On Sunday, October 17, His Grace Bishop Longin, along with His Royal Highness Prince Alexandar, Her Royal Highness Princess Katherine and the Consul General for Republic of Serbia, St. Basil Serbian Orthodox Church of Mettawa-Lake Forest commemorated the 13th anniversary of the church founding and the 11th anniversary of its consecration.
Bishop made his second visit to St. Basil Church on the occasion observing its founding, as well as its dedication. Bishop Longin arrived for hierarchical liturgy with the Sunday School children lined up to excitedly greet him. As his car pulled up, their excitement was electric. When he came into the entryway, children were holding out their hands to kiss the bishop’s hand. They eagerly waited their turn as he called many of them by their name having remembered them from camp, picnics, and his previous visit. The children were amazed by this personal recognition of them from their Bishop.
Bishop Longin hugged the children and kissed many on the head giving them an extra special greeting and blessing. Two of the children walked before Bishop Longin with the honor of dropping the rose petals they prepared for him to walk on before he arrived. V. Rev. Djuro Krosnjar, parish priest was also at the entrance with all visiting clergy, three deacons, two subdeacons and others to great Bishop Longin. With the children dropping the rose petals, several boys in altar boy robes, and all the clergy, a solemn beautiful procession was made into the church with the St. Basil Choir singing the traditional Dostoyno Yest.
The sun was brightly shining through the windows, which lit up the air with the incense floating throughout the church. A full choir, the dedicated faithful, special guests, and the excited children brought energy to the service and day that will be memorable to all.
Shortly thereafter, the children again assembled for the arrival of three other guests, Prince Alexandar Karageorgevich, Princess Katherine Karageorgevich and Desko Nikitovic, Consul General for Republika Srpska. The children in Serbian costumes, altar boys, and all the other Sunday School children assembled at the church entryway eagerly awaiting the call that the members of the Serbian Royal Family would arrive in two minutes. The previous Sunday, each Sunday School class spent part of their class time on a prepared lesson designed to teach the children about the meaning of the anniversary day and who the special guests are, how are they connected to us, and why are they visiting our church. This preparation of the children more than added to their excitement because they also had the knowledge and understanding of the event and day. This most certainly added to their joy for the day.
The call finally came and the children took their positions at the entryway to greet our guests. Upon entering, Prince Alexandar and Princess Katherine were greeted with the traditional bread and salt for special guests entering our spiritual home for the first time. The princess was greeted with a curtsy and a bouquet made of an array of flowers in royal purple color. There was a lively exchange of conversation between the prince, princess and the consul general. Smiles and laughter made this a special moment for the children.
As the guests moved into the church narthex, the children took their places to prepare for their entry into church. Upon entering their royal highness were shown a special display of enlarged pictures on easels that depicted their charity work. These photos were prepared especially for their royal highness as a gift of appreciation. Bronko Dudic owner of Luka Productions, Inc. of Darien, IL prepared the photos. Tears immediately came to the princess’s eyes as she was so touched by the gesture and gift. The prince was also moved and began to name the places where the pictures were taken and what was happening in the pictures. Special photographer for the day was awarding winding photographer, Mr. Radojica Popovich of Popovich Photography of Gurnee and the St. Basil student photographer, Nicholas Stokovich. Mr. Popovich’s photos will be featured on the Karageorgevich website (http://www.royalfamily.org/) and on the St. Basil Church website.
With the children all in place making a human aisle for the prince, princess and consul general to walk down, the doors to the church were again opened and our little angels began to drop the rose petals, leading the way to special seating arranged for the guests. The special seating was arranged by the Stokovich family just as it was used in the home of the late Slavko and Dragica Stokovich who often hosted members of the royal family. The special private reception held in honor of Bishop Longin and the royal and official guests was hosted by the Stokovich family, again using the same dinner ware and appointments used when other members of the Royal Karageorgevich family and our bishops visited this area and were guests of the Stokovich family. Every effort was made to include these special touches for the guests.
Bishop Longin delivered the beautiful sermon of the Sower and the Seed and left everyone with a beautiful message on how to grow souls, faith and good works more to achieve the ultimate closeness to Christ. Everyone felt inspired by Bishop Longin’s message that he spoke in both languages to make sure everyone would receive and understand the words of the gospel for this day. The children listened intently as well. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Bishop Longin called for the prince, princess, consul general to come forward to receive prosfora at the conclusion of the service. While this exchange of spiritual greeting took place, all the children through high school again for the double lined aisle for the prince and princess to exit the church through and of course, led by the dropping of the rose petals on their path.
Following the liturgy, two receptions were held. One smaller reception for Bishop Longin and the special guests and another larger reception for all our faithful and guests for neighboring parishes were hosted before the banquet. This is a St. Basil Church tradition where the hall is set as a reception area for our faithful and guests. After this, everyone took their places in the banquet area, which because of the size of the event was a special white tent with French windows to let the beautiful sunshine of the day into the banquet area. Everyone was standing when the Bishop and special guests entered. Bishop Longin lead the capacity attendance in prayer before the banquet.
The banquet program included special greetings by parish president, Michael Kosanovich, KSS President, Richelle Arandjelovic, and Fr. Djuro Krosnjar. Each extended greetings along with Desko Nikitovic, Consul, who rallied the crowd with his motivating words about his feelings for St. Basil Parish and its greater mission. Main speakers were Bishop Longin and the Prince and Princess. Bishop Longin was greeted with a standing ovation before and after his introduction and speech. He reminded the faithful of the purpose of the church and the special purpose of this particular church. He called upon everyone to support St. Basil Church and it’s unique mission to serve families and educate children and lead them all to Christ. Bishop Longin congratulated the parish faithful on their unity among themselves and on their strength and achievements that are might in spirit, faith and dedication to church. Bishop Longin communicated that spirit and faith, which unites a people and that, builds churches.
Following the bishop’s moving words, Prince Alexander, also moved the crowd with his special greetings and introduction in Serbian. He then went on to eloquently explain and update all those in attendance on Serbia, the needs and the hopes. He too, energized the crowd that rose to their feet at his introduction and again when he concluded his words on the importance of unity, working together and never giving up hope for a better future. He also stressed the importance of preserving the beautiful Serbian history, culture and faith.
Princess Katherine was then introduced to a rousing ovation. She summarized the work of the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization that focuses on the many medical and basic needs of children, elderly, poverty stricken and the sick and dying. She brought tears to everyone’s eyes when she spoke of the children and how when they received gifts, they couldn’t believe they could keep them. She told the story of a little boy whom she gave a candy bar to in an orphanage and when she returned a year later, he showed her that very candy bar under his pillow. He cherished her gesture of kindness and giving and told her he would keep it the rest of his life. The princess and prince commented on the premature birth rate in Serbia is the highest in Europe. The statistics for cancer in parts of Voyvodina were also shocking. She thanked the Serbian American doctors who were recently in Serbia to teach and learn about the medical system there.
Those in attendance rose to their feet again with tears and cheers. The parish president and KSS president then presented the Prince and Princess with special commemorative silver special edition coins honoring their 25th wedding anniversary, which they recently celebrated in September. The additional anniversary gift was everyone standing up and signing their favorite song, Tamo Daleko. The Prince and Princess invited everyone to come to Serbia and to visit them when they do at the White Palace where they now live in Belgrade.
This banquet concluded on a spiritually high note thanks to our Bishop Longin and their Royal Highnesses. We can all be proud of our faith, our church, our history, and our religious legacies. Over the centuries the preservation of that rich history gives deep meaning to our church and identity both personally as a people and religiously as a church. We can see around us in the world that the strongest groups are those with this rich and deep history and life story that Serbians and the Serbian Church has. We can see in those around us that they cherish it as part of who they are, how they are, and their very identity and being. Ours is no less than the greatest we hear about all around us. Ours is humble yet rich. Our heritage is apostolic. Our heritage is a result of great faith. Our heritage is grounded in the struggles that Christ modeled in his times on earth. We try with our hearts and faith, to walk on the path that He has created and led us to. Thank God for this great day for it is a day the Lord has made. Thank God for our friends in faith and Christ for this is a gift for any parish. Thank God for our leadership, for they carry with them the greatest responsibility that includes each of us as well. They pray for us all. They have hopes for us. Let us all give thanks for great days and moments like this one.
Special thanks to our Bishop Longin for blessing St. Basil parish and keeping it in his prayers and heart. Thank you to our Prince Alexandar and Princess Katherine for gracing our parish and event with the greatest of your charity work and your model to us for serving others. We are humbled that your days are spent all working for the betterment of others. You put that first in your lives. What a blessing and message to your people.