Winter is the most wonderful time of year in Miami. It's not too hot out, rather the perfect temperature to be able to bask in the beauties of Florida. During that time, Miami is filled with tourists, streets swarming with cars, and everyone just trying to take advantage of the weather and make the most of their annual vacations.
Our community in Miami, at the Church of St. Simon Myrrhflowing, has more than one reason to celebrate and rejoice. The church celebrates its patron saint day, St. Simon, every year on February 26th.
This year was special for our parish. Our newly appointed Bishop, His Grace Irinej, accepted our invitation and paid his first visit to our parish.
In the final stages of the construction of our new church, everyone gives their time and efforts so that our church will shine. On Saturday, February 25th, a multitude of people were on the church grounds from early morning. Some were taking care of the yard work, others cleaning the hall, and the hardworking members from the Circle of Serbian Sisters were preparing lunch for the Slava.
The folklore group Balkan, who performed for the Slava program, were practicing their choreography to perfection.
In the afternoon, Father Milan, the president of the Church Board Mita Gračev, and the secretary Nenad Milošević, left to the airport to greet and welcome His Grace Bishop Irinej
Arriving before the church, the people who were working all day and the youth from the folklore group, awaited the Bishop, taking blessings and welcoming him.
The Bishop entered the hall and then the altar, and was surprised and happy to see, again after many years, on the Ikonostas, icons from the church of St. Sava, in Cleveland, which were gifted to our church. He told the people, who were gathered, that he was Baptized right before those same icons and grew up with them, so he was very joyous. Then he explained that the artist was a student of the renown Uroš Predić.
After, the Bishop proceeded to the new church where the priest and members of the board showed him how far along the construction had come and explained the next steps. The Bishop then gave his advice on how to improve certain things and expressed his gratification on the progress of the construction.
A little before ten o'clock, the parish priest Father Milan Krstić with Very Reverend Father Lazar Kostur, went out to await the Bishops arrival. The children gave the Bishop a bouquet of flowers and wished him a good welcome. The Bishop blessed all the people there present and, with the hymn of Dostojno, enters the hall/chapel to prepare for Divine Liturgy.
During the Divine Liturgy, the chapel kept getting more and more filled with God-loving people. Immediately after The Holy Gospel, in his moving sermon, our Bishop spoke about the coming lent and about St. Simeon, who we celebrated that day.
There was not a soul that day that wasn't touched by Bishop’s words of the meeting of father and son, the physical father Nemanja falling into the arms of his son Rastko, and the spiritual father Sava and son Simeon.
Towards the end of our Divine Liturgy, we made one procession around the church (instead of a litany, as the church is not yet consecrated). Upon entering the church, the Slavas Kolach was cut. The Kuma for the Slava, Jagoda Sokolović, then then gave a fourth of the Kolač to next year's Kuma, Milena Simović.
At the end of service when taking Antidor, the parishioners received a gift from Vladika, icons, and the children, a booklet about the Newly Enlightened St. Sebastian.
After reading the prayers for Slava lunch, began the prepared cultural program.
Vera Perković opened with an introduction of three old Kosovo songs which were sung by Anastasija and Teodora Krstić, accompanied by Aleksandar Railić.
After them, Balkan's small group, under the watchful eye of Georgetta and Aleksandar Railić, performed a medley of dances from Serbia, and immediately after them, the big group performed danced from Šumadija.
During lunch, which was, as always, deliciously prepared by the Sisters, the president of the Church Board Mita Garčev greeted all the guests and after him the Kuma Jagoda Sokolović did the same.
Next, Father Milan said a few words greeting those at the head table and all present, wishing them togetherness, love, and unity, all of which is necessary for a parish to flourish. Welcoming the most important guest and host, Bishop Irinej, he thanked him on his care and love that he wholeheartedly and selflessly gives wherever he goes.
Then his grace Bishop again turned to the guests expressing gratitude for the warm hospitality and wishing that we again come together soon so that we may consecrate the church we are building.
That afternoon. Naples, FL.
By the request of the small but faithful to God community in Naples, that they may meet with our new Bishop, the Bishop visited them on that Sunday afternoon. Branislava, with family, organized the meeting in the small chapel, fitting about 20-30 people.
Filling the chapel to the fullest, Orthodox Serbs soaked in the instructive and mentoring words of His Grace.
The people asked many questions to which the Bishop patiently replied.
Everyone present expressed the desire to officially become the St. George missionary, the Bishop then explained that they must submit an official request the way that the Constitution requires and then they would receive an answer.
The hosts made sure that there were refreshments, so everyone proceeded outside and, among friendly conversation, were served with tasty food and stayed a while.
After this, the Bishop, along with Father Milan, Mita, Nenad, and Predrag Vaskrsić, returned to Miami and the next morning he left back to New York.
A beautifully spent weekend with our Bishop, has remained with us with wonderful memories and a wish in our hearts that it will be repeated in the near future.