Fr. Bratso’s Annual Report for the Year of our Lord, 2020

To:         Stewards and Parishioners of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church; presented at the Annual Assembly   

Date:      Sunday, February 14th, 2021

My dear fellow Stewards and Parishioners, 

            It is with joy in our parish, gratitude to our Loving Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and a great hope in our future that I present my pastoral report for the year 2020.

            As we all know, the year 2020 was filled with many ambiguities, reflections and prayers as we all tried to cope with new circumstances brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. During those months I’ve realized time and over how important my faith is in dealing with all the ‘known and unknown’ in our daily life. I have drawn strength from the heroes of our faith, and many saints, such as St. George the Great Martyr, the patron saint of our community. St. Nicholas the wonderworker is another saint upon whom I’ve called frequently for guidance as our parish continued fairing upon the tumultuous sea of this life. Our saints are truly our friends and intercessors before the Lord. I give thanks to God for blessing us with such close and faithful friends whose examples of faithfulness to God shine before us showing us the way to our Lord and Heavenly Kingdom.

            In the next few paragraphs I will try to outline some aspects of my ministry in our cherished parish. In the previous years, I’ve given a lengthy report, but this year, I will make an effort to make it as succinct as possible. 

Stole Report 2020

             Baptisms: 11; Weddings: 1; Funerals: 13; Slavas: 57; Pastoral/hospital visitations: 17.    

 Home blessings with Theophany Holy Water (some homes are blessed during a family’s Slava celebrations) outside of slava celebration: 17.

Liturgical life in our parish

            Just as the heart pumps blood throughout the body feeding every cell, making the functioning of each organ possible, so does the Liturgical life in our parish. It nourishes us with Eternal Food – the Lord Himself, giving us sustenance and life. During the entire year 2020, we actually, never missed one Liturgy or service. We continued serving the Liturgy whether at our outdoor chapel set up behind the social hall or inside the church. This has provided such a strength to all of us in the midst of this pandemic. Here I wish to recognize our protodeacon Paul, readers Nicholas, Aleksandar, Peter, Seraphim, Constantine, Radovan, the altar servers, and our choir members, who continued offering their time, talent and treasure in their service to the Lord. I also would like to congratulate those with their regular Liturgy attendance and participation during the year 2020. Your dedication and faith will multiply, grow, and even overspill – it will be shared with others. You’ve become a great example of unshakable faith in the Lord. Please, continue sharing your faith with meekness and great love. 

Details regarding stay-at-home order and utilization of our outdoor chapel:

3/19/20 – 5/31/20 – stay-at-home order issued by the San Diego Health Department. We’ve served all services with a small number of parishioners participating. 

7/19/20 – 8/30/20 – served all services in the outdoor chapel.

11/15/21 – 2/7/21 – served all services in the outdoor chapel. 

2/7/21 – present – continue serving all services inside the church. 

Christian Education and Pilgrimages 

            Orthodox Christian Education is an ongoing activity of our entire parish; we had several Zoom classes. However, I believe and know that our children will learn more about our faith from participating in the Liturgy, than from sitting in front of the computer. Their schools have moved to online classes and having us add yet another computer activity is just too much screen time. I therefore encourage parents to bring their children to the church and participate in the Liturgy. We will soon resume our Sunday School classes. 

         The pilgrimage to Russia scheduled for September 6-16, 2020 has been postponed until 2022. Bible Study is held every Wednesday. We studied the Gospel according to St. Luke.  

Culture and Heritage Programs (Folkfest; Concerts)

            Our folklore groups Morava Sr., Morava Jr. and Peewees continue to promote a part of our Serbian culture and heritage through folk songs and dance. They have my full support and I am grateful to all directors, choreographers and parents for their active participation in this ministry of our parish. 

Some of the Projects/Ministries Completed in 2020

  • Served regular Liturgical services, some home blessings and pastoral visits to the sick and hospitalized. 
  • Sunday Matins/Jutrenje is now served regularly. 
  • The “Voice” is published quarterly (thank you to Natalia Valenti and all contributors) as well as weekly bulletins.
  • We sent out regular e-newsletters every Monday morning and daily reflections.
  • Our new parish website was regularly updated:  Our parishioners and supporters are able to make a donation online through a secured account. 
  • During the Vidovdan celebration on Sunday, June 30th, 2019, we were able to award the Professor Srbich Annual Scholarship ($1,000.00) as well as the St. George Scholarship ($1,000.00), both based on academic merit. The recipient of the Professor Srbich scholarship was Nikola Raicevich and the recipient of the St. George scholarship was Anastasija Krsic. We wish them both much success in their academic studies!
  • The most generous scholarship that we have so far is the $40,000 Milojko Mike Vucelic Scholarship (awarded $10,000 for four years) established to advance the dream of Milojko ‘Mike’ Vucelic and his wife, Dr. Inge.  This award is given to support a high school senior or college student of Serbian descent with four consecutive annual scholarships in pursing his or her engineering career. Lazar Katanic is the recipient of the Milojko Mike Vucelic scholarship awarded during the Vidovdan celebration in 2018, 2019 and 2020 (he has received $30,000 so far). This scholarship annually awards $10,000 to one qualifying student for up to four years of study (totaling $40,000). Our deepest thanks go to the Vucelic family!
  • We served meals to the homeless on the third Wednesday of each month at God’s Extended Hand in downtown San Diego.
  • Sunday School related activities: Some Sunday school classes, Nativity program, St. Sava program, etc. 
  • Participation in the diocesan and the Central Church level: Fr. Bratso is Director of the Education Department of our diocese, member of Liturgics, Sacred Music and Translation committee, and Pan-Orthodox and Interfaith Liaison of our diocese. Fr. Bratso is also on these national committees: Editor of the Path of Orthodoxy, Communication Committee and Education Committee. 
  • Ongoing activity of the Good Samaritan Fund with an initial donation made by Kathleen Rutherford of $10,000. We’ve offered assistance to several local San Diego residences. 
  • We have provided Christmas gifts to children in Serbia (this project was led by Maja Topalovic).
  • Fundraising for Kosovo and Metohija (Gracanica farm project led by SAFKOS-Serbian American Foundation for Kosovo, report given by Djordje Popovic) 

Our Auxiliary organizations 

            Our auxiliary organizations advance the ministries of our parish and make it function as a vibrant Orthodox community. 

Fr. Bratso’s anniversary celebrations 

            I am pleased to inform you that the year 2021 will be a milestone year for me on many levels. It marks the 30thanniversary of my graduation from the Holy Three Hierarchs seminary where I attended from 1986-1991, the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on Sept. 15, 1996, my 25th wedding anniversary, and my 50th birthday (ouch!) to name just a few. It will be my distinguished honor to share the joy of these celebrations with you all later this year. More information will be forthcoming. 

Mission Statement of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church
            I am pleased to share with you the mission statement of our parish that will help us focus on our ministry in the days and months ahead.
            The ministry of the Parish will include proclaiming and teaching the Gospel in accordance with the Orthodox faith; sanctifying the faithful through God’s grace in worship, the Divine Liturgy and the other sacraments; enhancing its parishioners’ spiritual life; and adding to the numbers of the faithful by receiving persons into the Church through instruction, baptism and/or chrismation.
            In addition, the Parish shall establish educational and philanthropic activities to foster the aims and mission of the Parish and to edify its parishioners in the faith and ethos of the Church. 

The mission of the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church is to:
1. Maintain, practice, and proclaim the Christian Orthodox faith (Svetosavlje), enhancing the spiritual growth of its communicants and enabling parishioners to fully participate in the life of the Church and find salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior;
2. Develop and operate programs, activities, and services for the Parishioners which serve and further the religious, educational, cultural, philanthropic, and social ministries of the community, as well as to protect and continuously develop the physical buildings and religious property as deemed necessary (in this and other endeavors we will follow the Canons and the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America);
3. Fostering our youth, whom are the present and future of our church, to blossom as Orthodox Christians;
4. Dedicate ourselves to the promotion of Orthodox Christian fellowship and values between the evolving diversity of cultures and its people.

This sacred mission is fulfilled in the Holy Spirit through the following expressions of ministry:
·         A worship ministry, which nurtures the faithful through regular participation in the sacred services and holy mysteries of the Church.
·         A teaching ministry, which strives to educate and inspire the faithful through the Sacred Scriptures and Holy Tradition of the Church.
·         An outreach ministry, which fulfills the command of Jesus Christ to reach out to the sick and needy, to serve the least of our brethren, and to spread the Gospel both locally and throughout the world.
·         A hospitality ministry, which welcomes visitors and new members to the community with love and respect, and which actively embraces the parish’s involvement with other churches.
·         A fellowship ministry, which provides a variety of opportunities for all members of the parish to share in activities with one another through appropriate cultural, social and educational events that reflect the life, faith and cultural heritage of the community.
·         A stewardship ministry, which engenders the faithful dedication of time, talents and treasures of parishioners in support of the ministries of the Church to the glory of God.

In accepting this mission we acknowledge and confess that it is not in our power alone to accomplish this divine and sacred work.  We will succeed only through the use of our own God-given gifts, blessed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you to you all! 

My thanks and deep gratitude go to my predecessors, Fr. Velimir and Fr. Bozidar, protodeacon Paul, Kate and the entire Church Board/Parish Council and Audit Board, the Choir, weekday service chanters Joulia Rezvoukhina, and Milos Belcevich, the Tutors, the Kolo members and their leaders, the Morava Groups and parents, Sunday School teachers, office staff and volunteers, and all stewards and supporters of our St. George parish.  I ask you to pray that we all continue working together for the betterment of our parish. 

With all of my love in Christ our Lord,

Father Bratso Krsic