THE EASTERN AMERICAN AND CANADIAN DIOCESE...
THROUGH A QUARTER CENTURY
by Fr. Rade Merick
When the Eastern American and Canadian Diocese was created in 1963, a long-standing need for more direct Episcopal guidance in this very large territory was met. The diocese comprised the United States from Ohio to the east, and all of Canada, still a huge geographical area. Nonetheless, the diocesan bishop would be able to devote more time and attention to this area than was possible before under the single diocese. Bishop Stefan (Lastavica) had the very difficult task of establishing diocesan structures and procedures from nothing at all. Beginning with his residence in Clairton, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, Bishop Stefan moved his diocesan see to Cleveland, near St. Sava Cathedral. Although in poor health, Bishop Stefan was able to lay the groundwork for the future of the diocese. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1966.
In 1967 the Holy Assembly of Bishops elected Bishop Dr. Sava (Vukovich), vicar bishop to the Patriarch and professor of liturgics at the Theological Faculty, as the new bishop of the widowed diocese. Bishop Sava gave more organization to the functioning of the diocese and made the diocese an active and effective agent for growth and development. Under his guidance the diocese became active for the first time in publishing and Christian education, and began to offer help to parish educational programs. A diocesan newspaper, the Path of Orthodoxy, began publication (this became in 1980 the newspaper for the entire Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada). Mission work bore fruit in the establishment of parishes in Columbus, Ohio and St. Petersburg, Florida, and serious pastoral concern was shown for Canada, resulting in the founding of new parishes in many areas of that large country. A serious concern was also shown for theological students and their education, resulting in a program of financial aid to students of the diocese.
In 1977 Bishop Sava was elected bishop of Sumadia in Yugoslavia and in 1978 the Holy Assembly elected as the new bishop Father Velimir Kovacevich, parish priest of St. Archangel Michael Church of South Chicago. Very active in the life of the Midwest Diocese, Father Velimir had spent the first half of his ministry as a priest in Johnstown and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and so was familiar with the Eastern United States. He took the monastic name Christopher and was consecrated bishop in Belgrade.
Under his supervision the diocese has expanded its work in education, publications, and other activities. Among recent publications is the service Book of the Eight Tones with English text set to Serbian music. The BOOKS was expanded and became a center for distribution of church school materials to parishes of the diocese and of other jurisdictions as well. Teacher training seminars and materials have aided the parishes in their educational programs. Committees have been established for mission and outreach and for stewardship, and a diocesan census is underway. The parish in North Miami, Florida was founded. Financial reporting and organization has also been improved and systematized, putting the diocese on a much sounder financial footing, and a computer system has aided in the administrative and publishing activities of the diocese. The diocese has also been the source of a substantial number of seminary students, whose education it has subsidized for service to the church.
As the diocese grew and matured, it became clear to all that a separate diocese for Canada was necessary. The need was apparent to everyone on both sides of the border, and in 1984 Bishop Christopher proposed to the Holy Assembly of Bishops that a separate Canadian Diocese be established. This was done, and in 1985 Bishop Georgije was named the first bishop of the new diocese with his see in Toronto. This development gave great joy to all the members of the diocese, both in the United States and in Canada, for it showed that the Canadian Church was growing and moving forward.
In 1969 a large tract of land was purchased by the diocese for a monastery and diocesan center in Richfield, Ohio, south of Cleveland. This became Monastery Marcha. In 1974 a mansion was purchase din Sewickley, a suburb of Pittsburgh near the airport. The diocesan center was moved to this site, where it has remained. The Sewickley Episcopal Residence includes a chapel, bishop’s quarters, guest quarters, reception areas and offices. Major recent renovations have repaired the building and finished the basement, providing additional meeting room, a library, office facilities, and an improved BOOKS area. Landscaping and sandblasting has improved the appearance of the property. It is frequently used for meetings and conferences.
Meanwhile, Monastery Marcha has continued to grow. It now has a resident monastic priest, an igumanija (abbess), a tonsured nun and three novices, and a monastic liturgical life has been established. The home has been expanded and improved to add additional living and work space. Further expansion of the living areas will soon be necessary. A chapel and cemetery are in the planning stages for the property, which is the only functioning Serbian Orthodox monastery on the continent. The Eastern Diocese is fortunate indeed to be blessed with such a center of true Orthodox monasticism, which will even more in the future provide spiritual food and comfort to all the people of the diocese.
In 1966 the Federation of Circles of Serbian Sisters of the Eastern Diocese purchased property in Doylestown, Ohio, near Akron, for a children’s summer camp. This property was called the Stefaneum and functioned very successfully from 1967 to 1979 as the diocesan children’s camp. Consisting of wooded land with a lake, dining room and dormitories, the property became redundant when the Shadeland property was regained in 1979. It is now up for sale.
Shadeland was the children’s camp for the eastern part of the old single diocese. Regained in 1979 after years of litigation, the camp has undergone substantial improvements in facilities since then, and further improvements are planned. The camp itself is a cooperative venture of the Diocesan Federation of Circles of Serbian Sisters and the Diocese. Camp programs and attendance have been undergoing a steady improvement.
The parishes of the diocese have also shown great activity. At least 13 new churches have been built since 1963, together with a sizeable number of social halls, school complexes, and picnic areas. Other parishes have purchased property, and new parishes have been founded in Ohio, Florida, Canada, and New Jersey. Parish growth has not been limited to finances and physical plant. A greater cooperation between parishes has been fostered, and the spiritual and educational activities of most parishes have improved over the years.
As we look back over a quarter of a century, we thank God for the great gifts of leadership, love and cooperation He has given us, and for the fruits of much labor invested in this part of His vineyard. At the same time we look forward to the future with hope and confidence in God’s love and care for us and for His Diocese of Eastern America and his Diocese of Canada.
From 1998 Calendar
of the Serbian Orthodox Church
in the United States of America