we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)
Schererville, IN -This psalm resonated throughout the entire 100th Anniversary celebration of the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Schererville, Indiana October 22 and 23rd. A celebration of this magnitude rallied all of our parishioners and church affiliated organizations to plan and prepare for this two-day jubilee: the Anniversary Committee, our Church School Executive Board, KSS St. George, S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, St. George Church School, Tromedja Folklore Groups, SNF Lodge #171 Djurdjevdanski Uranak, our local Chetnik organizations, and the Halls of St. George Staff.
Centennial Saturday began with Divine Liturgy being celebrated by visiting clergy at 10:00 a.m. with responses by the S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, directed by Dr. Janja Katic. Very Reverend Dennis Pavichevich, who served our parish from 1975-1982, delivered the homily. He beautifully incorporated the prescribed Gospel reading into our celebration, underlying the importance of a true and genuine Christian life. As customary with Father Dennis, he praised the choir’s responses and the smoothness/seamlessness/fluidity of our dialogue with the clergy during the Divine Liturgy.
At 5:00 p.m. the Akathist to St. George was celebrated by visiting clergy with responses by the S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, directed by Dr. Janja Katic. Very Reverend Dragoljub Popovich, who served our parish from 1999- 2008, delivered the homily. Fr. Dragoljub extended his congratulation and best wishes to the faithful of St. George, reminiscing on the years he spent as our parish priest. The President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik and other officials attended the service as our special guests.
After the service, we proceeded to the Halls of St. George where a dinner, program, video viewing, and dance began. Historical displays were artistically displayed in the foyer by our Circle of Serbian Sisters KSS St. George, S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, and Church School for all visitors and guests to view and reminisce. Along with our folklore group Tromedja, folklore groups from our neighboring communities of St. Archangel Michael - Lansing, St. Elijah - Merrillville, and St. Sava – Merrillville, welcomed our esteemed guests, HRH Crown Prince Alexander II and HRH Crown Princess Katherine Karadjordjevic, as well as President Milorad Dodik and other officials with the traditional offering of pogacha and salt. They then proceeded into the hall to the tune of “Kraljevo Kolo”. Chairperson Milan Momcilovich welcomed our dignitaries and over 800 attendees to this historical event. Our St. George Parish Priest, Protojerej Dobrivoje Milunovic, led us in the Lord’s Prayer and gave the blessing. President Milorad Dodik then addressed the crowd encouraging our Serbian American citizens to become more active politically by lobbying for our Serbian interests. Following President Dodik’s address, HRH Crown Prince Alexander praised our Church and all of its organizations for the accomplishments made in the United States, as well as in our Mother Land. The program continued with performances by the folklore groups while the audience enjoyed cevaps, pljeskavica, and desserts provided by the KSS. Jadranka Jovanovic, a mezzo-soprano vocal artist in Serbia and Montenegro, concluded the program with several classical Serbian masterpieces. Following the program, the band Nocna Smena provided entertainment for dancing. Throughout the entire weekend a DVD of our church’s history was shown on several screens, which looked back on the accomplishments and contributions of our parish and its parishioners. This DVD was produced by Katarina and Zeljko Kostadinovic and narrated by Sonja Orgizovich. The photos, videos, and written material for the DVD were provided by Ray Vukas - our current Church President, Protojerej Dobrivoje Milunovic, and our parishioners.
Centennial Sunday began at 9:45 a.m. with all of our children dressed in their narodne nosnje, altar boys wearing their newly-purchased robes, deacons, and priests gathering in front of our church awaiting the arrival of our visiting Hierarchs: His Grace Bishop Longin of our New Gracanica-Midwestern American Diocese and His Grace Bishop Peter of the Russian Orthodox Church. Monastics from the Nativity of the Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Monastery were also in attendance celebrating the Holy Eucharist. The S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, directed by both Tijana Samardzija and Dr. Janja Katic sang responses throughout the Hierarchal Liturgy. Kum Vlade Sormaz and Kuma Stella Pavichevich, wearing the traditional Trobojke, joined the congregation that filled the church.
Much to the surprise of the Rokosz-Balac Family, our congregation witnessed the tonsuring of Peter and Adam Rokosz as Readers. These two men are model stewards who donate their time, talents, and earthly goods to our parish. God Grant You Many Years, Peter and Adam!
The Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy began with Protodeacons Miodrag Gogic and Vadim Gan, and Deacon Nikolai Kostur, announcing, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!”(Mt. 5, 16) The St. George Children’s Choir led by Tijana Samardzija participated in the Divine Liturgy for the first time by chanting the First Antiphon. The Epistle was joyously chanted by Reader Vaso Michael. The remainder of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was beautifully choreographed by the distinguished Clergy and the Choir, magnificent in number, rendered a most pleasing variety of hymns by various Serbian, Russian, and Bulgarian composers.
We were again honored to have in our midst, HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Ana Alavanja, Anastasija Andjelic, and Anja Stanic presented a corsage and boutonniere to our honored guests. Many children and adults prepared themselves to receive Holy Communion on this auspicious occasion. At the conclusion of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Bishop Longin greeted and introduced Bishop Peter, who delivered the homily regarding the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council and how it related to our celebration. Bishop Peter’s connection to our parish is a special one, for he recently gifted us the relics of St. John of San Francisco which are being kept and preserved in our reliquary. Following Bishop Peter’s inspiring sermon, Bishop Longin presented Mr. David Damjanovic, a long-time member and historical published writer from our parish, with the Order of St. Sava given by our Serbian Patriarch Irinej, the Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci. The Clergy, Choir, and Parishioners congratulated Cika David, who, by the way, is 91 years young, with the singing of Mnogaja Ljeta! The Children’s Choir concluded the Liturgy by enthusiastically responding with their singing of “Oj Srbijo Majko Mila”. After the distribution of Naphora to all laity, Bishops Longin and Peter exited the church to the Choir’s tradition of singing “Ispola eti Despota”.
Once more the children of St. George awaited the honored Church and State dignitaries at the entrance of our Halls of St. George Cultural Center with the traditional pogaca and salt. The Cultural Center was elegantly decorated with all the beautiful hues of Fall. The Halls of St. George Staff, led by managers Jovanka Blesic and Alice Momcilovich, and our Church’s Secretary, Susan Wuchenich, truly outdid themselves with its organization, management, and placement of 950+ reservations for the Centennial Banquet.
Before the banquet and program began, guests enjoyed delicious, mouth-watering hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, as well as an open bar. The banquet festivities began with the singing of “Ispola eti Despota” as Bishops Longin and Peter entered the hall. Both the American and Serbian Anthems were then sung followed by the singing of the Troparion to St. George, which was followed by the blessing of the food and drink. A fabulous meal, expertly prepared by Chef Nevenka Kesic and her crew, was served family-style to all guests. Entertainment was provided by Dunav Orchestra, as well as traditional dances of Serbia performed by our Tromedja Folklore Groups. The highlight of the Program was the duo performance of our newly-organized St. George Church School Children’s Choir and our Serbian Singing Society Bishop Stefan Lastavica directed by Tijana Samardzija and accompanied by pianist Natasha Radulovic. The medley of Serbian folk songs, arranged by Dr. Janja Katic, and poems, collected by Proto and Protinica Milunovic, depicted the regions where our parish’s ancestors originated: Serbia, Crna Gora, Bosna, Lika, Dalmacija, and Kosovo. Kudos go out to the children who recited their poems, introductions, and conclusions flawlessly: Jovan Milunovic, Ana Alavanja, Aleksa Andjelic, Nemanja Vojvodic, Krstana Milunovic, Nadja Kostadinovic, Ana Zanza, Stefan Drljaca, Mina Drljaca, Maja Vidovic, Ivana Stanic, Anja Stanic, Marko Dodig, Anastasija Andjelic, Slobodan Paravinja, Nikola Kostadinovic, Natasa Tomic, Stefan Vojvodic, Luka Cucuz, Andjela Zanza, Ranko Kesic, Jelena Repak, Stefan Wuchenich, Danijel Dodig, Katarina Nikolic, Milena Bjelobaba, Marko Milunovic, Nikola Tepsic and Filip Radojcic. The audience overwhelmingly responded by a roaring standing ovation! It was so well-deserved!
Greetings followed by Ray Vukas, President of the Executive Board; Protojerej Dobrivoje Milunovic, Parish Priest; Vlade Sormaz, Kum; Stella Pavichevich, Kuma; Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Dennis Pavichevich; Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic; Marko Vucenovic, Movement of Serbian Chetnik’s Ravna Gora; Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Nedeljko Lunich; and His Grace Bishop Longin.
On this occasion of the 100th Anniversary of this Parish, our Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci granted Gramatas, which were presented by Bishop Longin to the following parishioners: Ray Vukas, President of the Executive Board; Mara Dobrijevic, President of the Circle of Serbian Sisters; Dr. Janja Katic, Director of S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica; Tijana Samardzija, Church Director; Kum Vlade Sormaz; Rokosz Family; Reader Peter Katic; Protinica Jelena Milunovic and Milorad Vajagic. Bishop Longin also granted His Gramatas to the following parishioners: Milan Momcilovich, President of Lodge #171, Centennial Chairperson; Kuma Stella Pavichevich; Vera Vranic; Jovica Tica; Momir Keric; Uros Lakic; Jovo Uzelac; Vojislav Kesic; Nikodin Dobrijevic; Sandi Radoja; Zeljko Kostadinovic; Jason Vukas and George Mlachak.
The closing prayer and blessing concluded the Centennial Sunday’s Gala Banquet and Program. In order to preserve a historical account of our Centennial Celebration, photographs were taken throughout the weekend by Andrija Boljevic; videotaping was done by Mike Paunovich and RadioAvala; and an article was reported in the Hammond Times. All of these accounts can be seen on our Church’s website: www.stgeorgesoc.com; Youtube.com; and the official website of our Serbian Orthodox Church: http://www.serborth.org.
Reflecting on my participation in our parish’s living legacy, I believe, Sandi Tumbas Radoja sums it up the best with these words: “Today we honored our past, celebrated the present, and planned our commitment to the future so that one hundred years from now, another person will write about the second century’s celebration of St. George Serbian Orthodox in Schererville, Indiana” (taken from our Parish’s Centennial Commemorative Book).