Fr. Bratso’s Annual Report

Fr. Bratso’s Annual Report for the Year of our Lord, 2018

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

Date:      Sunday, February 10th, 2019

My dear fellow Stewards and Parishioners,

Our Lord has blessed me with the opportunity and responsibility to give my eleventh report to you for the pastoral work and ministry here at St. George parish.

Sharing the Gospel and Responsibility

Sharing the Gospel of Christ and some of the precepts of our Orthodox Faith as much as time and space have allowed here today is always an opportunity to encounter Christ and to carry out His great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (St. Matthew 28:19)

My responsibility first lies in living the life of prayer and asceticism, which is guarding my heart and mind of all those distracting thoughts that might lead one away from a Christ centered life. Next, my responsibility rests in guiding my own family on the path to salvation, then, guiding you, my larger family entrusted to my spiritual care and guidance. This task is not only enormous, but it is also very difficult. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise him.” Psalm 28:7

The world demands our attention (distractions take us away from Christ and our own family)

The world today offers to us so many distractions that demand our attention. These distractions usually do not demand much discipline on our part or even an intellectual effort, thus making them attractive; however, if given in to, they lead us away from our focus on Christ, spiritual life, even, our own family.

A Casual approach to our spiritual life; there must be order and law in the parish

I’ve mentioned several times before that today’s society has an increasing casual approach to the way in which daily activities are carried out and the way in which we conduct ourselves. I observe this even in the way we approach our own participation in the church services and gatherings. While a casual approach to life certainly has a place and can be practiced, I emphasize that when it comes to the Divine Liturgy and our spiritual life, a casual approach should not be employed, because we will not bear any fruit, that is, we will not grow spiritually. The order and law, after the unity and peace in the community are most essential. If the community or parish does not have order and law, then such a parish is not stable and there will be no advancement and growth of her ministries.

Church as a spiritual hospital (we are healed in our church by what the church is not what she has)

We Orthodox Christians view the Church as a spiritual hospital, a therapeutic center, and a fitness center, all combined in one! The aim of the treatment is to provide a spiritual cure, maintain wellness for its faithful members and lead them to Christ and eternal life! The cure we obtain in the Church is not for the benefit of our souls alone—it does not pertain only to the future life. It includes our bodies and our life here on earth. In fact, it is the most complete program, addressing all our needs: spiritual, emotional, material and intellectual. The Church takes a broken human life and restores it in all its dimensions, renews it, transforms it, sanctifies it and enriches its interpersonal relationships, bringing the human being to a fuller communion with society and nature, and ultimately unites it with God. The Church does this not by what she has, but by what she is, that is, the Body of Christ. The main task of the Church and her ministers (bishops, priests, elders) is to make us well (make us like Christ). Unfortunately, the great majority of the people is not even aware of this truth, and therefore is not taking advantage of the spiritual treatment provided by the Church. The result is that we do not experience the healing, do not get well spiritually, and do not grow. We experience this fall more often than the resurrection (this results in a negative view of some aspects of the church’s ministry rather than positive).

Stole Report 2018

Baptisms: 16 [2 conversions]; Weddings (this includes blessing of existing [civil] marriages): 3          Funerals: 3; Slavas: 82; Pastoral/hospital visitations: 48.

Home blessings with Theophany-Bogojavljenskom vodicom/Holy Water (some homes are blessed during a family’s slava celebrations) outsideof slava celebration: 30.

Parishioner and parish

In the Uniform rules and regulations for parishes and church-school congregations of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America and General regulationswe read [article 26; 1 & 2]: “Every person who is baptized and chrismated according to the rites of the Orthodox Church is a parishioner and member of his or her local parish and Church-School Congregation where he or she resides. The religious, moral and social duties of a parishioner are to apply the tenets of the Orthodox faith to his or her life; to adhere to and live according to the tenets of the Orthodox faith; faithfully attend the Divine Liturgy and other worship services; participate regularly in the Holy Sacraments; respect all ecclesiastical authority and all governing bodies of the Church; be obedient in matters of faith, practice and ecclesiastical order; contribute materially, financially and other ways towards the progress of the Church’s sacred mission; and be an effective witness and example of the Orthodox faith and traditions to all people.”

“Pursuant to the Constitution, a Church-School Congregation is an organized religious community of parishioners headed by a priest of a specified territory who have voluntarily obligated themselves to assist in the administration and maintenance of local church property for the benefit of the Church and its religious life. These parishioners shall be referred to as parishioners in good standing and, as such, are the parishioners that have the right to attend, participate and vote at Assemblies and may also be nominated for election to the Executive Board [Parish Council] or as a delegate to Diocese Assemblies and Sabors. In order to be considered as a parishioner in good standing and to have the rights and privileges set forth above and elsewhere in these Rules and Regulations, the parishioner must, at a minimum:

a) Practice all the religious and moral duties as described above; b) Be at least 18 years old; c) Be current in his or her financial obligations or stewardship obligations; d) Abide by all of the regulations set forth in these Rules and Regulations as well as the local Bylaws Addendum; and e) Cooperate in every way towards the welfare and well being of the parish.”

Christian Education and Pilgrimages

Orthodox Christian Education is an ongoing activity of our entire parish. I am grateful to our Sunday school teachers and parents for their support and regular participation. Admittedly, there is always room for improvement from all of us. Our Sunday school teachers for this school year are: Melanie Milicevic, Elizabeth Zdralo, Nemanja Zdralo, and Anastasija Krsic. Some parents have also filled in on several occasions: Jelena Bradic, and Maja and Vojkan Topalovic. I thank them for their love and dedication to our parish education program.

The Holy Land pilgrimage took place on April 11-20, 2018. This year we plan on going to Serbia (May 18-31, 2019). Information is available on our website, via emails, Facebook and here in the social hall and the church with color flyers and detailed information.  The Bible Study is held every Wednesday. We studied the Gospel of St. Matthew and will continue now with the Acts of the Apostles.

Celebrations in 2019 and our Renewal: 800 years of autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church [1219-2019] and the 50thanniversary of the consecration of our church [1969-2019]

I wish to remind you all of two great celebrations taking place this year. The year 2019 is a jubilee year for the Serbian Orthodox Church as we will be celebrating 800 years of autocephaly. The main celebration on our diocesan level will take place at St. Sava church in San Gabriel on August 30th, 31st, and September 1st. Our Diocesan Annual Assembly will also take place this weekend. Prior to this celebration we will be marking the 50thanniversary of the consecration of our church which took place on July 26 and 27, 1969. The date for this celebration is yet to be determined.
This year, by God’s grace, we will continue working on our spiritual renewal and furtherance of our parish ministries.

The Church Assembly – Sabor, July 11-13, 2019, Chicago, Illinois

The Church Assembly/Sabor will be held in one of the Parishes of the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America near Chicago (most likely in Lansing, IL), Thursday, July 11ththrough Saturday, July 13th. The office of His Grace Bishop Longin, President of the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Dioceses in the United States of America, will soon provide full information regarding the 2019 Church Assembly – Sabor. Our parish will be represented by our clergy, the president of the Church Board/Parish Council and a delegate.

Culture and Heritage Programs (Folkfest; Concerts)

Our folklore groups: Morava Sr. and Morava Jr. 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 2018

  • Served regular Liturgical services, 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, Ana Miletic-Sedy and all contributors) as well as weekly bulletins.
  • We sent out regular e-newsletters every Monday morning around 5:30am.
  • Our new parish website was regularly updated: www.StGeorgeInSD.org.  Our parishioners and supporters are able to make a donation online through a secured account.
  • Participated in the Diocesan Summer camp in Jackson, CA, July 15–20, 2018.
  • During the Vidovdan celebration on Sunday, June 25th, 2017, we were able to award the Professor Srbich Annual Scholarship ($1,000.00), to a graduating high school student of Serbian descent in the San Diego County area. The scholarship is awarded by the Prof. Srbich Endowment, established in his memory by his beloved family. Miro Copic continues to oversee this and other endowments of St. George parish. Endowments are a great way to build a legacy for our parishioners and provide perpetual care for our parish. It is suggested that families consider their participation in establishing a legacy of their own by setting up an endowment with their family name. The recipient of the Prof. Srbich 2018 scholarship was Lazar Katanic. The St. George Scholarship in amount of $1,000.00 was not awarded in 2018.
  • The new and certainly the most generous scholarship that we have so far is the $40,000 [awarded $10,000 for four years] Milojko Mike Vucelic Scholarship established to advance the dream of Milojko ‘Mike’ Vucelic and his wife, Dr. Inge, in supporting a high school senior or college student of Serbian descent with four consecutive annual scholarships in pursing his or her engineering career. Throughout his life, Milojko believed and supported education, creativity, fortitude and self-discipline in achieving life’s goals. He equally supported his Serbian heritage and the Serbian Orthodox Church. His wife Dr. Inge unequivocally supported her husband Milojko and after his falling asleep in the Lord on September 12, 2012, she continues to carry out their life’s dream of being ambassadors of education among Serbian people. Milojko was born in Garesnica, today’s Croatia, of parents Josip and Ljubica (born Hrgovic) into an observant Orthodox family. His parents instilled in him the traditional values of hard work, thrift, and charity. In 1947, at age 17, Milojko entered University in Zagreb. Michael completed his studies of Engineering in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering earning a Diploma. During his studies, Michael became interested in aerospace. He got his pilot license in Vrsac flying Tiger Moth biplanes. He was an active member of AeroKlub Zagreb. While ‘Mike’ was a university student he built airplanes for the AeroKlub. Upon graduation, Mike received an award from Mercedes Benz, part of which included work at the prestigious Mercedes Benz design bureau in Stuttgart. Mike eventually accepted a job offer from Cessna Aviation in Wichita, Kansas in 1956. At Cessna, he designed the landing gear for the Cessna 210. In 1961, Mike and his family moved to Southern California where he was instrumental in the success of the Apollo Space program. He is a co-recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work saving the Astronauts of Apollo 13. In 2011, he was inducted into the Serbian Academy of Science. Milojko was married to Dr. Inge Perzl, PhD (a psychologist) for 54 years until his passing. They have two sons, Aleksandar (Sasha) and Nikola, and five grandchildren. The Milojko “Mike” Vucelic scholarship was established on December 8th, 2017 when Dr. Inge and her son Aleksandar met with Fr. Bratso Krsic to establish the guidelines for awarding the scholarship.  ‘Mike’ and Inge Vucelic always wanted to provide an opportunity for a diligent young student of Orthodox faith to succeed in Engineering at University. This Scholarship is intended to support students who will continue the tradition of Serbians who advance society with technical contributions while retaining their Orthodox faith and values.

Lazar Katanic is the recipient of Milojko Mike Vucelic scholarship awarded during the Vidovdan celebration in 2018. This scholarship awards annually $10,000 to one qualifying student for up to four years of study (totaling $40,000). Our deepest thanks go to the Vucelic family!

  • 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: regular Sunday school classes, Vrbica, 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, Pan-Orthodox and Interfaith Liaison of our diocese; National committees: Editor of the Path of Orthodoxy, Communication Committee and Education Committee.

Looking ahead: continuing the remodeling and updating of our property

The remodeling of our church property is a priority, but it must be done with everyone’s participation as it is analogous to the spiritual renewal of all of us. Both should be done simultaneously.

Endowments

Several families have marked the history of our parish by setting up endowments for the perpetual care of our parish and setting up scholarships for our young church. I would like to encourage others to consider their participation as well. But let us remember that the most significant endowment any parish possesses is the living endowment of its people [members/stewards], who contribute not only their finances, but also their time and talent. They are the true stewards of our parish. Let us not give these parishioners any reason to believe that their input is less needed because of a legacy provided by earlier generations.

Our Auxiliary organizations

Our auxiliary organizations are like lungs supporting our bodies with oxygen. They too support various ministries of our parish and make our parish function well. However, it must be noted that its members solely cannot make major decisions. This is because those major decisions affect the life of our parishioners and parish. They must be addressed and blessed with the parish priest and if necessary, with our Church Board/Parish Council. This corresponds with the Rules and Regulations of our Church and the local parish by-laws.

Thank you and congratulations

My thanks and deep appreciation go to my predecessors, Fr. Velimir and Fr. Bozidar, protodeacon Paul, readers Nicholas, Aleksandar and Radovan, all altar servers, and the entire Church Board/Parish Council, the Choir, the Choir, weekday service chanters Joulia Rezvoukhina, Leo Grabowski and Milos Belcevich, the Kolo members and their leaders, the Morava Group and parents, Sunday School teachers, office staff and volunteers, and all stewards and supporters of our St. George parish.  I pray that we all continue working together for the betterment of our parish. The opportunity for growth of our ministries is great and we can accomplish all of it only if we work together. I pray that the Lord blesses our work during 2019. Finally, I wish to congratulate to Protodeacon Paul Germain on his elevation! Many years!

With all of my love in Christ our Lord,

Father Bratso Krsic