On Sunday, September 4, 2022, the community of St. George the Great-Martyr in North Canton, Ohio was blessed with a visit from Hieromonk Gavrilo, abbot of Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery. The faithful were anticipating this visit with great joy, having visited during a pilgrimage in 2018.
The joy of this visit was magnified many times over, as they were also blessed with a visit by their beloved Hierarch and Father, Bishop Irinej of Eastern America; and also with the presence of iconographer Fr. Theodore Jurewicz and family who recently began expanding the iconography and fresco work in the main arch over the iconostasis.
With the sanctuary inaccessible due to scaffolding, Divine Liturgy was held in the center of the church, presided over by Bishop Irinej from the Throne, and concelebrated by Hieromonk Gavrilo and host priest, Economos Aleksa Pavichevich. Fr Gavrilo offered spiritual nourishment to the gathered faithful with a sermon on “The Rich Young Man”, as he reflected on the meaning of the word “rich”, which in the Serbian language has at its root, “Bog” - which, in Serbian, means “God”. So, to be rich in our Serbian Orthodox ethos and understanding, is to have God at the very center of all that we do and value.
Those in attendance delighted at the iconographic work being done by Fr Theodore as the Feast of the Ascension is currently taking shape in the main vault over the iconostasis. As His Grace Bishop Irinej pointed out, however, Fr Theodore does not do this holy work to draw our eyes to the wall, but rather quite the opposite: to make the walls disappear, and to make the Kingdom of God visible to all.
Following Divine Liturgy, the faithful gathered for a meal prepared in love for their guests. Fr Aleksa Pavichevich began the event by recalling the deep spiritual connection forged between the parishioners of St George Serbian Orthodox Church and Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery during a 2018 pilgrimage to the holy sites of Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija.
As the first gift to their guests, the children of St George parish prepared a short folklore program to the delight of all in attendance. Immediately following, one of the dancers, Sophia Pavichevich, spoke of the impact of visiting Djurdjevi Stupovi had on her:
“On behalf of our parish Folklore Group and youth, I welcome you to our St George Serbian Orthodox Church community - Dobro Doshli!
In 2018 our parish took a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija. And although we have many positive memories, it is Djurdjevi Stupovi that stands out in my heart, and in the hearts of so many who visited.
I will never forget the kindness of the monastic community who poured out their love and hospitality on all of us there that day. It made a tremendous impact on us and enlivened our spirits.
As a small token of our love and appreciation, we would like to present to you both a print of ‘The Kosovo Maiden’ a rendition which I recently completed for a dear friend at church, Nada Winovich, who is the Soprano you heard today.
Although it does not fully capture the beauty of the original, it was done as a labor of love for our Serbian heritage, and as a reminder of the spiritual heart of our people - and it is in that love for our faith and holy Serbian church that I present this to you today.
Myself and my community will keep you, Your Grace, and you, Fr Gavrilo, in our prayers.”
Sophia then presented both His Grace Bishop Irinej and Hieromonk Gavrilo with a print of “The Kosovo Maiden.” This was no regular print, however; it was an original rendition done by the hand of Sophia herself.
Fr Gavrilo then gave a presentation on the reconstruction of the monastery of St Barabara, one of the great spiritual and historical treasures of the Serbian people. Buried by time following its destruction during World War I, Fr Gavrilo shared information about this holy place and how all our faithful can participate in the venerable effort to restore it to its former glory.
At the end of the talk, Fr Gavrilo presented His Grace Bishop Irinej with a beautiful icon of St Simeon the Myrrh-flowing holding the monasteries of Djudjevi Stupovi and St Barbara. It was truly a blessing not only for His Grace, but also for the entire Diocese as it carried with it the love and blessing of our spiritual heartland in Kosovo and Metohija.
The faithful of St. George, inspired by Fr Gavrilo’s presentation and the venerable project tasked to him, and out of love for the faithful people and churches of their Fatherland, collected funds to help in the rebuilding efforts of the monastery of St Barbara. His Grace, on behalf of the diocese, offered the first such donation. The mutual exchange of love and good-will enlivened the hearts of the faithful and inspired many generous donations for the reconstruction of the monastery.
The joyous event went well into the afternoon as members of the 2018 pilgrimage to Serbia came to greet Fr Gavrilo and share their love for him, and Djurdjevi Stupovi monastery, while sharing their many memories and experiences.
Many thanks to the faithful parishioners of St George who donated, cleaned, prepared food, and poured out their hospitality upon their beloved guests;
And many thanks, and many years, to His Grace Bishop Irinej who not only blessed the community’s effort to expand their iconography, but who blessed this visitation and the blessing that came with Fr Gavrilo from Djurdjevi Stupovi for their spiritual edification!