Diocesan News

Ordination of Joseph Wesseler to the Deaconate


display imageOn Great and Holy Thursday, during the Vesperal Liturgy of Saint Basil, Joseph Robert Wesseler was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America of the Serbian Orthodox Church at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY.

The newly-ordained Deacon Joseph is a third-year seminarian hailing from the Diocese of Western America with his home parish being St. Peter the Apostle Serbian Orthodox Church in Fresno, CA. He is expected to graduate with a Masters of Divinity in May.

Deacon Joseph is an active and well-respected member of the St. Vladimir’s community and many of his fellow seminarians attended the ordination service. Deacon Joseph was accompanied by his wife Anastasia and their two children, Thanasi and Sebastian.

As the service began, the windows of the Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s were opened to allow for the cool spring air and the fresh flowery scents of a new season to seep inside, signaling to the congregated faithful of the looming death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was then that His Grace Irinej reminded the St. Vladimir’s community of the approaching Pascha, while reflecting on the sacred journey of Lent and the call for Christian renewal of matter and humanity itself by explaining the natures of God and man within Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the teachings of St. Maximos the Confessor, and in light of the Eucharist offered “on behalf of all and for all”!

For the newly-ordained Deacon Joseph, the day was one he will cherish as part of his many memories of St. Vladimir’s.

“It seemed to go very quickly, and I was incredibly nervous the entire time,” Deacon Joseph said afterwards. “Bishop Irinej actually calmed me quite a bit with how charismatic and personable he was during the ordination, and I've had several classmates comment on how 'cool' he was during the ordination. I still feel incredibly honored to have been called to the diaconate, and to have Bishop Irinej perform my ordination. It is a day my family and I will remember forever, and marks a turning point in my life. I look forward to being of use to my Bishop, Maxim, and hope to make my home-priest, Father George, proud.”

The newly-ordained anticipates the road ahead being one of service to Our Lord and to the Holy Church as the cries of “Axios!” filled Three Hierarchs Chapel as he was vested to his rank by His Grace Irinej.

Afterwards, His Grace — himself an alumnus of St. Vladimir’s —was able to celebrate a Lenten lunch with the St. Vladimir’s faculty and students

The liturgy was also served with Fr. Chad Hatfield, Chief Executive Officer of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Fr. Alexander Rentel, Fr. David Mezynski, Fr. Paul Girgis, Fr. Sasha Nedic and Fr. Seth Earl along with Deacons Gregory Hatrak, Daniel Greeson, Christopher Moore, and Larry Soper.

Photos: Djakonitsa Adrienne Soper

Source: Eastern Diocese

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Bishop Maxim Celebrates His Krsna Slava - The Feast of Saint Lazarus

Slava 2017Alhambra, CA - His Grace Bishop Maxim and his parents, Proto Lazar and Protinica Radmila Vasiljevic, celebrated their Krsna Slava, on Lazarus Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the Saint Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra, California.

His Grace Bishop Maxim concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with V. Rev. Lazar Vasiljevic, Bishop Maxim's father; V. Rev. Nicholas Ceko, Cathedral Dean; Rev. Norman Kosanovic, Assistant Priest at the Cathedral; V. Rev. Vasilije Cvijanovic, parish priest at the Holy Trinity Church in Moraga, CA; V. Rev. Predrag Bojovic, parish priest at the St. Sava Church in San Gabriel, CA.; and V. Rev. Jegarski, retired priest in Los Angeles. Many guests from throughout the Diocese joined His Grace in the Lazarus Day Festivities. 

Following the Divine Liturgy, the festal Slava service was held in the main hall and was followed by a delicious luncheon prepared by the Diocesan Kolo Sprkih Sestara, The beautiful Slava Kolach and Zito was made by Bishop Maxim's mother, Protinica Radmila Vasiljevic.  

A very joyous and Sretna Slava to His Grace Bishop Maxim and his parents Proto Lazar and Protinica Radmila. Eis polla eti despota!

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20th Annual Diocesan SKSS Retreat, Alhambra

2017 20th skss retreatThe 20th Annual Diocesan Kolo Srpskih Sestara Lenten Women's Retreat was held at the Saint Steven's Serbian Orthodox Church in Alhambra, California on Friday, March 31st and Saturday, April 1st, 2017. Participants included women from the Greek, Russian, and Serbian Orthodox Churches from nearby parishes and from parishes as far away as Phoenix, Arizona. 

On Friday, March 31st, the weekend festivities began in the early evening with the Akathist Service followed by dinner and a warm welcome and engaging introductory talk on Fasting, Confession, and the Eucharist, given by V. Rev. Predrag Bojovic, the new Spiritual Advisor of the SKSS and parish priest of the Saint Sava Church in San Gabriel, California. 

Day two of the Retreat began with the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Predrag Bojovic, with responses by the Dean of the Saint Steven's Cathedral, V. Rev. Nicholas Ceko, and visiting seminarian Milorad Delic from Serbia. 

Following the Liturgy the ladies gathered for refreshments and pasties outside on the pavillion patio where they enjoyed the warmth of a beautiful sunny California morning and fellowship with their fellow sisters.

Shortly after, His Grace Bishop Maxim joined the Kolo Sprskih Sestara for a special video presentation by Elissa Bjeletich on the topic, Raising Saints: Finishing the Work of the Parish at Home & Vice Versa. In the video Elissa discusses an approach to youth ministry that not only includes parents as partners, but which includes parents themselves as the targets of ministry as she suggests that one of the best things the Church can offer youth is good and holy parents. At the completion of the video, His Grace elaborated further on the presentation which then led to a discussion on the role of parents and their participation in educating their children in the faith at home. 

Following a delicious lunch, His Grace Bishop Maxim welcomed questions and comments on all topics. After a few hours of discussion, the ladies enjoyed a nice break before confessions and the evening Vespers Service. The Retreat concluded with a final meal and another opportunity for fellowship. 

Please mark your calendars and make plans to attend the 21st Annual Lenten Women's Retreat which will be held during the fifth week of Great Lent on the March 23-24, 2018 at the Saint Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra, California. 





Living the Faith in Our Daily Lives, A Blessed Weekend in Jackson, California

jackson lenten retreat 20172Elissa Bjeletich gave three very interesting, invigorating, lucid and exciting lectures, which inspired very lively and constructive discussions.

Elissa was the main speaker of the Lenten retreat entitled “Living the Faith in Our Daily Lives,” which took place at St. Sava Mission in Jackson and at Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Sacramento, California, on Saturday and Sunday, March 11 and 12. The retreat was organized very well by Protinica Betsy Tumbas and, although it used to be organized for years as a women’s retreat, this time was open to everyone.

Mrs. Bjeletich has written three books (In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey through Her Infant’s Critical Illness; Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home; Welcoming the Christ Child: Family Readings for the Nativity Lent) and authors a podcast on the Ancient Faith Radio called “Raising Saints.”

The retreat gathered around 60 people of different ages, from a dozen of Orthodox churches, including 9 clergymen.

A special blessing was the presence of His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America, who arrived on Friday evening and departed on Sunday afternoon. He gave his initial archpastoral blessing for the retreat and participated in its activities, which were crowned with divine services of Vespers on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning at St. Sava Church in Jackson. Father-bishop Maxim addressed particularly the new parish priest of St Sava, Fr. Marko Bojovic, and invited him and his parishioners to "receive one another" as a criterion for their daily life and their actions, and wished that the Mercy of the Lord strengthens them all, so that whatever seems impossible may become possible for us through God.

During his stay in Jackson, he met also with the members of St. Sava Mission Foundation and discussed their present state and plans for the future. After the meeting, everybody was very much encouraged and pleased with its results.

Altogether, this blessed weekend was a perfect opportunity for Orthodox Christian fellowship, spiritual nourishment and growth.

God willing, the retreat will take place again next year, at the end of the second week of Great Lent.


Historic Meeting in Jackson at St. Sava Mission

jackson retreat 2017On Saturday, March 11, 2017, a historic meeting took place at the St. Sava Mission. Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, together with a member of his Episcopal Council and local clergy, met with Stan Grgich, current President of St. Sava Mission Foundation and members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  His Grace scheduled this meeting specifically to provide the entire Foundation Board the opportunity to discuss issues important to them and for His Grace to learn more about the goals and objectives of the St. Sava Mission Foundation.

The group of ten met for nearly two hours in a thoughtful and cordial atmosphere. After a round of self-introductions, SSMF board members, a discussion took place. Bishop Maxim recently explored the Mission Foundation’s website to learn more about the organization. He noted, in particular, that the first purpose of the organization is “To preserve and promote the educational, charitable, cultural institutions of the people of Serbian heritage in the Western USA.” Furthermore, the first goal and objective listed on the site is to “provide facilities for a summer camp for children and youth."His Grace agreed with and stressed the importance of the Foundation Board members focusing on these goals and objectives and for cooperation with the Western American Diocese to preserve and enhance the St. Sava Mission buildings, grounds, facilities and equipment. He was elated to learn that a group of Foundation members had raised the funds needed to build a gate at the property entrance and intersection of Camp Road and Mission Boulevard. Fabrication of the gate had already begun and is expected to be installed prior to this year’s camp season.

Mrs. Tina Milinovich and Mr. Beau Gillman discussed with His Grace the importance of the week of summer camp that begins immediately after their annual 4th of July celebration in Jackson to the Foundation. They noted that many of the SSMF members expressed a desire to return to the practice of the first thirty years of camping in Jackson, when camp would begin in conjunction with the 4th of July. Their constituents especially missed the convenience of being able to come as a family to the celebration on the 4th and then leave their children for a week or two of summer camp.

His Grace, in turn, asked specific questions regarding the programs and content of the “Culture Camp” week. The Culture Camp administrators discussed that this year they were introducing into their program: (i) Church etiquette, (ii) lessons on Slava celebrations, and (iii) basic Serbian customs surrounding weddings, baptisms, etc. Their goal is to help bring people back to Orthodoxy.  His Grace learned that last year there were two vespers services offered during this week, and that two matins services were to be added this year. His Grace also asked that Serbian Orthodox Christian values be woven into each Serbian culture learning activity. Our Bishop reflected that not having a specific class in religion could be offset by explaining our Orthodox faith in the context of Serbian culture, as was planned for the Culture Camp week.

The SSMF representatives also update His Grace on the status of their membership and 70 members, and that of those members attending, most have previously never attended any other camp. The SSMF also has families attending the camp that are not Orthodox and/or are families that have drifted away from the original Serbian Orthodox community in Jackson, CA. However, they have seen families coming back to both the camp and St. Sava Jackson parish, providing an opportunity for all to re-engage them. Finally, Fr. Steve reported that twenty of the children attending Culture Camp last year also participated in the Diocesan Church Camp.

Our Bishop also directed Luka Erceg, member of the Diocesan Administrative Board, to prepare such legal documentation as necessary to ensure that the Diocesan interests in the St. Sava Mission Property could not be sold. This measure was specifically provided to the SSMF members so they would be assured that the Diocese neither desires nor intends to sell the property and looks towards a long-term relationship.

All those present pledged to work in cooperation to improve the facility further. His Grace thanked everyone for taking the time to come to Jackson to meet with him and for the expression of new-found mutual understanding.


Sunday of Orthodoxy Pan-Orthodox Vespers in Los Angeles


2017 03 05 sunday of orthodox los angeles 06

The Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs on the west coast, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West, Orthodox Chruch in American (OCA); His Grace Bishop Maxim, Bishop of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America;  and His Grace Bishop Apostolos, Bishop of Medeia, Auxiliary Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, together with clergy and the faithful from all jurisdictions, celebrated the Pan-Orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy Vesper Service on Sunday, March 5th, 2017 at the Holy Virgin Mary OCA Cathedral in Los Angeles, California. 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133: 1).

On this day in 2008, the Hierarchs on the West Coast began a new tradition of celebrating Sunday of Orhtodoxy together. Orthodox fatifhul from all jurisdictions on the west coast gather each year on this day for the glorious and wonderful celebration of the "Triumph of Orthodxy" - the ninth century decision by the 7th Ecumenical Council to restore the holy icons in the Church.

This year the commemorative festivites were held in the Greater Los Angeles area at the Holy Virgin Mary OCA Catheral. The Vesper Service began at 5pm followed by the special Sunday of Orthodoxy proclamation and procession of holy icons. 

After the Service, hierarchs, clergy and guests gathered in the parish hall for refreshments, fellowship, and a special concert of Orthodox Christian Music sung by the Pan Orthodox Young Adult Choir (POYAC) and the Camerata Rus Orthodox Choir. 

“We venerate Thy most Pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ our God.Of Thy good Will Thou wast pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, and deliver Thy creatures from bondage to the enemy.Therefore with thankfulness we cry aloud to Thee, Thou hast filled all things with joy, O our Savior.For Thou came to save the world.”  


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