On Sunday, November 4, 2018 the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Joliet, Illinois celebrated their 90th anniversary.
The Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was officiated by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwest America with the concelebration of the parish priest V. Rev. Stavrophor Aleksandar Bugarin, V. Rev. Stavrophor Savo Cakardic from the Sava parish in Joliet and Fr. Nikolaj Kostur of Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago, Protodeacon Milovan Gogic and Deacon Nenad Jakovljevic.
After the Divine Liturgy in the over-filled church, a park with bricks marking this event was blessed. A banquet was prepared in the hall. During the banquet, beside the bishop and clergy, past presidents were also honored. The current president is Dr. Howard Grundy, and the past presidents are Nick Malinovich, Dan Dorsey, Sophie Anderson, Darlene Jovanovich and Arthur Schuman (absent due to illness). The kumovi were Steve and Delores Malinovich.
Past priests Fr. Uros Ucokoljich with his Protinica Ida and Fr. Nikolaj and Popadija Katya and their children attended as well as V. Rev. Mykola of the St. Nicholas Church (OCA) in Joliet who attended with his Matushka, and Deacon Milan Popovic with his wife Snezana.
During the program, Fr. Nedeljko delivered the following greeting:
Your Grace, Reverend clergy, parishioners of St. George Church, brothers and sisters,
I greet you today on this important jubilee of the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church School Congregation, 90th Anniversary. Ninety years is a long period, period in which there were ups and downs in the church life of St. George parish. Since the beginning, in 1928 till 1949, for 21 years there were sixteen parish priests serving in this parish. Nevertheless, the church life was uninterrupted and the parish was functioning in full capacity.
In the year 1949, with the arrival of V. Rev. Stevan Prostran, highly educated clergyman from the Diocese of Dalmatia, who spoke English, among other languages, the parish life got new winds and was constantly in rise. The parish choir was restored, Church Sunday school established and other church organizations reactivated. This worthy priest left a great legacy in St. George parish. With his departure, died in car accident, in 1964, just before the parish was planning his retirement, the parish while mourning his death was concerned what will happen now.
His Grace Bishop Firmilian appointed a young newly ordained priest Fr. Uros Ocokoljich to St. George parish in Joliet. Well educated at St. Vladimir Academy and Iona college in New York, Fr. Uros was well fitting into this mostly English-speaking parish. He continued in the footsteps of Fr. Prostran. Everything was functioning superbly and a new vision for St. George parish was on the horizon. Father Uros and parishioners acquired, on the west side of Joliet, new land with a house for future church location. John Hrechko found the land and worked with the owner, his friend, to arrange for a purchase by St. George Parish. After five years, Fr. Uros was called to help in the parish of Holy Resurrection in Chicago, where he would, after the passing away of Fr. Dusan Popovic, become parish priest of the largest parish in the Midwest.
Fr. Milan Brkich, a well-known priest, who with his parishioners, built St. Sava Cathedral in Milwaukee with other edifices, would serve St. George parish for the next five years. Fr. Milan maintained the status quo, keeping everything in order. In 1974, Fr. Brkich was appointed Secretary of the Diocesan Bishop in Chicago and a young priest Fr. Nedeljko Lunich was appointed parish priest in St. George Church in Joliet.
I take a pride in the services I, as your pastor, had provided in St. George Parish for 40 years (1974-2014). During those forty years, we together, the pastor, the church board and parishioners, working together, hand-in-hand, had accomplished great things. Nothing seemed impossible when we put our thoughts, our minds and our resources into action.
I remember vividly the beginning of our projects, after my arrival to St. George Parish in 1974; there was concern and worry how it would be done. Strong faith, love for God and our Church, honor and respect for our predecessors, the pioneers of St. George Church were a moving force for our success in all endeavors we had undertaken. Our motto was, “we can!”. Whether it was building of the church hall (we started there), moving of the old parish house to the new location, the new church building, or the new parish house, we, the parish of only one hundred+ families stood on the firm foundation, our unwavering precepts of the Orthodox faith. I cannot but admire those who led us through all those accomplishments, the building project managers, truly the catalysts, the Church Board officers, and many parishioners who contributed in a labor and made monetary contributions.
Although it is almost impossible to mention all deserving parishioners I will nevertheless, with your indulgence mention a few most responsible for building the existing edifices in the St. George parish. The main force in the period of building was our parishioner, contractor Daniel Petrich, who undertook two major projects: St. George Social Center and St. George Church. Everything was done on a voluntary basis. Along with him, his right hand was Samuel Starcevich who spent many hours not only in the time of building but maintaining them through the years. Also, Dusan Bosnich provided steel and his working crew while building the Social Center and church building. There were leaders who took care of the organizational part and financial aspects of the parish, during my time, such as the late +Joe Enich, the late +Bobo Bjekich, the late +Jack Lockwood and the late +Kimball Mancke, as well as those seated in the front of the head table: Nick Malinovich, Sophie Anderson, Darlene Jovanovich, Dan Dorsey (Art Schumann, missing today), and present Board president Dr. Howard Grundy. I would be remissed not to mention our hard-working ladies who put so many hours for many years leading the kitchen crew, like the late +Stella Enich and our ever-present Vicki Petrich Dorsey. Our Sunday School Superintendent Gayle Shimek has provided leadership for many years, then Kathy Petkovich, who beside Sunday School led the Junior Choir and Folklore Group, as well as Nancy Cora in Sunday School and Cultural Club, our most wonderful and the best choir directress Alex Starcevich, the leaders of the Church Kolo Sisters, at the present time led by Helen Malinovich, then church wardens, altar boys under the leadership of David Laketa, and all of you who fill the church pews and choir loft every Sunday.
The monuments we built are to the glory of God and honor of our Patron, Saint George. If we had missed recording the names of those laborers in the Lord’s vineyard in the annals of the church records, their names will be inscribed in the book of God’s heavenly kingdom. To those who had fallen asleep in the Lord, memory eternal, and those still amongst us, may God grant good health.
My faith in you, dear St. George parishioners, assures me that you will continue in the footsteps of those great builders, keeping your faith and being good stewards of the St. George Parish.
I cannot say that I have finished my course yet, since as an obedient servant of God’s Holy Church, I am to answer the call of my Church when needed, as I have done in the recent interim period in St. George Church, waiting for the appointment of a new pastor, and again now serving in St. Nikola Church in Brookfield. Joliet is my home, where I stayed with my son Stevan to be a part of the St. George family.
Today, I especially greet His Grace Bishop Longin, with a gratitude for his fatherly love, compassion and guidance. There is something unique with our Bishop Longin, goodness in his heart. In the most difficult situations, His Grace finds the way how to put things in proper perspective, put aside until the heads cool off. Your Grace, thank you!
Allow me to greet my predecessor Fr. Uros who is today with us with Protinica Ivanka, as well as my previous successor Fr. Nikolaj Kostur who is also today with us with his wife Popadija Katja and children. Fr. Nikolaj served valiantly and devotedly St. George parish for three years.
Especially, I welcome and extend brotherly greeting to my immediate successor, our new pastor Fr. Aleksandar Bugarin, his wife Protinica Gordana and family, wishing them a long and peaceful life, health and salvation, and that the good Lord grant them many, many years!
Happy 90th Anniversary! May God grant many more!