FR PETAR PETROVIC RETIRED
ONE CHAPTER ENDS AND ANOTHER CHAPTER BEGINS:
50 YEARS OF PRIESTHOOD -
FATHER PETAR AND GORDANA’S RETIREMENT BANQUET
On the eve of Saint Barnabas of Gary, Confessor of Hvosno, Saturday November 11, 2023, friends, family, parishioners, and fellow clergy gathered to celebrate two very special people and their service and dedication for over 50 years to Christ’s Church: Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Petar and Protinica Gordana Petrović’s retirement. The evening included a Vespers prayer service followed by a banquet meal and special program in the Church Hall. The evening concluded with live music and dancing.
At 6:00 PM, the faithful gathered to participate in a Vespers prayer service. In attendance was Bishop Irinej’s Deputy, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Rade Merick, along with newly ordained and installed parish priest of St. George, Presbyter Andrej Pavlović. Traveling from St. Nicholas Church in Indianapolis was Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Dragan Petrović, son of Fr. Petar and Gordana, along with Deacon Dr. Fotios Kafantaris. From the Cincinnati area, Protopresbyters Risto Tocinov of St. George, George Lardas of St. George Russian Orthodox Church, and Nabil Fino of St. James Antiochian Orthodox Church were also in attendance. At the conclusion of the Vespers service, Fr. Petar announced to all present that in place of the cross normally used for veneration and blessing, he would use the pectoral cross that was given to him from His Grace Bishop Irinej for his service, dedication, and steadfastness in the faith through all his years in the priesthood. Fr. Petar emphasized that he wears this prestigious cross given to him on behalf of his parishioners and in their honor.
Following the Vespers service, all in attendance went down to the Church Hall which was beautifully decorated by the members of the Circle of Serbian Sisters of the St. George parish to partake in the planned ceremony for the evening. It was estimated that more than 170 attended the ceremony, including family of the Petrovic’s from Florida and also parishioners from their first parish in Florida. Fr. Rade Merick blessed the food prepared by many members of St. George and once all were seated and eating, Fr. Dragan proceeded to read a biography of his parents which was included in the programs distributed in the evening. A digital slideshow with many special memories from Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana’s 50 years of service was on display, prepared by their younger son Dušan. Friends and family dropped off retirement gifts for the couple and signed a thoughtful scrapbook that contained photos and special memories from over the years. It was a special evening full of emotions.
Following the reading of the biography, St. George Church Board President Mirko Šebez shared his reflections of Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana in his speech. Mirko summarized what many of us feel for Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana, their love for Christ and His Church and how we must protect and preserve her. Mirko recalled the important role that Father Petar has played in our lives, especially those of us that have been parishioners at St. George at any time these past 23 years. The weight of the emotions could be felt in the room, seen in the tears of all present, and heard in the voice of President Mirko as he recalled how Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana have been there for weddings, births of our children, happy and joyous times, but also very difficult and tough times. These two never turned their back on the Church and the parishioners, even if it felt like they had been forgotten at times over the years. Mirko concluded that their steadfastness and perseverance serves as an example for all of us and they deserve to enjoy their retirement.
At the conclusion of President Mirko’s speech, he presented Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana a special gift on behalf of the Church of St. George – an icon of Saint George written by the talented Anya Gerasimchuk. This icon is very special to the Petrović family as it is not only the Saint which protects our parish, but also their family Slava. Following the presentation of the beautiful icon, Mirko had another gift to present to the couple. At first mentioning that the Church Board wanted to send the two retirees to the Holy Land, to which Father responded, “Oh no, no!” – drawing lots of laughter from the crowd considering the unfortunate circumstances in that part of the world today, President Mirko went on to explain that the parishioners of St. George will be sending them on a pilgrimage to Alaska so that they can visit and venerate the holy relics of Saint Herman, Patron Saint of North America.
Church Board Treasurer Dimitrije Jović, who served as master of the ceremony for the evening, shared the story behind the gift. It was unknown to Fr. Petar until recently that he had been serving over some of the earth from the burial site of Saint Herman during these 23 years. This revelation came when the bishop opened a special compartment in the altar and the holy earth was discovered. Thus, it seemed fitting that the parish of St. George send Father and Gordana to venerate the relics of the holy Saint, who undoubtedly prayed for Father and Protinica and our parish these past 23 years. Dimitrije ended by recollecting that he joined St. George around the same time as Fr. Petar took over and their families have become good friends over the years. Dimitrije concluded that after working for so many years with Father, he will forever remain his priest in his heart.
After the presentation of gifts, the daughters of Adam and Eliana Meador gave their innocent and loving reflections of what Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana mean to them. Nadia, who was Baptized by Fr. Dragan and Fr. Petar, stated in her speech, “Father Petar and Protinica Gordana love to help others in need. They have always felt like my grandparents”. Lavinia mentioned, “Baba has always been a great hugger.” and “Father Petar, you have always had jokes for us to laugh at”. Each child was happy to share the love in their hearts for these special people.
Following the speeches of her two oldest daughters, Eliana Meador shared her heartfelt words for the Petrović’s and what they mean to the lives of the Meadors. Eliana recollected when the Meador Family first visited St. George back in 2012, “We didn’t know it at the time, but that empty church we walked into was going to be our home for many years to come, the priest and his wife were going to become our family, and the Serbian people were going to become our friends.”. Eliana went on to share some other significant moments including the support and love demonstrated by Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana during some very tough times for their family. Eliana concluded, “Baba and Father, we love you, we will always cherish our years with you here in Cincinnati and you will forever be family for us”.
At the conclusion of the speeches, Fr. Rade Merick presented on behalf of Bishop Irinej a Distinguished Hierarchical Grammaton to Anya Gerasimchuk for all the beautiful byzantine icons that she created for St. George – both in the sanctuary and in the Church Hall. The Distinguished Hierarchical Grammaton is a prestigious award issued by the bishop and reserved only for those demonstrating extraordinary contributions of service to the Church and for ordinations. Her husband, Victor, was also presented a Hierarchical Grammaton for his work and leadership in the renovation projects for the sanctuary at St. George, including the new iconostasis. Fr. Rade also presented to each of the three Gerasimchuk children – Ilya, Pavel, and Gavriil – Hierarchical Grammata after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday to commemorate their tonsuring as Readers by Bishop Irinej during his visit back in September. We are thankful for the Gerasimchuk Family and for their example of what it means to be worthy and honorable stewards of God’s holy Church.
Ensuing Fr. Rade’s presentation of the Hierarchical Grammata on behalf of Bishop Irinej, the three children of Fr. Dragan and Protinica Vesna – Dr. Marija, Kristina, and Petar – sang a beautiful surprise song for their grandparents before Fr. Petar gave his speech. Father opened his speech with his classic humor, “I see a lot of you, so I’m wondering if you came to wish me a happy retirement, or to make sure I’m really leaving”. Father went on to highlight some of the important happenings for him during these 23 years, including: 1. Receiving the rank of Archpriest from Bishop Longin 2. Receiving the rank of Very Reverend or Archpriest Stavrophor and the pectoral cross from Bishop Irinej 3. Receiving the Award of Saint Peter of Cetinje from Bishop Irinej on behalf of Patriarch Porfirije and the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church 4. Protinica Gordana receiving also from the bishop on behalf of Patriarch Porfirije and the Holy Synod of Bishops the Award of Princess Milica. Father summarized a lot of the many great improvements that have been occurring over the years - especially in the recent years, the number of converts that are now coming to our church, the help of Fr. Thaddeus and Fr. Risto the past few years, and more. Father concluded his emotional and heartfelt speech with spiritual advice for all.
It was a tearful, but wonderful and joyous evening celebrating the retirement of Fr. Petar and Protinica Gordana after 23 years of service to St. George and over 50 years of service to Christ’s Holy Church in the priesthood. Fr. Andrej provided the closing prayer for the formal program of the evening. Afterwards, the close friend of the Petrovic’s – Alija Dalipović – sang traditional Serbian music for all to enjoy and dance the kolo. It was a wonderful evening and very well organized by Church Board President Mirko Šebez, Fr. Andrej and Popadija Kristine, and the CSS ladies. We are thankful to God for our priests and their wives, and we must always remember them in our prayers. Whether under persecution of the godless communists or denigrated by the modern-day demonic forces, we all need to pray for each other and for our priests to help guide us and administer the life-giving Sacraments as these are truly the most important things in our lives and for our families. When our priests persevere for the faith and for us, God will reward their service. This is summarized well in Birgir Mishurda’s letter to Fr. Petar, “Father Petar always had a dream of a new Church. Now in 2023, he has a new Church! Just look around, look at all the dedicated people. Many are recently new. The families, many with children, are coming. Something special is happening at St. George and you all get to witness this renewal of spiritual growth”.
Thank you and may God bless you, Father Petar and Protinica Gordana. May we all heed your example of lives dedicated to Christ and His Church. May we all live the passion with which you live each and every day, glorifying God and His creation and giving thanks for all things! And may we aspire as fervently as you do for that heavenly, eternal banquet with the Bridegroom Himself, Christ Jesus. We wish you a most blessed and joyful retirement! Please continue to remember us in your prayers. We love you and we look forward to your visits in the future!
Reader Adam “John” Meador,
1st Vice President – St. George Church