Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In Epiphany roles, youth connected to their faith

Dove bearer Ioana Bociu, 18, a Palm Harbor University senior, releases the dove during the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs.


Dove bearer Ioana Bociu, 18, a Palm Harbor University senior, releases the dove during the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs.

TARPON SPRINGS — Seminole's Justin Kouvaras, an 18-year-old senior at St. Petersburg High, hoped his final year would be his luckiest.

He was right next to the boy who retrieved the cross last year, he said.

He again did the necessary things in order to be a diver for the Epiphany cross. He submitted an application. He wrote an essay and attended classes. This would be Kouvaras' last attempt at the sacred cross. The yearly event is for boys ages 16, 17 and 18.

"By diving, I just feel more connected to my faith," Kouvaras said. "I believe that God has already chosen somebody to get the cross."

In 50 seconds, Pantelis "Pete" Kontodiakos, 17, popped out of the murky Spring Bayou with the cross in hand.

"Even if you don't touch the cross, you still get a blessing," Kouvaras said before the dive. "The water is blessed before you dive for the cross. It's all a blessing."

• • •

After 103 years, it shouldn't be hard for the Epiphany divers to find their way to Spring Bayou.

But a slight change in this year's route from the cathedral to the water left them a little confounded Tuesday.

The group kept going straight on Orange Street and missed their turn onto Safford Avenue.

"Wait! Wait! Come back!" other parade participants shouted.

The boys made a quick U-turn to catch the rest of the procession.

The mistake was an easy one to make, said diver Valantis Kouros, 17.

"It's ingrained because that's how we do it every year," he said.

• • •

Ronal Prodromitis was 11 years old when he and his three younger siblings were adopted from a Guatemalan orphanage and brought to Tarpon Springs.

Now 18, Prodromitis doesn't know much about his biological parents, but he admits that his life has been blessed.

Tuesday, the Tarpon Springs High junior waited eagerly outside of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. He too would be one of the 62 boys to dive for the cross. Because he is 18, it would be his last attempt too.

"It's probably the most nervous dive I've done so far," he said. "There are a lot of emotions and feelings."

Prodromitis participated as an altar boy during the Epiphany service before lending his black robe to someone else. He too would wear shorts and the white T-shirt with a blue cross on the front like the other divers.

It was a last chance for Ronal Prodromitis but a first for brother, Angel, 16. "It's just a blessing that we all get to be here and dive," Ronal Prodromitis said.

• • •

Ioana Bociu nervously stood in middle of the street holding onto a fragile white dove. Her hair would blow in her face and cover an eye but she couldn't let go of the dove. Someone would reach over and pin the hair back for her.

As the dove bearer for Tuesday's Epiphany ceremony, Bociu, 18, walked through the streets of Tarpon Springs with a pleasant smile. But she knew the importance of the task given to her as a result of being a good choir member and her faithfulness to the church.

Bociu was careful not to hurt the dove while at the same time ensuring that the bird, which represented the Holy Spirit's presence, made it to Spring Bayou's edge.

"Right now, it's very nerve-racking," Bociu said, with her hands cupped around the dove. "It's very fidgety and I don't want to squeeze it too tight."

At the appointed time, the Palm Harbor University senior released the dove and watched it sail into the blue sky.

Times staff writer Rita Farlow contributed to this report.

In Epiphany roles, youth connected to their faith 01/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 4:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]