On Sunday, July 31, 2022, the parish of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania gathered for a festive celebration of its patronal feast day, Ilindan – St. Elijah Day – and the 108th anniversary of the founding of the parish. This particular celebration bore special significance, in that 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of the blessing of the parish church grounds by St. Nicholai Velimirovich, which took place on June 1, 1952. The parish church, which was completed and consecrated in 1956, thus benefits not only from the patronage of the Holy Prophet Elijah, but from the blessings of consecration that directly proceeded from the hands of our beloved “Serbian Chrysostom,” St. Nicholai.
The day began with the arrival of our archpastor and father in Christ, His Grace, Bishop Irinej of Eastern America, to celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. There to greet him were children bearing flowers, as well as our parish clergy: Protonamesnik (Economos) Branislav Golic, the parish priest; Protopresbyter-Stavrophor (Archpriest) Dr. Rodney Torbic, retired parish priest of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania; and Deacon Daniel August. Also present to serve in the altar was Reader John Buffalini of St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C. Notably, Father Rodney, Deacon Daniel, and Reader John all were born and raised in the St. Elijah parish, and all three profited from the love, support, and guidance of the parish’s long-time priest and spiritual father, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Stevan Stepanov of blessed memory.
The liturgical gathering was enriched by the presence of the honored Slava Host - Kum, George Milosh. Typically, KumGeorge – a professionally trained singer and musician – would be found in the choir loft, serving as the director of the parish’s renown St. Elijah Serbian Church Choir. On this day, however, the choir was directed by its long-time leader, Kathy Loverich, who in May 2022 received the Adam N. Popovich Distinguished Director Award from the Serbian Singing Federation of America, in recognition of her over 50 years of service to her choir and her church. Under her direction, the choir offered prayerful and inspired responses during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
After the reading of the Gospel by Deacon Daniel, His Grace preached on the reading for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, which recounted the Lord’s healing of two blind men and a demon-possessed mute. His Grace emphasized that although Christ can accomplish anything He desires anytime He desires, He instead leaves it to us to seek Him for His blessings and healings. Persistence, said His Grace, is a mark of faith, tying the persistence of the blind men – whom Christ passed by before they followed Him to insist on His help – to the persistence of St. Elijah, whose steadfastness to God in the face of the unbelief and unfaithfulness of the Hebrews brought his people relief from drought and the resurrection of the son of the widow of Sareptha. He added that the St. Elijah parish’s service to the Lord and its community for nearly eleven decades now, in the face of many challenges, reflects the persistence and faith of the people of the parish and their forebearers who established it.
Following the distribution of the Holy Mysteries to the many children and adults who drew near “with the fear of God, with faith and with love”, at the end of the Liturgy, His Grace, the clergy, and the faithful participated in the traditional Litija - Procession around the outside of the church. His Grace then blessed and cut the Slavski Kolach - Festal Bread with the enthusiastic assistance of several of the children of the parish, as well as Kum George. Marica “Cissy” Rebich stepped forward to answer His Grace’s call for a sponsor for next year’s church Slava, at which time Kum George presented her with a quarter of the Slavski Kolach. Zivela Kuma Marica i Hvala Puno Kum George!
After the Divine Liturgy ended, a festal Trpeza Ljubavi (Agape meal/”Table of Love”) was offered at the St. Elijah Center for all of the faithful and guests who were present. A scrumptious menu of roasted lamb, pork, and chicken was presented, along with many traditional Serbian baked goods donated by the faithful. During a brief program that followed the meal, the parish recognized its three high school graduates for 2022 – Rachel Mamula and cousins Marko Kosanovich and Luka Kosanovich – with gifts presented by His Grace. Father Branislav then offered heartfelt remarks to his flock, and ended with special words of thanks to Father Rodney, who serves as a prototype of a humble, devout, and loving servant to our Lord and His Holy Church. On behalf of the entire parish, Father Branislav presented Father Rodney with a beautiful new pectoral cross that Father Branislav acquired during his recent travels in the homeland, which His Grace placed around Father Rodney’s neck. The faithful responded with a thunderous affirmation of AXIOS – DOSTOJAN – HE IS WORTHY! It was truly a moving moment, with many shedding tears of joy in recognition of all Father Rodney does for everyone around him.
His Grace then led all of the assembled faithful in prayer to formally conclude the day’s festivities, but offered one more surprise in closing. His Grace noted that 2023 will be the 60thanniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Eastern America (originally known as the Diocese of Eastern America and Canada), as well as the 60th anniversary of the consecration of the diocese’s first hierarch, His Grace Bishop Stefan (Lastavica) of blessed memory, which took place in our St. Elijah Church on July 13, 1963 – the first consecration of a bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America. As such, His Grace announced plans to have a diocesan event to appropriately commemorate these milestones at the St. Elijah parish in 2023. The parish is proud of its rich history and is honored to serve as host for such a memorable occasion.
On the actual feast day of Saint Elijah, Tuesday, August 2, 2022 the Divine Liturgy was served and a light luncheon was offered to all in attendance.
Through the prayers of St. Elijah, St. Sava, St. Nicholai Velimirovich, and all the saints, may our Lord bless our parish in its 109th year and for many more years to come!