Diocese of Western America: Freedom to Pursue the Faith
Friday, August 30, 2013 was the first day of the Jubilee Celebration of the Western American Diocese: Freedom to Pursue the Faith. This year during Diocesan Days we acknowledge several momentous anniversaries: 50 years of the founding of the Diocese, 150 years of the birth of Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich, Holy Apostle to the Americas, and 1700 years of the Edict of Milan.
On this first day of Diocesan Days, all of our clergy from throughout our Diocese gathered together for a luncheon followed by a special Clergy Siminar with guest speaker V.Rev. Dr. John Erickson of St. Vladimir's Seminary. Later in the day, the Diocesan Council held it's annual meeting in preparation for the Annual Assembly. At the same time, the Diocesan Kolo Sprpskih Sestara held it's Annual Meeting with ladies from KSS organizations from churches throughout the diocese.
The meetings concluded at 6pm and were followed by Great Verspers and then dinner in the pavilion. After dinner presentations were given by V. Rev. Dr. John Erickson and Hieromonk Iakovos of Simonopetra, Mt. Athos and then a question and answer period.
On Satuday, August 31st of Diocesan Days 2013 - Freedom to Pursue the Faith, the day began with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy concelebrated by His Grace, Bishop Maxim, Hieromonk Iakovos of St. Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos, Rev. Dr. John Erickson, St. Vladimir's Seminary Dean Emeritos, and all the clergy and parishioners of the Western Diocese.
Following the Liturgy, refreshments were served and everyone gathered for the Symposium where our guest speaker Dr. James Skedros, Professor at Holy Cross Seminary in Boston gave a very enlightening presentation on "St. Constantine the Great".
At the conclusion of the symposium a picnic lunch, prepared by the parishioners of the St. Sava parish in San Gabriel, was held in the pavilion with musical accompaniment all afternoon. A very special Stamatis Skliris Art Exhibit was open throughout the weekend, providing everyone an opportunity to purchase an original painting from this very beatuiful and colorful collection, "The Dynamic Earth", Stamatis Skliris' Vision of the Past, Present, and Future of American National Treasures.
The Annual Diocesan Assembly was held later that day at 2pm and was followed by the St. Nikolai Velemirovic Oratorical Festival and a Folk Fest Program. The topic of the St. Nikolai Oritorical Festival was The Edict of Milan (313 - 2013). Three very talented and knowledgable finalists made their presenations with the hope of winning first place and going on to compete in the National competition at the National Annual Assembly to be held in 2014 in Alhambra, California at Saint Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. All of the presentations were outstanding and we congratulate our competators and thank them for all the hard work they put into this competition. Our First Place winner was Daniel Gligich from Fresno, California, Second Place winner was Oksana Germain from Southern California, and our Third Place winner was Christina Nourmiev from Seattle, Washington.
Next on the program was a special pesentation to our youth by Hieromonk Iakovos from Mount Athos. Fr. Iakovos spoke to the children and teens about his life as a monastic and his experiences as a dentist at his monastery. Our youth posed questions afterwards about Fr. Iavokos' life as both a monastic and a dentist.
The Folklore Program which followed, consisted of dance groups from parishes from throughout the Diocese who volunteered their time and talent to pariticipate in the 50th Anniversary of our Diocese. A special presentation was given by "Breze", a group of young girls from St. Sava Church in Pheonix who sang several beautiful songs in honor of this Jubilee Celebration. At the conclusion of the program the Kolo Dancers were led off the stage by Fr. Nikola Ceko, Dean of Saint Steven's Cathedral, to the Church where everyone gathered in prayer at the Great Vesper Service.
Later that evening, at dusk and before the dinner was served, guests gathered outside on the field just behind the pavillion for two evening events. Dr. Michael Pravica, Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, made a brief presentation in Commemoration of Nikola Tesla and gave an electrifying demonstration of the Tesla Coil, allowing volunteers from the audience to participate. While enjoying this event guests were also invited to particiate in some Beer Tasting from Pure Order Brewing Company which will be opening in the fall of 2013 in Santa Barbara.
After a very eventful evening everyone moved into the pavillion for dinner and an evening of music, dancing, and fellowship.
We wish to thank our Emcee, Valarie Glover, our Oritorical Festival Coordinator and Director of Christian Education, V. Rev. Dr. Bratislav Krsic, and our Folk Fest Program Coordinator, Liljana Pantovic for their hard work and participation in organizing the Saturday afternoon Program and Youth Pesentation.
On Sunday, September 1st, 2013, the third day of the Jubliee Celebration of the Western American Diocese, the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by His Grace, Bishop Maxim of the Western American Diocese, His Eminence, Archbishop Joseph, Antiochian Bishop of Los Angeles and the West, and His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin, OCA Bishop of the West, together with all the Clergy and faithful Orthodox Christians from throughout the Western American Diocese.
This was a beautiful service of thanksgiving, with prayful responses from the Saint Steven's Cathedral Choir who were joined by many singers from parishes throughout the Diocese.
When the Divine Liturgy came to an end, the Hierarchs and Guest Speakers made their way to the Diocesan Office where a beautiful reception awaited them. During this time the parishioners and visitng faithful made their way to the main hall where the Grand Banquet and Program was to begin not long after.
As guests enjoyed the hor d'oeuvres, and fellowship with family and friends, they made their way to their seats where a special gift awaited them. His Grace, Bishop Maxim had prepared for this event, a very special edition of the "Annual," which this year was adorned with beautiful photos and artcles about the history of our Western American Diocese and every parish, mission, monastery, and skete in the Diocese. It is truly a treasure that every family will want to have in their homes.
Once everyone was seated, our emcee, Ben Lemon, introduced the Hierarchs and Guests one by one as they entered the hall. The Banquet began with the Lord's Prayer and the delicious meal prepared by the hands of the ladies of the Saint Steven's Women's Auxiliary was served. While everyone enjoyed their meal the program began with songs sung by a young and very talented group of singers, "Breze," from the St. Sava Church in Phoenix. This was followed by the reading of the Epistle to Diognetus which was read beautifully by Zeljka Gortinski and Ben Lemon. We were honored then to hear a few words from His Eminence, Archbishop Joseph and His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, followed by the Keynote Address given by our guest speaker Rev. Hieromonk Iavokos from Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos. His Grace, Bishop Maxim then presented special gifts of gratitude to His Eminence, Archishop Joseph, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, and honored guest speakers Rev. Hieromonk Iakovos, V. Rev. Dr. John Erickson, and Dr. James Skedros. The Grand Banquet and Program then came to an end with the singing of Dostonojest!
After a few more hours of fellowship and dancing, the final event of the three-day Jubilee Celebration began. Many stayed for a special Wine Tasting Dinner! As guests enjoyed a delicious meal preapred by the parishioners of Christ the Saviour Church, they were given the opportunity to experience the qualities of several different types of wine from Monastery Tvrdos.
That concluded the festivities of the Jubilee Celebration of the Western American Diocese at Diocesan Days 2013. It was truly an magnificant and historic event enjoyed by all who attended and participated in it!