon including her mother-in-law, Paraskevi Zanetakis.

“It was nice the two sisters at Windsor House were able to have it brought to them there,” she said.

Dino Vardavas said his mother, Irene Vardavas, said they wanted to surprise the two women, who were both in tears.

“They were both so happy to see the icon again,” he said.

The Rev. Constantine Valantasis, pastor of St. Demetrios, said, “Father Zacharias was going to be passing through the area and we inquired if we could be one of the churches on his stops. It is a special honor and blessing to have it brought here. He graciously agreed to bring the icon to presented to the faithful for veneration.”

People at the church one by one came forward to say prayers and venerate and kiss the icon to show an expression of their love and appreciation.

Valantasis said except for the two women at Windsor House, who viewed the icon before, it is the first time people who attended the special mass have seen it.

The pilgrimage was sponsored by the U.S.-based Saint Paraskevi Kattavian Society, which was established in 1920.