TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Over the years, countless boys dove for the cross at the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs.
Tradition says the one who retrieves the cross will receive a year of blessings. But, a boy who got the cross in 1974, Nikitas Lulias, got even more.
"From that moment on was a very special time for him," says his bother, John Lulias, who still lives in Tarpon Springs. "I think he knew at that point that was a sign for him to become part of the church, " says John.
After graduating from Tarpon Springs High School, Nikitas Lulias studied theology at the University of Florida. He was steeped in the teachings and traditions of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs, and many here followed his progress as he became a deacon, then a priest, a metropolitan (similar to a cardinal in the Catholic church), and later this month, an archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church.
He will be installed as Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain on July 27, at the Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom in London.
His brother says he has served in several posts in the U.S. and in Asia, where he helped found an orphanage for girls. "Now his big focus is on human trafficking and prevention and really spread the knowledge about human trafficking," says John.
Despite his duties abroad, John says Nikitas is still a "Tarpon Boy". "He never forgets where he came from," says John." He may one day come here and be a guest for Epiphany again."
No doubt many in his hometown will talk to him about retrieving that cross in 1974 and all that's happened since.