On Saturday November 8, His Grace Bishop Maxim led the faithful of St. Stephen Nemanja parish in Bisbee, Arizona, in their celebration of the feast of the Holy Great Martyr Dimitrije. Joining them for the day were many friends and relatives from Tucson and the Phoenix area as well as members of the Bisbee community.
His Grace, accompanied by Deacon Zoran Aleksic, had arrived in Tucson the previous night, where he was met by Fr. John and Popadija Helen Erickson and whisked away to Bisbee for a few hours of sleep. Bright and early the next morning he was greeted at the doors of the church by Fr. John and Mr. Sam Sorich, Jr., Parish Board President.
The Divine Liturgy for the feast began with the Baptism and Chrismation of William Matthew Varady, young son of Erin and Matthew Varady and grandson of John and Kathleen Varady and Jeanette Jernigan and the late Willliam Jernigan. Sam Sorich, together with Ople Sorich and Jodi Escapule, served as his sponsor. His Grace had baptized William’s brother Logan on an earlier visit to the parish.
Concelebrating with His Grace were Fr. Dragomir Tuba, Administrator of the parish and priest of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Phoenix, and Fr. John, who regularly serves at St. Stephen Nemanja as Assistant Priest. Joining them in the altar in addition to Deacon Zoran were Deacon Lawrence Schmale and Subdeacon Methodius (Loren) Makus from Holy Resurrection Antiochian Orthodox Church in Tucson. Popadija Helen led the singers.
Following the Divine Liturgy and Slava in honor of St. Dimitrije, the Circle of Serbian Sisters provided a bountiful dinner in the church hall, featuring a number of traditional Serbian dishes. The parish singers led guests in an enthusiastic “Many Years” for the newly baptized and for all those celebrating their family Slava or saint’s day. Entertainment included a selection of Serbian folksongs performed by Rudy and Sam Mamula, members of Tucson’s Dusty River Boys bluegrass band.
In the course of the dinner, Fr. John was taken by surprise when His Grace presented him with an Episcopal Gramata honoring him for his service to the Orthodox Church and the St. Stephen Nemanja parish. In receiving the award, Fr. John expressed his thanks for the opportunity to serve in Bisbee. He noted his appreciation, as a retired professor of church history, for the Bisbee Serbian community’s rich historical heritage. A former Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Fr. John also thanked His Grace for his devoted service on the seminary’s Board of Trustees and congratulated him for the magnificent publishing accomplishments of Sebastian Press.