Centennial Celebration at Sv. Vasilije of Ostrog Angels Camp, California Sunday, May 15, 2010
It was a glorious spring morning: clear blue sky, cool air gradually warming yet comfortable. The faithful, who had traveled from not only the San Francisco Bay area, but also from as far away as Los Angeles and Reno, St. Basil of Ostrog Church, Angels Camp, CaliforniaNevada, came early to the picturesque white church with the blue cupola in Angels Camp. Even His Grace, Bishop Maxim arrived very early. Rather than wait for the appointed time to begin the Divine Liturgy, His Grace spontaneously led those assembled in the Matins service. The choir from St. Sava Church in Jackson, the visiting clergy and all those present joined in and took everything in stride.
Matins led naturally to the vesting of the bishop in the presence of the people. He was surrounded by eleven priests, two deacons and a reader. As the Divine Liturgy began at 10:00 am, more and more people arrived, overflowing the temple. After the reading of the Gospel (Jn 14: 10-20) His Grace reflected on the scripture and the life and work of St. Vasilije, "He who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..." The innumerable signs and miracles associated with St. Vasilije of Ostrog continue to this day.
After the close of the Divine Liturgy, His Grace led the clergy and the faithful to the nearby historic cemetery, where many of those Orthodox immigrants from the Gold Rush days, as well as their descendants are buried. His Grace chanted the memorial service while walking among the graves, censing them as he went. Meanwhile, the assisting priests blessed each and every grave with prayers and a sprinkling of wine. The ceremony culminated at the entrance the graveyard where a new monument was consecrated. The marker commemorates the cemetery as the resting place of Orthodox Christians who emigrated to Calaveras county from the Balkan lands of Serbia, Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Montenegro.
From the cemetery, everyone traveled to the next town of San Andreas for lunch. His Grace blessed the zito and prayed for the souls of all those departed founders, benefactors and members of the St. Vasilije parish. Then, the slavski kolach was cut and turned to the singing of the troparions. His Grace moved with the kolach throughout the tables, enabling many of those who were present to participate in the celebration. He finished by breaking the kolach with members of the parish board and clergy, who all proclaimed, "Christ is in our midst."
The rest of the afternoon was spent in fellowship over a delicious lunch paired with local wines from the Sierra Foothills. As we ate, we were entertained by Braca, a traditional, local tambura band. Saint Vasilije of Ostrog must have been smiling as he looked down on us. We pray to him to intercede for us before our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Saint Vasilije (Basil) of Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Church at Angels Camp, California was founded in 1910. There were an estimated 40 Serbian families living in the area during that time. The town of Angels Camp was the principal town in Calaveras County, California at that time, and exploded in population due to gold mining. Many Orthodox Christian Serbs were among the immigrants who came to America during this time period of industrial expansion. The Church was built in close proximity to the Utica Mine. It would have been immediately visible to the miners upon exiting the mine after a hard days work. In those early days, Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich was the Presbyter ministering to the faithful in these parts of California. During the early years Father Jovan Ducic arrived from Hercegovina. Some time after Father Jovan served the parish came Proto George Uvalic. Sadly world war one started in 1914 during the beginning years of the Parish. Life in Angels Camp during that era was a life of very hard and dangerous work in the mines. The Serbs of Angels Camp established a Benevolent society (Srptsvo Dobrotrono Drustvo Broj 1) in 1893 to help families who's men suffered loss of life or injuries from hard rock mining. The "heyday" of hard rock mining was waning after the end of WWI, and by the early 1920's, times had changed in America with the onset of the Great Depression. The local Orthodox Christian Serbs remained in the area, but not in as great numbers as during the gold rush years. The Serbian Cemetery in Altaville, a few miles from the church, is the resting place for many of these pioneer Serbs who came to America. A new Cemetery Monument was unveiled and blessed by his grace Bishop Maxim during his Episcopal visit on May 15, 2010 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Saint Vasilije of Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Church 1910-2010.