With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irinej, on Saturday, October 14th, on the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, clergy and faithful gathered at St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church to honor the Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Fr. Djordje Mileusinic on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood.
The day began with the celebration of the Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Priests from throughout the Cleveland Deanery of the Eastern-American Diocese, along with local guest clergy, gathered around His Grace Bishop Irinej in festal celebration. The service’s beauty was magnified by the prayers of the many faithful that traveled to celebrate the feast with joy, and by the presence of the Kosovo Men’s Choir who sang the responses magnificently.
His Grace Bishop Irinej offered a homily that seamlessly connected the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God with the many saints honored on that day. One thread that bound them together was one of offering – each offered their personal gifts to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. As His Grace concluded, he offered the shining example of such an offering through Fr. Djordje, who tirelessly served God’s Holy Church with the gifts that God gave him.
Immediately following Divine Liturgy, the faithful gathered around a feast of love, sponsored by Fr. Djordje’s St. Demetrius parish. The food was plentiful and the beverages flowed freely as the community extended their hospitality to all guests as an expression of love for their pastor and spiritual father. After a brief introduction by Board President Milorad Jovic, a number of people offered a glimpse into the life and ministry of their beloved Fr. Djordje.
Milenko Palic spoke directly to Fr. Djordje’s empathy and pastoral awareness. Throughout his ministry in Akron, the faithful came to know their beloved priest as one who was always present and available to minister to them. He was able to sense when someone needed some extra pastoral attention and never failed to diligently reach out and offer his loving ear and spiritual advice.
The next speaker was Fr. Dragan Goronjic, the Dean of Cleveland and parish priest at Holy Trinity in Youngstown. He spoke to the profound impact that Fr. Djordje had on his life and his early ministry. In particular, Fr. Djordje was a model for how to love and care for his priestly flock. Fr Dragan was also able to provide the context in which Fr. Djordje lived out his ministry, which led all those present a deeper appreciation for his priestly work.
Fr. Djordje grew up in communist Yugoslavia and opted to attend Belgrade Theological Seminary at a time when there was intense pressure for people to disassociate with their Orthodox Christian faith. As he left his home to attend school, his mother wept loving tears for her son. Following his graduation and ordination, he came to serve the faithful Serbian communities in the United States, by way of Italy, settling in a small community in Warren, Ohio.
At the time, the Serbian faithful of Warren had no church, and little resources. Fr. Djordje, however, was undeterred by this difficult situation and took up the cross of faithful service. He was not only a dedicated servant in God’s Holy Church, but a loving family man, and an employee of a local steel company. Through his leadership and sacrifice, the Serbian faithful of St. Elijah were able to erect a church in which they could offer thanksgiving to God. After 30 years in Warren, Fr. Djordje spent his remaining years at St. Demetrius in Akron, Ohio.
With heartfelt tears in his eyes, Fr. Djordje stood to offer his profound gratitude to the packed room of clergy, friends, and family. He reflected on the joy of life’s priestly calling, sharing that, throughout his ministry, he was blessed to be under the omophor of eight different hierarchs.
His Grace Bishop Irinej then offered the day’s final reflection on the 50 years of life and ministry of Fr. Djordje. Honing in on the words and expression of the people in Akron, His Grace said, “When a person smiles, their priest smiles with them – he shares in their joy and revelry; and when a person cries, the priest is there shedding his own tears as well.” For those who knew Fr. Djordje well, this truth resonated with them – for he was a priest that celebrated and wept with his parish as an extension of his own family.
His Grace Bishop Irinej concluded his remarks by wishing Fr. Djordje a blessed retirement – and many more years of peace, life, and health.