Recognition of Service to God

Recognition of Service to God
Recognition of Service to God
Recognition of Service to God
Recognition of Service to God

Celebrating Father Petar Petrović’s 40+ Years of Work in the Church

St. George Serbian Orthodox Church of Cincinnati, Ohio celebrated a monumental day on February 19, 2017 as His Grace Bishop Irinej, the recently appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America, visited for a very special occasion. Bishop Irinej came not only to meet the people of his new diocese and to lead a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, but to bestow a blessing and elevate Father Petar Petrovic, who has been serving in the presbyterate for over 40 years (43 to be exact), with his loving wife Protinica Gordana by his side! Father Petar took up his cross to follow Christ by serving as a priest many years ago in Serbia.

“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). It is worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on the words spoken by Christ and how each Christian chooses to heed (or not to heed) their Master’s calling. For example, some deny the calling altogether and become destroyed by this world (ex. Parable of the Sower). Others, such as the monastic communities, devote their entire lives to following Christ, in what can seem to outsiders of the Church as “extreme”. Many of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle on our journey with the Cross, with our own temptations, battles, failures, and victories along the way. Our communities are led on a local level by the parish priest, who is accountable for his parishioners before God as he administers the Mysteries of the Church. It is our parish priests who bear this great responsibility as they were “called out” to become members of the clergy and to lead.

The preparation for the Bishop’s first Canonical Visit began more than two months ago and much work was completed to make his visit a memorable one. His Grace Bishop Irinej arrived February 18th and was welcomed by Father Petar and treated to a special dinner in downtown Cincinnati. On Sunday morning, Father Petar welcomed His Grace at the church doors with the words, “May he be blessed he who comes in the name of the Lord!”. Father Petar’s son, Very Reverend Father Dragan Petrović of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, along with the St. Nicholas Choir, Very Reverend Father Daniel Marshal of St. George Russian Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, and theology professor, Deacon Dr. Jovan Anicic of Chicago, were all present to participate in the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. St. George was bursting at the seams with parishioners filling the entire Church and spilling out into the parking lot.

Before beginning the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Father Petar had recommended to Bishop Irinej to elevate and tonsure Adam Meador and Veljko Uverici to Readers in the Church and members of the minor-clergy. Bishop Irinej explained to all present the duties of the Reader in the Church and the importance of the position. The two were confirmed by the Bishop’s blessing, tonsuring, and the thrice chanted, “Axios!” (meaning “worthy”). The two then joined in the altar Father Petar’s three grandsons, Marko, Petar, and Jovan to assist during the Divine Liturgy.

During the Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Irinej elevated Father Petar to the dignity of a Stavrophor (Cross-bearer) to the sound of the thrice chanted “Axios” for his hard work and dedication to the Church and bestowed upon him a beautiful pectoral cross, which was gifted by his faithful. This powerful symbol is the highest honor awarded to a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church and Bishop Irinej had the following to say of Father Petar, “We know of your many devoted years of service to the Church, 43 in specific, and we know that they have been rich years, years which have been filled with work, with dedication, and love towards Christ’s Holy Church. May you continue to offer to the Church all that God has given you. May you continue to grow in the fullness of the stature of Christ and as you grow, may this parish grow also with you because this recognition is given not only to you, but to every single person who is standing here together with you, because you are their spiritual father. Without you, they would not be able to prosper in Christ. May the Lord God bless you and keep you well! Ziveli, na mnogaja, i blaga ljeta!”

After the reading of the Holy Gospel, Bishop Irinej gave an inspiring and memorable sermon on imparting Christ’s love to others and the definition of sin, which he summarized as “the absence of love”. His thoughts on the distinction between sin and transgression were also thought-provoking to all in attendance. Bishop Irinej gave parts of his sermon in both English and Serbian, uplifting all of the parishioners of St. George and those visiting. After the Divine Liturgy finished, all in attendance headed to the Fellowship Hall to enjoy a wonderful banquet to commemorate such a special day.

Despite many commitments, it was not hard for Bishop Irinej, to visit after the banquet in the hall and on the way to the airport, his ailing friend Greg Miladinov, whom he has known from his student days.

The Bogdan Blagojevic family, Milan Sajkovic family, Damjan Gligorevic family, Goluban Marjanovic Family and the Tomo Veselinovic family all donated pigs and lambs for the feast, while many of St. George KSS, as well as other sisters, brought deserts. During the banquet, Milovan Beljin and his daughter Ana played music, creating a joyful atmosphere. Later on, the music subsided in order for members of St. George Parish Council, as well as Father Dragan, Father Petar, and Bishop Irinej to give speeches. Dimitrije Jovic, Marko Mijac, Cedomir Dokovic, and Veljko Uverici all shared memories of Father Petar and Protinica Gordana and what influence they have had since coming to Cincinnati. Additionally, Veljko Uverici, on behalf of St. George parish, presented to both Father Petar and Protinica Gordana commemorative watches to honor the day. Father Dragan also spoke to those gathered in the hall, sharing special memories of his life growing up as the son of Father Petar and Protinica Gordana. He spoke about what it was like to learn love, kindness, humility, strength, hard work, and determination growing up in the Petrović household and of the interactions with parioshioners, friends, family, and acquantices that his family had all along the way. Father Petar then followed with his own speech, welcoming His Grace Bishop Irinej, visitors from St. Nicholas, parishioners of St. George, and all who made the effort to attend. Father spoke about what this visit of the Bishop means to those of St. George and asked that the bishop remember in his prayers him, his family and his parishioners. After the speeches were finished, granddaughters Marija and Kristina Petrovic sang a beautiful song dedicated to their grandparents. Father Petar presented the visiting clergy with commemorative crosses, while receiving crosses from St. Nicholas Church in Indianapolis and his sons Dragan and Dusan and their families. Additionally, all in attendance received special icons to hang in their vehicles.

It was a day of celebration – the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy led by His Grace Bishop Irinej and the commemoration of over 40 years of service in the Priesthood of Father Petar and his wife Protinica Gordana – which will be remembered for years to come by all who had the privelege and honor to attend. Let us all look to carry our crosses with humility and love, as our Lord Jesus did and may the words spoken by Father Petar during his speech echo in our hearts during this lenten period, “The easiest and most appropriate cross is the one carried on the wings of faith, hope, and love, regardless of how many thorns there are on this path, how many wounds there are on our backs, or how many scars there are on our hearts and souls”. May we all remember His Grace Bishop Irinej, Father Petar and his family, and all the clergy in our prayers as through them we can prosper in Christ. May God bless us all and keep us well! 

Article by Adam L. Meador