The first Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas is marking its 150th anniversary locally with a series of events hosted by members of Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Orleans. This past weekend, the leaders and members of the congregation presented their first anniversary event, “An Evening on the Bayou.”

The group is already renowned for its annual Greek Festival extravaganza that attracts thousands to the banks along Bayou St. John at Robert E. Lee Boulevard. The church’s 150th birthday milestone extends the celebration of Greek culture and heritage within our city and provides a poignant reminder of the importance of Greeks within our society. The anniversary also offers locals with even more reasons to support this special community within our mist while providing the perfect excuse to eat, drink and celebrate the Hellenic way of life.

Special guests at this past weekend’s fête were some of the descendants of Hélene Banachi, one of the founders of the New Orleans Greek Orthodox Church. James Waldo, Clayton Benachi Waldo, Junior V. Waldo and Jimmy Waldo all live away from the Crescent City but journeyed back to New Orleans to commemorate the anniversary and celebrate their cultural thread to a city that all still hold close at heart.

“Our great-grandmother imparted a love of this city, and each one of us harbors treasured memories of train trips down to New Orleans as kids. We still can’t get enough of Aunt Sally’s pralines and good old Luzianne Coffee,” family spokesperson Jimmy Waldo said.

Trinity’s Board President Steven Psarellis attributes his neighborhood’s recovery post-Katrina to the strength and resiliency of the Greek community.

“The church was in many ways a conduit to recovery. Our congregation saw a need and simply filled it. They rallied like no other community that I’ve ever seen,” said Psarellis, who has been involved with the New Orleans church for more than 30 years.

You don’t need to be Greek or of Greek heritage to appreciate the Hellenic zest for celebrating life. The weekend of events provided a showcase of the culture’s passion for food and music. Like all events that I’ve attended in years past at Holy Trinity, I am particularly touched by the warmth of the people.

To learn more about the Greek Orthodox Church in New Orleans, visit www.holytrinity.org. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out future special events planned around the church’s 150th anniversary.

La Vie de Ville captures city life New Orleans style every Thursday in the New Orleans Advocate’s Crescent City news section. For coverage of your community event in Vie, send request in advance with details to robertagrove@hotmail.com.