The Greek community in Port Macquarie is celebrating the upcoming establishment of a Greek Orthodox Church, thanks to the efforts of community activists Cathy Fotoulis Chantler and Costa Dantos. This development comes as a result of their relentless advocacy to both their local community and to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
Costa Dantos, an active member of various Greek associations in Sydney, noticed a significant gap in the map of Greek Orthodox churches in the eastern half of New South Wales (NSW). Intrigued by this observation, Dantos discovered a Facebook post by Cathy Fotoulis Chantler, a long-time Port Macquarie resident originally from Sydney. She had expressed a desire for a Greek church in the area, which had gone largely unnoticed until recently.
Recognizing the potential and the strong local support for this idea, Dantos quickly reached out to Ms Fotoulis, forging a close partnership and establishing frequent communication. Together, they worked tirelessly to rally the local Greek Orthodox community, as well as non-Greek supporters, behind the initiative. Their efforts gained momentum, and the idea began to take shape.
The initial plan was to locate the church in South West Rocks, strategically positioned between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. This location would cater to the growing populations of both cities and the surrounding areas. To reflect the local identity, the proposed church was considered to be dedicated to St Fotini, that would make it the only Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to the Saint in Australia.
The 2021 Australian census revealed a notable increase in the Greek and Orthodox population in the Mid North Coast region, spanning from Coffs Harbour to Forster. With the allure of a sea change, the relaxed atmosphere of Port Macquarie, and the influx of Greek professionals to regional areas, the Greek community has experienced significant growth.
In addition to serving as a spiritual center, the church will also act as a hub for the local Greek community. Informal gatherings and events have been taking place for years, but the establishment of an official community space will provide a more structured platform for cultural preservation and language reinforcement.
Father George Liangas, from the St Nectarios Greek Orthodox Parish in Burwood, Sydney, became aware of the initiative and expressed his interest in supporting the project. His involvement was warmly received by the local community, and on January 9, 2024, he announced that he would conduct the first Greek Orthodox liturgy in Port Macquarie.
The inaugural church service will take place on Sunday, January 21 from 8.30am to 10am at the Horton Street Chapel (former Wesleyan Church) located at 144 Horton Street, Port Macquarie. The service will be followed by an afternoon tea organized by the Port Macquarie Greek community, Ms Fotoulis and her daughter.
There are discussions taking place to find a permanent church establishment in the near future however this has not yet been confirmed.
Father George Liangas’ involvement has brought renewed hope to the local community. He has even graciously offered to conduct home blessings during his visit, going above and beyond to connect with the faithful and make them feel valued.
The establishment of the Greek Orthodox Church in Port Macquarie marks a significant milestone for the Greek community in the region. With the support of the broader Greek community, Greek tourists, and non-Greek Orthodox individuals who share the vision, this endeavor is poised to create a lasting legacy for generations to come.