On January 11-12, a new decade began for the St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church by celebrating the parish’s Slava: St. Stephen, Archdeacon and Protomartyr, together with a program in honor of St. Sava, the First Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Parishioners, visitors and friends were overjoyed at the opportunity to celebrate with our parish, and our students were particularly happy to display their talents for His Grace, the Rt. Rev. IRINEJ, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Eastern America, our spiritual father.
Beginning with Great Vespers on Saturday evening, January 11, the evening’s programming could not have been better planned. His Grace was requested to present a lecture to the faithful, who came from all Orthodox parishes in Western New York. This was a unique opportunity to hear His Grace speak on a topic near to his heart: Iconography, Iconology and Architecture. His Grace, a seasoned lecturer at both Loyola University (Chicago) and the School of Theology (Belgrade), spoke with familiarity not only about technical definitions of his topic, but also about the historical context of every theological debate surrounding his topic. Using the backdrop of the beautiful frescoes at the St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, His Grace detailed why everything in an icon/fresco had meaning: color, lines, structure, shape, and perspective. His Grace also explained that, regarding the iconoclastic heresy, it was two women, the Holy Empresses Theodora and Irene, who worked tirelessly to restore the icons to Orthodoxy. It was this incredible wealth of knowledge, offered by His Grace, that made His Grace’s hour long lecture pass in what seemed to be a much shorter time. Those present were left hoping for more, and indeed hope that this rare opportunity could be once again repeated at His Grace’s next visit to the St. Stephen Parish.
The next morning, His Grace celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Fr. Branislav Golic of Aliquippa, PA, who served with his brother, Fr. Vladislav Golic, pastor of the St. Stephen Church and host for the weekend’s events. Two deacons, Protodeacon Milos Zdralic, Diocesan secretary, as well as Deacon Steven Gjurich of the St. Stephen Church, also served, accompanied by readers, young altar servers, with the parish children in procession.
In his sermon, His Grace spoke of joy and sadness, the emotions which accompany the close celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord, the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and the joy for our children and our nation in the celebration of the Feast of St. Sava. Joy, because our Lord has been born into the world for the salvation of all; sadness, because the brave and holy witness of Christ’s servant the Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen resulted in the stoning of St. Stephen. However, the joy of the eternal Kingdom that awaited St. Stephen brought forth the joy our Lord came to the world to deliver. And again joy, as the promise of St. Sava continues to be celebrated each year by our children and our faithful, even to this day.
After His Grace’s sermon, the Church School Choir sang the responses to the Litany of Fervent Supplication in English, Slavonic and Greek. It was a preview of the song “Light in the Darkness” sung by the Church School Choir, which closed the St. Sava Program.
The St. Sava program had a new approach this year, with Popadija Sara Golic preparing several skits for the children to perform for all. Both in English and in Serbian, the skits had both a serious and a light tone; singing, instrumental performances and dancing set the stage for a brilliant performance. Mistress of ceremonies Marija Koprivica introduced each skit and performance, assuring that the audience was fully aware of the performance to follow. The St. Stephen Tammies accompanied the singing of the St. Sava Hymn and one additional piece, while the St. Stephen Junior and Senior Dancers delighted the audience with their dancing prowess. Choreographers Shelly and Michael Vranjes, and musical instructors Erika Nedelkov and Kristina Vranjes work tirelessly throughout the year to teach these groups and maintain this cultural element among our youth.
Towards the end of the program, the mistress of ceremonies invited two representatives of the Tammies’ PTA, a part of our parish church school, to step forward on behalf of all of the children and their parents. Olja Bogunovic presented Protinica Victoria Trbuhovich with a Serbian style cross in remembrance of the affection all of the families have for her. The gift is an expression of gratitude to Protinica Vickie for her tireless labors of love with the children. She has enriched the youth of the parish through her years of dedication as a teacher, her leadership role, and, in recent years, her work with Father Vladislav and Popadija Sara.
His Grace seemed to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the program, and he did not hide his enthusiasm. At the end of the program, Bishop Irinej distributed gifts to each child, and was surrounded by clergy, children, teachers, and local dignitaries for the annual St. Sava Program photo. Domacini for the St. Stephen Slava were Darko and Daliborka Simic and family, who also prepared gifts for all the children. The Marinkovic family prepared the Kolac for the St. Sava celebration. And what is a St. Sava celebration without a festive banquet prepared by our Sveta Petka Kolo Srpskih Sestara. President Kata Pajic and her committed Kolo members again made every effort to please all present, joined by culinary arts specialist Matthew Just. In all, this first St. Sava program for the new decade will be a memorable one.
Our St. Stephen community hopes to see His Grace once again this year as our honored guest!