Serbian Orthodox Bishop visits Wodonga and Geelong

WodongaOn Sunday, 13 April 2008, His Grace Bishop Irinej, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Australia and New Zealand, for the first time since being enthroned in late 2006 in Sydney, visited his faithful in Wodonga. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Serbian Orthodox Church of Sts. Peter and Paul on High Street. Assisting the bishop were the Very Rev. Lazar Caran of St. Sava Monastery in Elaine, the Very Rev. Dragolyub Pantelich of Ballarat, and the Very Rev. Protodeacon Sasha Colich of Sydney.

WodongaThe church yard was crowded well before the beginning of services and a white runner strewn with fragrant herbs was set out before the bishop. Traditional gifts of bread and salt were offered to welcome the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia. Lovingly greeted by excited children donned in national folkloric costumes, they lined up to receive his blessing. Many received Holy Communion on that day from the hand of their archpastor.

Given that Orthodox Christians are still in Great Lent, as this year Easter falls on 27 April, following the services a common lenten luncheon was served in a crowded Sts. Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Community Centre on Melbourne Road. Here the bishop, again welcomed in traditional fashion, addressed the many gathered and answered questions concerning the life of the Church in Australia and New Zealand.

On Tuesday the 8th of April, the Serbian Community of Saint Nicholas in Geelong was blessed with a visit by our Bishop Irinej. Children from the dancing group dressed in their traditional costumes awaited his arrival very impatiently! Out of all of the children present, it was clear that dancers from the youngest dancing group were the most exciting- asking every ten seconds how long it would be until "the Vladika", as they call him, came. The children were left jumping from excitement when His Grace Bishop Irinej stopped and asked each one of them for their names.

GeelongBy 8 o'clock everyone had been seated, "Our Father" had been read, and everyone was enjoying traditional Serbian lent food, prepared by the Geelong Circle of Serbian Sisters "Majka Jugovic". As expected, a few hasty faces were seen around the room, but an overall feeling of pride and respect towards our somewhat ‘new' Bishop overwhelmed those few stubborn faces.

After a wonderful dinner, Bishop Irinej allowed time for any questions to be asked. Throughout this time, His Grace remained calm and gave everybody the chance to have their questions answered.

It is often said that a man is only as strong as his word. If this is the case, the whole Serbian community of Australia and New Zealand should feel proud that we are under the supervision of such a dedicated leader. Towards the end of the evening, some children from the dancing group had their chance to share their own opinions. From what was said, it is clear to see that Bishop Irinej has become somewhat of a "children's" Bishop. Organising youth seminars and supporting the upcoming teen camp, he has already succeeded in gaining the interest of so many children who had previously found church to be ‘boring' as they could never understand the teachings.

Finally, we have a hierarch who can truly connect with the youth and keep them interested in something that will one day be entirely in their own hands.

On behalf of the Serbian youth present that night, I'd like to thank Bishop Irinej for his time and efforts. We consider him to be not only a wonderful Bishop, but a wonderful man. His views and methods of teaching are engaging and truly a fresh breath of air. Once again, thank-you Bishop Irinej.