The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

It was with great joy that the community of St. George in North Canton celebrated the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Immediately prior to Divine Liturgy, long-time member and faithful parishioner Denice Resanovich was formally received in the Orthodox Faith. In the presence of family and friends, she affirmed her faith and entered into communion with Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

Joining the parish for service that day were a group of teens from the United Church of Christ in Massillon, Ohio. The students, with two chaperones, observed the Divine Liturgy and experienced their first service in an Orthodox Church. As a special treat to the guests, Fr. Aleksa engaged in a 40-minute question and answer session. The students bravely asked a series of questions including, “what are icons and how do we use them?”, “who can take communion? Is it wine or grape juice? Do you distribute it to everyone?”, “why is the church built the way it is?”, and many more.

In all his answers, Fr. Aleksa continually stressed that the Liturgical life of the church, including our art and architecture, manifest a particular understanding – “God is with us.” More specifically, however, Fr. Aleksa linked the Liturgical life and experience of the church to the very Kingdom of God itself, and he described our liturgical experience as immersive in terms of our senses, thoughts, and prayers. The teens and their chaperones were wonderful guests with many fantastic questions. Parishioners from the St. George parish also stayed in church to learn.

Later that evening, Fr. Aleksa travelled to Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on Racoon Rd in Youngstown, Ohio where the priests of the Serbian Eastern Diocese Cleveland Deanery gathered for Lenten Vespers. This service was unique, however, in that it was a Pan-Orthodox gathering, bringing together clergy from the Serbian Eastern Diocese as well as clergy from the Youngstown Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood. In front of a completely full congregation, the clergy prayerful moved from the light-colored vestments donned for Sunday’s resurrectional service and back into the royal-purple reserved for solemn Lenten prayers. Following the dismissal, all in attendance gathered for a wonderful meal in the parish hall.

Fr. Aleksa Pavichevich was the scheduled speaker for the evening, and he offered an interactive seminar presentation based on the theme, “Forgiveness: A Miracle”. Beginning with a powerful story of forgiveness plucked from the horrific and tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, Fr Aleksa discussed the ways in which we avoid seeking true forgiveness, and transitioned into various methods by which we can learn to forgive. The presentation was steeped in Scripture, and those in attendance were given paper and pencil and asked to write responses throughout. The questions and answer session afterwards lasted more than an hour, with faithful and clergy alike commenting on the topic and asking Fr Aleksa a variety of questions.

In addition to approximately 200 faithful, 15 clergy were present for Vespers, representing 7 different Orthodox Christian jurisdictions: Fr. Basil Duesenberry, OCA – Bulgarian Diocese; Fr. Andrew Goal, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Fr. Michale Lillie – Russian Orthodox Church in the United States of America; Rev. Deacon David Gemmel , OCA – Diocese of the Midwest; Fr. Thomas Constantine, GOA; Fr. Daniel Rohan, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; Fr. John Harvey, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Vladimir Demsuk; Ven. Protosindjel Sava (Medakovic); Very Rev. Protopresbyter Milan Pajic; Rev. Presbyter Aleksa Pavichevich; Rev. Presbyter Bosko Stojanovic; Rev. Presbyter Vedran Grabic; Rev. Deacon Zeljko Jurosevic; and host-priest, Rev. Presbyter Dragan Goronijc the Dean of the Cleveland Deanery.

The Third Sunday of Great Lent

On Sunday, March 19th, the parishioners of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church gathered for Divine Liturgy on the third Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday dedicated to the Holy Cross. The precious and life-giving cross utilized for this day was the blessing cross used by the Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor +Slobodan Zivodinovic, set in a frame with a piece of fabric from his purple, Lenten vestment set. The cross was adorned with flowers by KSS president, and Church School Pre-K teacher, Kathy Tobias.

The day was marked by a special occasion – young Steward and altar server Nikolai Radonjich read the Epistle for the first time during Divine Liturgy.  With a loud and clear voice, he proclaimed the message of St. Paul to the Hebrews to the attentive ears of the entire congregation.

During the Divine Liturgy, Fr. Aleksa’s sermon honed in on the human tendency to choose the easiest path forward, following the ‘path of least resistance’. That path, as he offered to the faithful gathered, leads us to spiritual death when we choose the ‘easy’ path of the passions over the challenging call to pick our cross and follow Christ.

Fr Aleksa reminded those gathered that, “True freedom is only found in Christ who looses the grip that the Passions have over us; he strips the sins that would lead us to death of their lasting power.  That is the freedom that the Cross of our Lord offers.  By following Christ and carrying our cross we are free… free to live a life that heads somewhere new – not into the damp, cold earth, but into the warm radiance of our lasting life with God.  And the cold earth is certainly the easier path – we’re all marching there anyway, like a raindrop feeling the pull of gravity from a high mountaintop and into the valley below.  The path of light, joy, and of radiance is one that is fraught with difficult choices.”

Immediately following the service, a 40-day Panakhida was held for the departed handmaiden of God +Mildred “Boots” Frey.  “Boots” was a beloved parishioner, choir member, and dedicated servant of her Church.  The family hosted a Lenten luncheon, allowing the community an opportunity to break-bread in fellowship, in honor of her memory.



Pilgrimage to New York City

On Thursday, March 9th, parishioners from St George Serbian Orthodox Church in North Canton traveled to New York City for their second-annual Lenten Pilgrimage. The travelers began their experience with a visit to the Cloisters Museum, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The Cloisters is a medieval monastery transferred to New York City and, since its re-assembly, houses an incredible collection of medieval art, as well as Christian icons, paintings and artifacts. During the visit, Fr. Aleksa pulled aside the four youngest pilgrims and asked them to discuss the icon of the Nativity.  Together, they compared and contrasted a western iconographic depiction of the Feast of the Nativity with the icon of the Nativity with which the children were familiar.

Later in the afternoon, the pilgrims visited St. Vladimir’s Seminary where they were warmly greeted by Matushka Robyn Hatrack, the Events, Alumni, and Hospitality Director.  She escorted them to the seminary chapel for their seminar presentation offered by the Very Reverend Alexander Rentel, Director of the Master of Divinity Program, Ecclesiarch, Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies, The John and Paraskeva Skvir Lecturer in Practical Theology.

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Sunday of Orthodoxy in Canton

The community of St George Serbian Orthodox Church celebrated the Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent, March 5, 2017.  The day began with a church full of faithful Christians gathered for Holy Divine Liturgy.  During the service, Fr Aleksa offered a sermon on the challenge of remaining true to our Orthodoxy in the midst of this busy and distracted world. Through all the peripheral noise, however, he reminded us that the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ calls out to us saying, “Follow me.”

Near the end of service, all in attendance immediately put the words of the Gospel into direct action as they answered the call to “follow.”  Lined up in joyous procession, the community followed the Gospel, carried by Fr Aleksa, around the church. With icons in hand, those present listened to, or sang, the troparion of the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”:

We venerate Your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God. Of Your own will You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh to deliver Your creatures from bondage to the enemy. Therefore with thanksgiving we cry aloud to You: You have filled all with joy, O our Savior, by coming to save the world.

After reading the Synodicon and Creed, parishioners once again entered the church for dismissal.

During the evening of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, St George Serbian Orthodox Church once again hosted a Pan-Orthodox gathering. With faithful from all over Stark County, the community realized our Orthodox unity in prayer.  The choir, under the direction of Stephen Winovich, sang hymns derived from the chant traditions of many of the jurisdictions present, and the stichera at “Lord I Call” were offered by a local Greek cantor, George Rafilitis.

The evening’s presentation was offered by the Very Rev. Dr. Daniel Rogich, a homegrown member of the St. George parish who now tends to the flock of the nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.  Fr. Dan offered a thought provoking evaluation of Orthodoxy in America over the last 100 years, offering us a “grade” in five distinct areas, including our personal piety, our sense of missions, liturgical life and participation, and our educational efforts. The inspiring talk left those in attendance with a desire to go out into the world and strive for improvement!

After the seminar, Fr. Aleksa welcomed all those present, including the following nine participating, guest clergy:  Fr. Dan Rogich and Fr. Dn. Labib Bardawil, Holy Trinity (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Nick Gamvas, St. Haralambos (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Michael Corbin and Fr. Basil Shaheen of St. George Antiochian in Canton; Fr. Spiro Keyhays and Fr. Dn. Orestes Varonis of St. George (GOA) in Massillon; Fr Stacey Richter of Holy Assumption (OCA) in Canton; and Fr. Ionel Satnoianu, St George Romanian in Canton.

The day concluded with a meal and fellowship at the St. George Event Center. Faithful from almost every Stark County Orthodox community gathered in a joyful realization, both liturgically and socially, that we are all part of one body – regardless of the ethnic heritage that underlies the foundation and traditions of our individual communities.

Parish Community Begins Lenten Journey

On Cheesefare Sunday, the St George Community gathered in the spirit of forgiveness as they began to enter the holy days of the Great Fast. During the service, Fr Aleksa offered words on our journey to match our ‘spirit’ to our ‘actions’ – and that is the ‘toil’ we undertake during Great Lent. 

This year, at the end of Divine Liturgy, Fr Aleksa offered the prayer to be read at the start of the Great and Holy Fast.  This was a welcomed change for the community as few were able to be present for that prayer during the Lenten Vespers service offered on Cheesefare Sunday.

The community also gathered around their 2017 Parish Council in prayer and support as they received their blessing to undertake the great work ahead of them in the calendar year.  Fr Aleksa extended the blessing to all those present, reminding the community that although they have elected a Board to lead the good-work of the parish – the Board requires the loving support of the entire community to better ensure success in that endeavor.

May God bless the duly-elected servants of the St George community in 2017:

President: Nick Pribich

Vice President:  Vicki Becerruchi

Treasurer:  Don Demor

Financial Secretary: Dwight Decker

Recording Secretary: Paula Weaver

Corresponding Secretary: Lanny Hawkings

Board Members:  Mike Babics, JoAnn Breedlove, Mark Resanovich, Maxwell Sherer, Gary Trbovich