On Sunday, June 18, 2023, on the eve of the feast of the Venerable Bessaron the Wonderworker, a new Mission Parish was established under the aegis of the Eastern American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


The joyful evening began with the celebration of Vespers in St. George the Great-Martyr Greek Orthodox Church in New Britain, CT, presided over by His Grace Bishop Irinej, under whose Omophorion this mission parish would be established.  Serving Vespers were Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Aleksandar Vlajkovic, Dean of the Boston Deanery, and Parish Priest of St. Sava Cathedral in Boston, together with Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Djokan Majstorovic, Parish Priest of St. John the Baptist Church in Paterson, NJ.  Srdjan Maksimovic, lecturer at Fordham University and St. Sava School of Theology in Libertyville, and Mihail Golic, student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, sang responses.  Reader Njegos Perkovic, Archivist of the Eastern American Diocese assisted the Bishop.


After the conclusion of Vespers, the nascent congregation gathered in the St. George church hall, where His Grace Bishop Irinej called the assembly to order with prayer, following his comparison of the celebration of Vespers, which brings to a close the day at hand and initiates a new day, to the dawn of a new parish, following the evening service. After opening remarks and a welcome by Fr. Aleksandar, Bishop Irinej invited Fr. Aleksandar to formally present the petition of the faithful to form a new parish by reading the same aloud.  His Grace then asked to be presented with the list of petitioners to determine if the constitutionally required number of 40 heads of household had been achieved.  To the delight of all, 43 signatures had been consigned to writing and presented.  At this historic moment, the Bishop declared the new parish opened, to which a thunderous applause ensued.


His Grace then turned to the main focus of the evening’s gathering - finding consensus for the naming of this new parish. Even though it is the Bishop’s prerogative to choose a name for the new parish, as always, Bishop Irinej looks to include the entire community in such pertinent decisions in the life of a new community.  As the Bishop said, “everything is to be done in perfect harmony as a parish family”.

The Bishop then spoke of a number of appropriate choices, explaining in detail the historicity and meaning of each, including St. Mardarije of Libertyville, Ven. Justin of Chelije, St. Anastasia (the mother of St. Sava), and the Protection of the Mother God – Pokrov.  His Grace then invited those present to offer their suggestions, among whom were St. Simeon the Myrrh-Flowing, St. Stephen of Dechani, St. Marina the Great-Martyr, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Enlighteners of the Slavs. His Grace also expounded on the lives of these saints who were named.


Various factors went into deciding on the patron saint or patronal feast for this new parish.  Many faithful of this new community came from various parts of Serbia and Serbian regions, others from the Diaspora, converts to Orthodoxy, and some were of Greek ancestry.  As such, a suggestion was made that Sts. Cyril and Methodius would be an appropriate choice. Two brothers from Thessaloniki, who in the Ninth Century bestowed the Cyrillic Alphabet to the Slavs, translated the Gospel of St. Matthew and numerous liturgical texts into what is now referred to as ‘Church Slavonic’, or ‘Old Slavonic’. They bestowed upon the Slavic nations the use of liturgical vernacular, so that the faithful, who are rationally endowed, could worship with comprehension: “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:14-15).


Finally, consensus among the faithful was reached and Sts. Cyril and Methodius were chosen for the Patronal Feast – Slava of this new parish.  The choice was received with great enthusiasm and a joyous ovation!


At this point, the Bishop invited all to rise as Fr. Aleksandar, Fr. Djokan, Srdjan and Mihail led all in the prayerful chanting of the Troparion and Kontakion of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in modern Serbian – following the Sacred Tradition of the Equals-to-the-Apostles: with the spirit and understanding also!


The final order of business was to select a new parish administration, consisting of the offices of President, Treasurer, and Secretary.  The parishioners unanimously nominated Aleksandar Gogic as President, Aleksandar Lazarevic as Treasurer, and Dijana Jovanovic as Secretary. Bishop Irinej then appointed Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Aleksandar Vlajkovic as Administrator of the new Mission Parish.


His Grace invited all in attendance to conclude this most harmonious meeting with prayer.


Special gratitude is due to Archimandrite Spyridon (Chatzis) and the St. George Greek Orthodox Church community of New Britain, CT for their generous hospitality.


Following the opening of the Meeting of Our Lord Mission Parish in Naples, Florida at the beginning of this year, the opening of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Mission Parish represents the second parish established in this Year of our Lord’s Grace, and during the episcopate of Bishop Irinej in the Eastern American Diocese.


John Buffalini

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