As the sun set on Daytona Beach, hymns began inside the Greek Orthodox Church just a few blocks from the ocean. The faithful packed St. Demetrios on Halifax Avenue, to be in the presence of two nuns, and the miraculous icon they brought from Greece, Panagia Ipseni.
“Every miracle working icon means a lot,” said Jelena Stojanovic, 29, who traveled with a group of Serbian Orthodox Christians to venerate the 18th century icon.
“I didn’t read a lot about it before, but I was impressed when I saw it. It was very unusual, I’ve never seen one like that before,” she said.
Stojanovic is receiving treatments at a paralysis recovery facility in central Florida, after a car accident in Serbia left her a quadriplegic.
“It gives us strength and verifies our faith when you come across holy relics and icons,” she said.
Gerondissa Mariam and Sister Kassiani have already taken the Holy icon through Colorado, and eight churches in Florida before traveling to New York, New Jersey and Baltimore.
Over 150 years ago, the Church’s newly canonized Saint Meletios was directed by Panagia herself, “Come you will find my icon and I want you to build a monastery here,” and a ray of brilliant light took him to the root of an olive tree in the rolling hills of Rhodes near the village of Lardos.
St. Meletios discovered the icon of Panagia Ipseni, built a church and the monastery was born. Panagia Ipseni and another priceless treasure kept at the monastery, the Holy Skull of St. Meletios, continue to perform numerous healing miracles, say many believers.
A protestant man on holiday from England was recently healed of eye cancer, according to Sister Kassiani.
“He bent in front of the icon and started praying with Christ,” she said, adding that a hotel employee in Lardos directed the tourist to the monastery.
Before the man left, the sisters gave him Holy Oil from the candili of Panagia, and instructed him to put the oil on his eyes every day. “He went back to England and the doctor said ‘What did you do? I cannot see anything- your eyes are clear, you have no cancer,'” she recounted.
Along with sharing miracles of Panagia Ipseni, the sisters shared the joy of their efforts to build the first church dedicated to St. Meletios in Rhodes. The financial crisis in Greece however, has put construction on hold, with the structure already a few meters off the ground.
The sisters are hoping to gain support from Orthodox Christians in the United States.
“It’s good for you – plus the new church will make others come and become stronger in the faith,”said Vasiliki Chaddon, who moved to the U.S. 31 years ago from Kilkis, Macedonia with her husband Alan.