- On the weekend of November 24 – 26, His Grace Maxim visited two parishes. On Friday and Saturday His Grace was in Salt Lake City, UT, visiting St. Archangel Michael parish; and on Saturday evening and Sunday, was in Fresno, CA, visiting and serving at St. Peter the Apostle parish.
The parish in Salt Lake City reestablished nine years ago, still without a permanent priest, for the first time celebrated the parish Feast Day of St. Archangel Michael in a new church building bought last year from an Adventist community. The parish has around 150 families formerly from Bosnia and Herzegovina. These refugee families settled in the Salt Lake City area during and immediately after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Working together with a strong determination and support of an enthusiastic priest, Blasko Paraklis, and sacrificing their limited resources, they acquired a permanent building for services that for the time being, serves as their fellowship quarters as well.
The existence of a parish in Midvalley, Utah in the late twenties and early thirties, was mentioned, recorded in history and witnessed during a visit in 1964 by His Grace Bishop Grigorije (Udicki) of the Western American Diocese. It is said that after the death of priest Jakov Odzic, the church was closed and then sold. Even then, His Grace Grigorije had a desire to re-establish this parish, which was accomplished later in 1997, when Protopresbyter Bratislav Bratso Krsic from Butte, Montana, was appointed as administrator of the parish and served in that capacity until 2004.
On a wintry but sunny morning, a great number of the parishioners with Presbyter Blasko Paraklis, administrator of the parish since 2004, welcomed His Grace Maxim who began celebrating the Divine Liturgy at ten o’clock. (The Liturgy was celebrated four days after the actual Synaxis of St. Archangel Michael, not an unusual practice in this country, due to the lack of a permanent priest and the working schedule of the parishioners). During the Liturgy, the choir sang responses being aided by Russian voices. The sermon was on the theme of the celebrated saint and the meaning of angelic powers in the life of Christians.
A procession around the church took place three times led by the cross and banner bearers and children carrying the icons. Following the blessing and cutting of the Feast Day Bread (Kolach), the festivities started with the folklore group. His Grace congratulated the Feast Day to all thanking Presbyter Blasko and the president of the parish, Mr. Predrag Radulovic, the members of the board and the parishioners.
The oldest member of the parish, Sophia, age ninety six, was also present. She remembers the church and parish life eighty years ago. To the pleasant surprise of all, she still rides a bike, paints, plays piano and tamburitza. Two hundred attendees continued the festival atmosphere and celebration late into the evening hours, even after His Grace and presbyter Blasko left.
From Salt Lake City, His Grace Maxim, flew to Fresno, in central California, to visit St. Peter the Apostle parish. This vibrant parish has members of various origins, e.g. mostly Serbian, but also American, Russian, Irish, Ukrainian, etc. At five o’clock, Vespers was served followed by a dinner and fellowship. The following day, Saturday, November 26th, the Hierarchical Liturgy started at 10 o’clock, concelebrated by Protopresbyter George Gligich, Presbyter Russell Radojcic, Protodeacon Djurica Gordic and deacon Norman Schultz. The choir sang responses whose melody was admirably supported by the faithful. The sermon was on the theme of the Feast Day, St. John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople and the meaning and importance of Liturgical life. At the end of the Liturgy, His Grace congratulated Protopresbyter George Gligich on his twentieth anniversary of the priesthood. Fr. George thanked His Grace on his first visit to the Fresno parish affirming that this is the first visit among many more in the future.
The banquet was held in the parish center where the choir sang a repertoire of songs from various Orthodox countries. The program was led by the president of the parish, Mr. Andrei Romanenko. Many parishioners came forward giving touching testimonies about Fr. George’s great pastoral work in bringing some of them to Orthodoxy and his care for the flock. Presybeter Jim-Demetrious from the local Greek Orthodox parish was an honored guest at the banquet. The parish honored Fr. George with a new set of vestments, and the Circle of the Serbian Sisters gave him a plaque of recognition. The group photo of all participants was taken outside the church to capture this most joyous Liturgical and prayerful event.