Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs dove bearer carries Epiphany honor in her hands

Ioana Bociu, 18, will release the dove at today’s Epiphany celebration. “I’m very honored to do it,” the Romanian immigrant says.


Ioana Bociu, 18, will release the dove at today’s Epiphany celebration. “I’m very honored to do it,” the Romanian immigrant says.

TARPON SPRINGS — A young woman has to be a lot of things to be chosen as a dove bearer for the annual Epiphany ceremony: unmarried, an active member of the church and academically and socially well-rounded.

Having steady, gentle hands isn't part of the criteria, but it's something most dove bearers fret over in the days and weeks leading up to the Orthodox Christian holiday.

This year's bearer knows just what it feels like.

"I'm kind of scared of letting the dove go," said Ioana Bociu, 18. "That's my primary fear, is something happening to the dove. That would be horrible."

Bociu will cradle a white dove — symbolizing the Holy Spirit's presence — in her hands today during the procession from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to the banks of Spring Bayou.

Once there, she'll release the dove before the Epiphany cross is tossed into the water. Sixty-five young men between the ages of 16 and 18 will leap into the bayou to retrieve the cross, an expression of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.

The dove bearer is selected each year from the choir at St. Nicholas, which hosts one of the largest Epiphany celebrations in the world.

Choir leader Katie Faklis said Bociu exemplifies the qualities the dove bearer should possess, including sincere piety.

"She is a very dedicated, devoted and devout young woman," Faklis said.

Bociu, who came to America with her family from Romania in 2000, said she has dreamed of being the dove bearer since she moved to Tarpon Springs five years ago.

"I'm very honored to do it," Bociu said.

Bociu is the first dove bearer who is not of Greek heritage, said the cathedral's Father Michael Eaccarino. A senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High School, she is president of the drama club and a member of the diving team. She plans to attend Florida State University, where she wants to major in international affairs.

She is the daughter of Father John and Liliana Bociu of Tarpon Springs. Father John Bociu, who was the previous assistant priest at St. Nicholas, is the spiritual leader of St. Stefanos Greek Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg.

Bociu, a member of the Levendia Greek dance troupe and the Young Adult Ministry at St. Nicholas, said she's hoping her experience holding chickens as a young girl will help her as she handles the delicate bird today.

"I think once I get there, I'll be fine," Bociu said. "It's just until that actual moment, I'm kind of freaking out."

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4162.

Tarpon Springs dove bearer carries Epiphany honor in her hands 01/05/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 3:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Mark Bowden's 'Hue 1968' a gripping, and timely, history


    More than 40 years after it ended, America's war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history.

     On Feb. 15, 1968, U.S. Marines carry out an assault on Dong Ba Tower in Hue, South Vietnam. In the battle for the tower, six men died and 50 were wounded.
  2. Florida education news: Athletic trainers, signing bonuses, student vaccinations and more


    SAFETY FIRST: Pasco County school district leaders decide to retain high school athletic trainers, which had been slated for elimination, amid pleas from …

  3. Rays morning after: Why Alex Cobb was out of the game and Alex Colome was in


    Alex Cobb obviously did a really good job pitching the first eight innings for the Rays on Tuesday.

  4. Police commander among 6 charged in deadly 1989 UK soccer deaths


    LONDON — British prosecutors charged six people Wednesday in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster where 96 soccer fans were crushed to death.

    Police, stewards and supporters tend and care for wounded supporters on the pitch at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, England, on April 15, 1989. British prosecutors on Wednesday June 28, 2017, are set to announce whether they plan to lay charges in the deaths of 96 people in the Hillsborough stadium crush _ one of Britain's worst-ever sporting disasters. [Associated Press]
  5. Supreme Court term ended much different than it began


    BC-US—Supreme Court, 1st Ld-Writethru,899

    AP Photo WX109

    People visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017, as justices issued their final rulings for the term, in Washington.  The Supreme Court began its term nine months ago with Merrick Garland nominated to the bench, Hillary Clinton favored to be the next president, and the court poised to be controlled by Democratic appointees for the first time in 50 years.  Things looked very different when the justices wrapped up their work this week. [Associated Press]