Serbian Patriarch Irinej in St. Simeon Mirotocivi Church, South Chicago
On Sunday, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej served Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at St. Simeon Mirotocivi Church in South Chicago in honor of the upcoming Church Slava on February 26. Concelebrating with His Holiness were His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America - the host bishop, and His Grace Bishop Maksim of Western America. Also serving were Archpriest-Stavrophor Luka Lukic - the host priest, Hieromonk Jovan, Protodeacon Stanimir Spasovic and Deacons Aleksandar Petrovic and Nikolaj Kostur.
His Holiness was greeted at the entrance of the church property with the traditional bread and salt, brought to the Patriarch by the youth of the parish, who were dressed in traditional Serbian clothing. A Parastos (Memorial Service) was also held for all the departed members of the parish before the Dismissal of the Liturgy. In his sermon, the Patriarch spoke of the importance of St. Simeon Mirotocivi to the Serbian people, in that he was the founder of the Serbian nation and glorified God by his good works and holy life, which was more so diligent after he left the throne, was tonsured, and fully dedicated his life to the service of God.
The Patriarch said that for the sake of St. Simeon, the Serbian Orthodox Christians on the North American continent and everywhere in the Diaspora cannot forget their Serbian Orthodox faith, their Serbian language or their Serbian culture and must keep a strong unity, just as St. Simeon encouraged in the forming of the State of Serbia. His Holiness also mentioned the importance of holding on to the true Orthodox Faith as the One, Holy, Ecumenic and Apostolic Church. After the sermon, His Holiness awarded Mr. Petar Samardzija, a member of St. Simeon Mirotocivi Church, with the Order of St. Sava (III Degree). His Grace Bishop Longin had nominated Mr. Samardzija for the Order to the Holy Synod for his efforts in striving for church unity, his material donations over the years to the Church, and his model Orthodox family. A festive Slava banquet followed in the church hall after the cutting of the Slava Kolach, which was served by His Holiness.
The program opened with poems read by the youth of the parish and dancing performed by the parish's folklore groups. In attendance at the banquet were His Excellency General Consul Desko Nikitovich of the Consulate of the Republic of Serbia and Mr. Slavko Panovic, President of the Serbian National Defense. Both men addressed those present with words of encouragement for the Serbian people, asking them to hold on to the unity that has finally been reached on this continent since the divisions that existed in the past. Bishop Longin also addressed the crowd, thanking His Holiness for serving in the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, especially at the Slava of this parish.
His Grace also spoke about St. Simeon, saying that perhaps the greatest honor one could give to St. Simeon is to say that he is the father of the greatest Serbian saint of all time - St. Sava. After several other speeches and warm words of the Parish Priest, Fr. Luka Lukic, and the Presidents of the Church Board and Kolo of Serbian Sisters and others, His Holiness once again addressed the people, thanked them for their hospitality and love, and then, having blessed them, returned to St. Sava Monastery.