October 11, 2020
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Matushki, guests and my dear people;
good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of my first 50 years!
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Last Tuesday, the 6th of October, 2013, seven years ago was the blessing of our first chapel we rented on Mojave and three and a half years later we were in our own place, where will we be in three and a half more years? God will bless what is needed we just have to show we are worthy and work for it and that means really hard.
It is wonderful when brothers and sister gather together in love and friendship and for that I am grateful every day.
When I was first diagnosed in 2009 the oncologist asked how long I hoped to live and I said 96 which gave me 75 years of service. At that point it didn’t look like I’d make 40 and here we are at 50.
I have been writing excerpts from my memoirs the last couple months and hope that you are finding some interest in sharing a little of my life.
And now we are here remembering and together celebrating a life of service in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I want to continue on that by giving some information on the magnificent icon that was commissioned and donated for this very special day. You don’t know how difficult it was to get it here on time from St. Petersburg, Russia but thankfully the icon arrived, was blessed this morning and each of you has received an icon card and now I’d like to say a few things about it and the saints on the card.
The Mother of God has watched over me since 1970 even as I made missteps in my life but has always been there to protect me which is why the Protection or Pokrov depiction was chosen so She watches over us. She is also the patron of our chapel.
The icon depicts most of the churches I was the rector starting with St. Elijah in Billings, Montana. At that time there were two large Serbian parishes dedicated to him but not one on the west coast so I petitioned the Bishop to honor him and we chose the icon of the Prophet being fed by a raven, showing that all we need is a crust of His bread to survive. It was a small parish to start and by the time I left it was still small but had a priest and the roots of that parish are still alive and well.
My next parish was here in Las Vegas, again this time I petitioned to offer a parish under the protection of St. Sava’s father, Simeon the Myrrh bearer. Just before coming to Las Vegas I made a lot of visits to his monastery in Studenitsa, Serbia where his relics exude myrrh and there was no church in America dedicated to him at that time, imagine the Father of St. Sava. During the building of these two parishes I was in the Serbian Church.
After this I transferred to the Greek Archdiocese and served St. John’s here in Las Vegas almost a year waiting to be received into the OCA or Orthodox Church in America.
St. Paul the Apostle came and this time we had a vote so to speak and there were three finalists and the one with the most number was St. Paul the Apostle. It was unusual to name a parish with just St. Paul but they exist and she exists today.
St. Michael the Archangel in Sitka was the see of the first Orthodox diocese in America and the Cathedral was my official see when I became the bishop there.
It was a couple years later that we changed the see to Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska, a very traditional Russia way. The church in Anchorage was dedicated St. Innocent of Irkutsk
St. Olympia the Pillar dweller was patron of the church at St. Sava Monastery in Elaine, Australia where I lived for almost a year. His icon is in the chapel and interestingly that icon was done by a woman in Las Vegas hoping to do the icon screen for St. Simeon’s. I carried that icon from Las Vegas to Australia and back until he was placed in our chapel.
All of these saints are surrounding the new temple, God willing another dream.
Every one of these saints have left a mark on my life and I hope and pray that our parish of All Saints leaves a mark on our lives and the lives of those for whom we serve and for whom we are building, our children our most treasured resource.
We all like special days and dates that are significant, August 9, 1970 is as clear today as it was fifty years ago. And I pray this celebration will last as clear in my memory as time passes.
Many thanks to the co-chairs Mary Ann Karas and Elena Flangas for their work in making all of the pieces come together, to our choir for offering prayerful singing at all our services, our folk-dance group, the performers today and our youth and future and many thanks to Ivan Zekic our chef and all members of All Saints.
And I want to thank everyone here and those who couldn’t come and for sending their well wishes, those whose names were missed I apologize and so many emails, texts and letters.
As we close this event, I say fear not for next year I am celebrating 20th years as a bishop, so may the celebrating continue!!!