Steelton, PA - The celebration of our Holy Patron, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycea, was filled with a depth, fullness and joy this year rarely seen here in Oberlin-Steelton due to the first Archpastoral visit of His Grace, Bishop Irinej.
The weekend festivities began with our annual St. Nicholas Day Church School Cookie Project. Unfortunately, the weather was challenging. Even still, fifteen of our children braved the cold, sleet and freezing rain to join in the festive baking and the planting of the “psenica” or wheat. That evening, our children joined in singing the Great Vespers service in preparation for the Sunday Liturgy.
His Grace joined us for the Vespers service, safely arriving in His journey from New York. After Vespers, Anastasija Gligorevic, Sophia Mummert and Nikola Lukic greeted the bishop with traditional flowers, bread and salt. The bread and salt hearken back to a time when hospitality law meant that anyone who partook of something under your roof is under your protection until they leave. We offer this gift to our Bishop when he visits, to remind both us and him that we will care for him during his stay.
After the Vespers, His Grace joined the Parish Council to dine at Father Christopher and Popadija Andreja’s house. This provided a wonderful opportunity for our Council to get to know our new Bishop on a more personal level as they shared a meal together, without many distractions. During this time, the Junior SOTAYA group offered babysitting services to the parish so they could complete their Christmas shopping prior to the Feast of the Nativity.
The next morning, His Grace, Irinej, presided at the Holy Liturgy for the first time as our Archpastor and Bishop. Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy, His Grace tonsured three new readers to serve in our parish: Bojan Gligorevic, Stefan Gligorevic, and Nikola Lukic. In the Holy Orders, the Reader is the first order of the Priesthood, as we all were reminded by His Grace. The function of the reader is to serve at the altar and to read and chant the services and Holy Scripture Readings.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy, His Grace honored four of our parishioners with special citations for their years of service to the community. The Episcopal Citations, or Grammata, were given to:
1) Reader Nicholas Govelovich, for his dedication to serving at Christ’s Holy Altar, and his constant support and stewardship of our St. Nicholas Parish in the many ways in which he offers his Time, Talents and Treasure.
2) (and 3) Sam and Peggy Radanovic, for their tireless and faithful service to the community in so many ways, but especially in the operation and maintenance of Serb Park, from which they retired after this summer’s season.
4) Patty (Petra) Hernjak, for her constant advocacy on behalf of our community in media relations, her dedication to the SSS Josif Marinkovich both as past president, current VP and singer, and exemplary stewardship.
Once these dedicated stewards received their awards, His Grace broke his fast with us in a beautiful meal provided by our Serbian American Club members hosting Fellowship this month of December.
During the meal, President John Semic presented His Grace with a check from the St. Nicholas community for almost $9,000 to help with the rebuilding of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in New York City. This amount represented half of the profits from our Serb Fest in September 2016.
PAN-ORTHODOX VESPERS AND BENEFIT CONCERT
Sunday Evening, His Grace led the Pan-Orthodox Faithful of South Central PA in the Vespers for the Feast of St. Nicholas. Numerous clergy and parishioners of the various area churches were in attendance in order to support the ongoing work of the IOCC and OCMC. The responses were led by the harmonious sounds of our Pan-Orthodox Adult and Youth Choirs under the direction of Fr. Mark Sahady and Nina Radanovic.
His Grace reminded the faithful of their continuous commitment to the International Orthodox Christian Charities and the Orthodox Christian Missions Center, the purpose of the gathering. Over $130,000 has been given to both organizations throughout the past 16 years, due to this annual gathering.
Bishop Irinej spoke of the benefits of the sacrificial love offered by both organizations—the one to provide for physical needs, the other for spiritual. The faithful were reminded that both are necessary for salvation, as we are both physical and spiritual creations of God.
His Grace presented both organizations with His Episcopal Grammaton, marking and recognizing them for the work they do in Christ’s Name throughout the world.
Then, the Pan-Orthodox Youth Choir and Adult Choir presented a beautiful Christmas Concert filled with tidings of great joy—the Son of God becomes the Son of Mary the Virgin! Afterward, attendees walked away saying things such as, “What inspiration!” and “The children sang so beautifully—like the angelic hosts of God.” Those present continued the celebration with a light evening meal.
ST. NICHOLAS DAY
The morning of Nikoljdan brought a return of the winter freeze, as the temperatures dropped over 30 degrees overnight. This could not freeze out the warmth found in the hearts of the faithful coming to celebrate this miraculous and wonderworking saint, however.
His Grace presided at the Holy Liturgy in honor of St. Nicholas, leading four local priests (V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Ressetar, OCA retired, V. Rev. Fr. Timothy Hojnicki, Holy Apostles in Mechanicsburg, OCA, V. Rev. Fr. Steven Vernak, Christ the Saviour in Harrisburg, OCA, and V. Rev. Fr. Borjan Vitanov, Holy Resurrection in Lebanon, Serbian) and Fr. Christopher in the service.
During His homily, His Grace reminded us that ours is a living faith—an active faith. St. Nicholas gives us the penultimate example of how to live our love for Christ, both in caring for our neighbor, and responding to heresy against Christ and His Church.
Many parishioners came to the Liturgy in celebration of St. Nicholas; and most were prepared and received the Holy Eucharist. There is no better way to celebrate and honor our Slava—the anniversary of the date our families were baptized into Christ—than to receive Christ ourselves in His Holy Body and Precious Blood. With over 70 communicants, two chalices were necessary to commune the faithful—Glory to God!
His Grace blessed the Parish Slavski Kolach, after the liturgy, breaking it with Church Council President, John Semic. He also led the clergy in the blessing of 18 family kolachi, brought to the Church in honor of their patron, Nicholas the Saintly.
Following a light meal, His Grace left our community both uplifted and joyous, feeling the loving presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ in the pastoral love of our new hierarch. We give thanks to God for His Grace, Bishop Irinej! May God grant Him many blessed years!