His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America led three days of services for Protinica Donna Merick, who fell asleep in the Lord on June 6, 2022.
Family, clergy, friends, neighbors and members of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church in Steubenville, Ohio said farewell to their beloved Protinica Donna Merick in three beautiful services on June 13 and 14, 2022. All services were held in the church. His Grace Bishop Irinej presided from the throne Monday evening for the Pomen service which was celebrated by Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Rajko Kosic, Parish Priest, who also gave a eulogy on the life of Protinica Donna as mother and devoted wife of a priest. The Petar Krstich Choir sang the responses for all services there.
Protinica Donna and her loving husband Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Rade Merick served Holy Resurrection for thirty-three years and continued to attend services there. They remain a very important part of the church family.
On Tuesday, His Grace Bishop Irinej began the day with the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy for the third day of Pentecost. He gave a sermon based on the Gospel and incorporated the life and person of Protinica Donna, focusing on her goodness. In his homily, he reiterated what so many remembered fondly about Protinica: her deep faith, her warm smile and glowing eyes, her warmth and caring for everyone, her hard work for the welfare of the parish, and a mentor to all younger clergy wives. He was assisted by the following clergy: Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophores Ilija Balach, Stevan Rocknage and Rajko Kosic; Rev. Protopresbyters Milorad Orlic and George Veselinovic; Rev. Presbyters Dejan Barac, Christopher Rocknage, Stefan Djoric, Bojan Banovic and Milos Zdralic; Rev. Deacons Milan Damljanovic and Danial August, all who were there to pay respects to Protinica Donna and support their Brother in Christ, Prota Rade. The funeral service followed the Liturgy, presided by His Grace Bishop Irinej. Father Stevan Rocknage gave the eulogy, touching upon Protinica Donna’s life and devotion, among all else, as a pediatric nurse and her well-known love for children, for whom she always had a gift and a hug.
Following the services, a dacha-memorial meal was held in the church Lyceum. Prota Rade on behalf of sons Nicholas and Dr. Michael, daughter-in-law Megan and the rest of the family thanked His Grace for his paternal love and concern, his brother clergy in Christ who came to pray for Protinica, Nino Karas and crew and members of the Petar Krstich Choir who sang responses and prepared and served the meal, and all their parish family and friends who came to express their love. He reflected on two passages from Holy Scripture: The last chapter of Proverbs, which is read at the Presanctified Liturgy on the eve of Lazarus Saturday, and Ruth 1:16. As a student at St. Vladimir's Seminary, he was assigned to read the Proverbs passage, which describes the ideal wife, at the Liturgy. He thought then and still thinks today that he was assigned to read that passage because others recognized how it described his own wife, Donna. Protinica Donna insisted that the verse from Ruth be included on their wedding invitation in 1975: “Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God.” Coming from the Russian tradition, in marrying a Serb, she vowed to embrace the Serbian tradition as well, and she did it well, by learning the language, the culture, the food and traditions, and passing them on to her sons.
Services for Protinica Donna continued in Cleveland on Wednesday with visitation and services at St Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma with His Grace Bishop Irinej presiding assisted by Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Yves Babich, host pastor Protopresbyter Dragoslav Kosic, Singelos Nektarije (Tesanovic) and Presbyter Dragan Goronjic, Dean of the Cleveland Deanery. Also in attendance were Archpriests Alexander Garclavs and John Memorich and Protopresbyter Milan Pajic, and a large number of friends and relatives. His Grace Bishop Irinej gave another moving and beautiful homily focusing on Protinica Donna from Fr. Rade’s own recollection of the Story of Ruth and how she came from the Russian tradition with the spirit of Princess Olga of Rus, taking on the traits of notable Serbian women, like the Maiden of Kosovo, the Yugovich Mother and Princess Milica. Burial was in Cleveland at St. Theodosius Orthodox Cemetery with a dacha-memorial meal following at the Cathedral prepared by the St. Petka Circle of Serbian Sisters – Kolo Srpskih Sestara 'Sveta Petka'.
The family wishes to thank first of all His Grace Bishop Irinej for his paternal love and concern. His Grace was scheduled to represent the Serbian Orthodox Church at a World Council of Churches meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, but cancelled those plans to lead Protinica Donna's funeral and spend three days with them. Special thanks also go to Prota Rajko Kosic and Prota Dragoslav Kosic, who were a great help in facilitating arrangements in Steubenville and Cleveland respectively, all the clergy who served or attended the services, some coming from great distances, those who sang and who prepared the meals, the pallbearers, and all those many, many people who came to pray for Protinica Donna's soul, to share their memories of her, and to comfort those left behind with the hope of the Resurrection and Life Everlasting in God's Kingdom. May Protinica Donna's memory indeed be eternal!