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Carrying on a family tradition: dove bearer

This year's chosen girl, Chrisovaladou Kavouklis, follows in her sister's 1996 footsteps. "It's the highest honor,'' Katina says.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2002


This year's chosen girl, Chrisovaladou Kavouklis, follows in her sister's 1996 footsteps. "It's the highest honor," Katina says.

TARPON SPRINGS -- Chrisovaladou Kavouklis watched her older sister hold a dove in her hands six years ago, very gently, so as not to crush the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Now it is the little sister's turn. She was chosen as the dove bearer for Sunday's Epiphany celebration and will have the most visible role of any female in the religious ceremony.

"My sister . . . was my role model," she said.

Each year, an unmarried young woman from the choir at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral is chosen to carry a white dove and release it over Spring Bayou just before dozens of young men dive for a cross.

Kavouklis expected she would be chosen because she has been in the choir longer than the other girls who have not had a chance to act as dove bearer.

"It was my turn," said Kavouklis, 14, a freshman at Tarpon Springs High School and a soprano in the church choir.

The dove bearer "is a girl who really exemplifies the pureness and the deep faith to the Lord," said the Rev. Tryfon Theophilopoulos, the dean of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

In 1996, Katina Kavouklis, then 18, was chosen as the dove bearer. Now a student at the University of South Florida, she said releasing the dove is one of her fondest memories.

"I don't think anything can compare to it in my lifetime," she said.

The two young women are the daughters of Mike and Eleni Kavouklis of Tarpon Springs. Mr. Kavouklis is an electrical contractor, and Mrs. Kavouklis does not work outside of the home.

On a recent day, the two sisters stood together outside St. Nicholas and talked about the experience. Katina helped her sister adjust her choir robe and pose for pictures with a dove stuffed animal.

A breeze kicked up on the chilly morning, and the younger sister's hair started flying in all directions.

"Just think, you're flying with the dove," Katina Kavouklis joked.

She knows the day will be memorable for her sister. She will be in the spotlight as thousands of people watch the release of the dove.

"It's the highest honor I think any young woman can get," Katina Kavouklis said. "You're holding the Holy Spirit."

- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

If you go:

The Divine Liturgy will be at 10 a.m. Sunday at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, at the corner of Alt. U.S. 19 (Pinellas Avenue) and Orange Street in Tarpon Springs. The service is followed by a parade to Spring Bayou, a blessing of the waters and a dive for the Epiphany cross, which will begin sometime after noon. Glendi, a festival of food, live music and dancing, will be in Craig Park following the cross dive. Parking will be available along some side streets and in paid lots.

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