New Gracanica Midwest Diocese Diocesan Days

New Gracanica Midwest Diocese inaugurates
Diocesan Days Celebration
Three-day festivities coincides with Vidovdan celebration

The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America inaugurated an annual, three-day ceebration of Diocesan Days with the observance to be held each year the week following Pentecost,
This year’s inaugural Diocesan Days celebration coincided with the feast of Vidovdan, and featured a host of liturgical, educational and social events at New Gracanica Monastery, St. Sava Monastery and Holy Resurrection Cathedral geared for parishioners of all ages from throughout the Diocese on the Vidovdan theme.
“We have the great joy to bless the beginning of what will become an annual tradition of coming together as a Diocese, first for prayer and to partake of the Divine Mysteries, and inseparable from that is also fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is particularly fitting for this observance to be held after Pentecost because it is the grace of the Holy Spirit which brings us together and inspires us to good and memorable deeds, just as He inspired the Holy Prince Lazar and all the saints,” said His Grace Bishop Longin, Diocesan Hierarch.
On Thursday, clergy  with guest His Grace Bishop Mitrophan, and host His Grace Bishop Longin, gathered in New Gracanica Monastery for Great Vespers and the blessing of five loaves on the eve of St. Lazar’s feast.  After a dinner, prepared by the Diocesan Kolo  in the Camp Dining Room,  Bishop Longin introduced V. Rev. Fr. Vojislav Bilbija from the Netherlands.
Fr. Voja is a multi talented priest who is also an iconographer, chanter, dentist, woodcarver, musician,  poet, and karate champion.  He charmed the clergy with his life story.  He related a most interesting experience of his work as spiritual father to the Serbs on trial at the Hague.  He recalled Vojislav Seselj, who fasted on water for weeks as an act of protest, except for the reception of Holy Communion, which Fr. Voja brought him every couple days.  “I saw how a man that looked dead in his face came back to life after receiving the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The evening ended with this eminent guest singing old poems about Kosovo with the gusle and then transfering to a guitar to sing about contemporary people and events.
On Vidovdan, Friday, June 28th,  the celebration of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at New Gracanica Monastery was presided over by His Grace Bishop Mitrophan, His Grace Bishop Porfirije of Yegar, His Grace Bishop Peter of  Cleveland,  and His Grace Bishop Longin, joined by many clergy.  A clergy choir, led by Prota Dr. Milos Vesin,  offered the responses. After the Liturgy graduates of the School of Theology were presented diplomas by Bishop Dr. Mitrophan.
Bishop Porfirije hardly needs any introduction.  He has been a prominent speaker on so many topics pertaining to Orthodox Theology over the years. He speaks eloquently and with a remarkable ease.  He is also known  for the good work he has done by making his monastery a center of rehabilitation for drug addicts.    After the lunch in the Monastery Hall, Bishop Porfirije spoke and stressed on this day and throughout the weekend the deepest meaning of the feast.  The choice of St. Lazar  did not end on Vidovdan.  It was passed down to us.  It is a God-given opportunity  to connect  the heavenly choice to the earthly life, to bring the heavenly, spiritual into the material world and transform it.  That’s why it has meaning for us today.  All can serve God.  “One can serve God in the hospital, at home, on the way to work….We can bring the heavenly into our earthly life.  We can unite both worlds.  That is the message of the Kosovo vow.  This is the true identity of the Serbian people. ”
That evening, at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago, a memorial service, with responses by the Diocese of GMWA Festival Chorus of Greater Chicago, directed by Elizabeth Neskow,  was held for all Serbian heroes who laid down their lives for the honorable Cross and golden freedom of our people.  Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander II and Crown Princess Katherine, with Consul General of Republic of Serbia and Consul General of B & H, Their Excellencies  Desko Nikitovic and Brane Pecanac, were in attendance.  At the reception, following refreshments prepared by Cathedral Sisters, the Vidovdan Convocation took place.  It included the address of Bishop Porfirije, the Chorus of Greater Chicago, Clergy Choir of Chicago, directed by Prota Dr. Milos Vesin, Recitation of poems, Fr. Bilbija, and finally the New Gracanica Monastery Children’s Orchestra.
On Saturday, June 29th, Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville by Bishop Longin, Bishop Peter, and Bishop Porfirije, and diocesan clergy.  Responses were by the Stevan Sijacki Choir of St. Sava’s in Milwaukee, directed by Jovo Potkonjak.  Services were  followed by an all day picnic, and later a Bocce Ball tournament.  In the evening a Youth Fellowship Night was held at New Gracanica Monastery where a variety of youth activities.  A discussion with the bishops also  took place, followed by an  instrumental program of Fr. Bilbija and Djakonica Biljana and Diana Dugger.
The Diocesan Days Celebration culminated with Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, June 30th,  served by Bishop Longin, Bishop Peter, and Bishop Porfirije, with responses by Gracanica Monastery Choir directed by Marya Savich.  This was followed by a Festal Banquet in New Gracanica, prepared and served by the monastery staff and Local Kolo, and in honor of Vidovdan and the Slava of the Serbian National Defense, at which Bishop Porfirije cut the Koalch.  In attendance were Their Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Alexandar and Crown Princess Katherine, and Consul General Nikitovic.  Speeches were varied and many.  The Crown Prince thanked Bishop Longin for his help in transfering the remains of both late King Peter and Prince Andrej to Serbia.  The Crown Princess spoke about how important it is to help the Serbian orphans, refugees, and sick children.  Speaking on behalf of SND were Slavko Panovich, long time president of SND and Petar Samardzija who with his wife Mira were Slava Domacini.  Once again Fr. Bilbija united the people in song through the gusle and guitar.
Bishop Longin thanked everyone for coming, for working, for supporting the Monastery and the Diocese.  In closing he said, “Vidovan is a day of rememberance.  By celebrating the great sacrifice of the Kosovo martyrs we do not celebrate the defeated ones but the victors, not the dead, but those who are still alive.  It is Day and not Night.”

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