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Saint Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church in Lackawanna, New York celebrated a festive weekend on January 12 and 13, 2019, blessed by the participation of its spiritual father, His Grace Bishop IRINEJ of Eastern America. In addition to commemorating Saints Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of the Lord, and the Prophet King David, the saints that the Church remembers on the Sunday after Nativity, the parish had a joint Slava celebration, commemorating the Holy Archdeacon Stephen, the First Martyr, and Saint Sava, the patron of the Church School and children.

Vladika Irinej presided at the Vespers on Saturday evening from his cathedra, while parish priest, Protonamesnik Vladislav Golic, served with diocesan Protodeacon Milos Zdralic and parish Deacon Steven Gjurich. The faithful responded to the petitions of the litanies and sang the  verses antiphonally with the clergy.

Prior to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, His Grace Irinej, upon the request and recommendation of Father Vladislav, with the laying on of hands, “set apart” Daniel Hawkins as a reader for the parish of Saint Stephen. Not quite fourteen years old, Reader Daniel has demonstrated zeal for learning about the Orthodox Church. In his instruction to Daniel, Vladika expressed his joy and recalled having seen Daniel’s loving service at the altar in recent years. He pointed out that when a reader is tonsured, the bishop does not select in advance the scripture verse that he will ask the candidate to read, but that the random selection always has a particular relevance and, in this case, the message from the twelfth chapter of Romans “speaks to the heart of a young man.” His Grace exhorted Daniel to read scripture daily, as far as possible, to attend to the prayers read at the service and, as Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory often advised, to do everything with all his might, anticipating that God will provide the completion every good deed.

On Sunday morning, Father Branislav Golic, parish priest of Saint Elijah Church in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and brother of local pastor Father Vladislav, joined His Grace and the clergy who served at the Vespers, adding to the festal atmosphere of the celebration. In Vladika’s homily, he particularly addressed the children, engaging them in a dialogue about the change, the metamorphosis, that comes about in Christians who accept the promise of salvation offered through the Incarnation of Christ.

At the conclusion of the liturgy were the cutting of the Saint Stephen Slavski Kolach, the presentation of an Episcopal Grammaton to Reader Daniel, and the administration of the oath of office to the 2019 Parish Council members and officers of the parish organizations. Vaskrsije and Biljana Pavlović were the honored kumovi for the Parish Slava. The focus then turned to the annual Saint Sava celebration, with the cutting of another kolach, prepared by Branislava Ristić. Vladika, with pastoral love, turned the kolach with the parish children. Once again, the Saint Petka Circle of Serbian Sisters Sveta served a delicious meal, complete with the pastry specialties of the sisterhood members.

While remembering the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Where the bishop is, there is the Church,” and acknowledging that the climax of the parish feast was the participation in the Holy Eucharist with their Father and Archpastor Irinej, the faithful anxiously anticipated the program. Under the direction of Popadija Sara Golic, with the help of the church school staff, the children presented their program in honor of Saint Sava.

In a change of format from prior years, some of the high school students served as Masters and Mistresses of Ceremonies, and introduced the presenters. The program opened with the Saint Stephen Tamburitzans’ playing the Saint Sava Hymn, while the assembled children and audience all sang together. To complement the traditional deklamacije, recitations of poems about Saint Sava and Christian themes, Popadija Sara prepared short skits for some of the children, through which the audience and children learned about Christian family life. Both the junior and senior dance groups performed choreographed pieces, offering lively entertainment for their parents and grandparents. The expanded musical portion of the program included a solo piano performance and the entire church school’s singing of “A Song about Saint Sava” (“Sveti Sava Srbe Voli”) and “Light in the Darkness.” Both of these songs sparked interest and discussion during rehearsals and gave the children additional opportunities to learn about the life of Saint Sava.

With thanksgiving to God, gratitude to His Grace Bishop Irinej, thanks to the visiting clergy, and appreciation for their parish priest, Father Vladislav, and Deacon Steven, the community of Saint Stephen Church anticipates a new year of spiritual growth, brotherly love, and “furtherance in all good things.” Through the intercessions of Saint Stephen and Saint Sava, may the Lord have mercy on his faithful servants!

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