Serbians have been immigrating to Colorado since the 19 th century, when they toiled alongside many other nationalities in the state's early mining camps, on its railroads and at Pueblo's renowned steel mill. Yet, it was only recently that Colorado's Serbs, who are Eastern Orthodox Christians, founded a religious congregation of their very own.
That congregation, the Denver area's St. John the Baptist Serbian Orthodox Mission Parish, now has a permanent priest as well. Just since his arrival in September, the Rev. Father Radovan Petrovic, who with his family relocated to the Denver area from Chicago, has brought new energy and focus to the parish and even launched it into cyberspace with its own Website: www.stjohndenver.org.
Next, the 25-year-old, known to his flock as Father Radovan, will lead the fledgling Serbian congregation through its biggest challenge so far-acquiring a church building to call its own. That endeavor, says Father Radovan, is essential to the future of his new flock.
"It will be a rewarding experience for me to draw on the talents and skills of our members in establishing our parish," Father Radovan said. "One of the biggest rewards for me personally will be to see our flock and especially their children grow in their appreciation and understanding of the faith and tradition of their forefathers."
For now, the mission parish holds services on Sundays at the St. Herman Orthodox Church at 991 W. Prentice Ave. in Littleton. Added the father, "With faith, we hope that God will accept the prayers of our parishioners for either building or buying a church."
Bilingual, he uses both the Serbian language and English to conduct services and carry out church business, as church members include both foreign-born and American-born Serbs and others. Many members of St. John's were part of a recent wave of immigration to the United States following devastating wars that tore apart their onetime homeland, the former Yugoslavia, during the 1990s. Yet, parishioners also include native Coloradans who are members of some of the region's earliest Serbian families.
Among the world's oldest Christian denominations, the Serbian Orthodox Church long has had a presence in the United States but never had a Colorado parish until St. John's. For generations, Colorado's Serbs in Denver as well as Pueblo and Colorado Springs had worshipped at the churches of fellow Eastern Orthodox Christians in Colorado's Russian and Greek communities. Yet, they longed for a church of their own.
Serbs, who are Slavs akin to Russians, Poles and Czechs, have looked to the Serbian Orthodox Church throughout their history as the focus not only of their spiritual faith but also of their national identity. The church has served has a cultural and social hub in addition to a place of worship in Serbian communities across the United States.
Father Radovan points out that even in their native land, Serbians have faced hurdles to worshipping in their faith-notably, a half century of communist rule that actively discouraged church attendance and persecuted the clergy. He said one of the factors that led him to the priesthood was a desire to help inspire the "spiritual recovery" of the Serbian people" following their years-long ordeal with totalitarianism and war.
Unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts, Easter Orthodox priests are expected to marry and raise families. Father Radovan and his and his family were appointed to the Denver parish as his first assignment.
St. John the Baptist holds services every Sunday at St. Herman's at 11:15 a.m. For more information, please contact Father Radovan at 303-730-2975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Denver Your Hub.com