Schererville, IN – For the first time in the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Abbot of Hilandar Monastery, the Most Venerable Archmandrite Metodije, guided by the miraculous “Three-Handed” icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, paid a visit to the Orthodox Serbs in America. During this journey, his visit included St. George Parish in Schererville, Indiana. For the faithful of our parish, this was an event of great significance.
Although it was a working day, pious people from Northwest Indiana and South Chicago eagerly filled the holy house with immense joy to welcome the Abbot of the Royal Lavra Hilandar on Mount Athos. Our delight was further heightened because he was accompanied by our First Hierarch, Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America. It is to his merit, as well as to the generosity of the dedicated members of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, that the true image of the miraculous “Three-Handed” icon of the Most Holy Mother of God was made and brought to the New Gracanica Monastery, where it was blessed. Its presence and importance in the future historical existence and spiritual life and growth of our Diocese and the Serbian Church in this part of the world in general is priceless.
It was as if the Serbian Orthodox faithful had a “foretaste” of the greatness of the shrine that was coming to visit, and being inspired by their love for one of our most significant and oldest monasteries, they turned out in great numbers and prayerfully attended the vesper service celebrated by Archmandrite Metodije. Responses were sung by the local Bishop Stefan Lastavica Choir, while sticheras were chanted by visiting clergy led by V. Rev. Milos Vesin and Protodeacon Milovan Gogic. Following the service, Prota Dobrivoje, with esteemed and warm words, greeted Abbot Metodije and extended a very cordial welcome to him and his entourage. Afterward, the faithful people received a blessing from the Hilandar Abbot and venerated his hand.
The celebration continued in the church hall with the agape meal. The esteemed guests were first greeted by Mr. Ray Vukas, president of the church-school congregation. On behalf of our parish, Mr. Vukas presented a donation of $5,000.00 for the project of the Renovation of Hilandar Monastery. Mr. Milivoj Randjic, Director of the Hilandar Foundation in Belgrade, spoke in detail about the destruction of the monastery following a devastating fire which happened on the night of March 3-4, 2004. During the entire duration of the program, the faithful had an opportunity to view on a large screen TV numerous pictures of Hilandar Monastery prior, during and after the tragic fire. The slide show was generously prepared by brother Zeljko Kostadinovic, whose cousin, Fr. Dositej, is one of the monks at Hilandar.
Archmandrite Metodije, Abbot of the Monastery, spoke about the spiritual renewal of the Royal Lavra. Although the fire which occurred almost seven years ago destroyed half of the monastery complex, the number of monastics has grown. The Monastery strictly adheres to, keeps and follows the Typikon established by St. Sava, the father of our autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church. The faithful very attentively listened to the wise words of the Abbot, who today walks, labors and prays on the same holy ground where St. Sava and his father, St. Simeon Nemanja, walked, labored and prayed eight centuries earlier for the salvation of our Serbian people.
Our host hierarch, His Grace Bishop Longin, concluded by greeting the Hilandar Abbot, extending sincere gratitude for bringing the miraculous “Three-Handed” icon of the Mother of God, and referring to this event as an act of great mercy and blessing from God. His Grace thanked the faithful for their magnificent response, and he praised the St. George Parish in Schererville for numerous acts of benevolence during the last few decades which were offered for the well-being of our Holy Church and our suffering Serbian people.
The program was beautifully and wisely conducted by Prota Dobrivoje, the host priest. He thanked everyone for coming and helping, especially Mr. Tihomir Petkovic, who served his finest home-made wine to our esteemed guests. The faithful people once again showed their dedication and love toward our Mother Church and Hilandar Monastery, and the total contribution for the Hilandar renovation project reached over $11,000.00. May the blessing of the miraculous “Three-Handed” icon of the Most Holy Mother of God protect our suffering Serbian people, and may our lips exult her with the song:
REJOICE, O OUR HELPER, WHO GRANTEST US AID BY THINE ICON “OF THE THREE-HANDS”!