Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Episcopal Consecration of
His Grace the Right Reverend †FERMILIAN
Doctor of Philosophy
Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Midwestern America
His Grace, the Right Reverend Dr. FIRMILIAN, Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Midwestern America was born on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, according to the Julian Calendar, on the 7th of January 1910. He was born into a clerical family in Kaona, Serbia, the son of many generations of priests, specifically, born into the family of the Archpriest Uros Ocokoljich, and his mother Darinka, also the daughter of a priest. To the delight of his family, the parents were blessed with the birth of twins, named at baptism, Stanko (later Bishop FIRMILIAN) and Ranko.
Having completed his elementary and secondary education, young Stanko was admitted into the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Sarajevo, Bosnia, from where he graduated in the year 1930. After having served the Armed Forces of his country, Stanko was married to Nadezda Popovic. Following his marriage, Stanko was ordained to the Diaconate and then to the Priesthood, being assigned as assistant to his father, the Archpriest Uros, in the Village of Kaona. Tragically, within the first year of his marriage, Father Stanko lost both his wife and son, during childbirth.
Now, his life was to take on a profound new meaning. Education became the goal of the widowed Priest Stanko. Desiring to further his own education, he resumed his theological studies at the University of Belgrade. Simultaneously, he assumed the role of an educator by accepting a post teaching religion in the public school systems in Belgrade.
Receiving a Licentiate in Theology from the University of Belgrade, Father Stanko was appointed professor of Patrology and Greek at the then Theological Seminary in Cetinje, Montenegro. In the near-by Monastery of St. Basil of Ostrog, one year following, Fr. Stanko deepened his service in the Lord, by accepting the monastic tonsure and receiving the name FIRMILIAN.
As a capable administrator, the young Hieromonk FIRMILIAN came to American in the year 1940, together with, and at the request of the then Bishop Dionisije. In addition to having served the youngest Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, in America and Canada, as its administrative secretary, the energies of Father FIRMILIAN were incorporated into the pastorates of many of the largest Serbian communities in America: ‘Ravanica’ in Detroit, Michigan; Holy Resurrection in Chicago, Illinois; St. George and St. Sava in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the most prestigious St. Sava Pro-Cathedral in New York City.
During the Second World War, Father FIRMILIAN was sent to serve the parochial needs of the Serbian Community in London, England. Here it was, that he was named personal chaplain to the Karageorgevich Dynasty, specifically to His Royal Majesty PETER II, exiled King of Yugoslavia.
Returning to the United States of America, the then Singelos FIRMILIAN was elevated to the highest rank in monastic orders, to that of Archimandrite. Perhaps it may be stated that of all the pastorates encountered by Father FIRMILIAN, nothing was to remain as dear to his heart as the Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville. It was at the Monastery that he arrived in America, nearly 50 years ago, and it is today, by the Providence of Almighty God, that he, the now Bishop FIRMILIAN will be celebrating the Silver Anniversary of his Episcopate.
At the same Monastery of St. Sava, Archimandrite FIRMILIAN entertained numerous positions. In addition to his administrative capacities, as an established educator, he taught at the former St. Sava Seminary, which was housed at the Monastery. He was responsible for the promotion of the publication of many of Bishop NICHOLAI (Velimirovich’s) literary works. While residing at the Monastery, he obtained his Doctorate in Philosophy, from the Department of History, at the eminent University of Chicago. The subject of his doctoral dissertation was the Legal Codex of the Serbian Emperor Dushan.
Soon after the purchase of the Shadeland Diocesan Estate in Springboro, Pennsylvania, Archimandrite FIRMILIAN was appointed its director. In this capacity, he sponsored the promotion of the establishment of a Charity Home, dedicated to St. Sava; a Children’s Summer Camp and a fully operative farm.
Having been instrumental in the 1945 formation of the National Federation of the Circles of Serbian Sisters, the same Archimandrite FIRMILIAN was eventually appointed, by the then Bishop, to serve as its capable spiritual advisor.
While tending to the pastoral needs, of what he built up to be the largest Serbian Community in the United States, Archimandrite FIRMILIAN, Dean of the New City Pro-Cathedral of St. Sava, assumed numerous other responsibilities. Again, as a never-failing educator, Dr. FIRMILIAN resumed teaching, now at the reknowned St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York City. As Professor at this graduate school of Theology, Dr. FIRMILIAN taught Hagiology and both Western and Serbian Ecclesiastical Histories. He was also appointed Dean of Serbian Students.
In this metropolis, Archimandrite FIRMILIAN, as liaison to the Bishop, represented his Church before the World Council of Churches. Together with Archbishop IAKOVOS of the Greek Orthodox Church, he was instrumental in the formation of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). It was he, who was then named as its first administrative secretary.
Realizing the invaluable dedication of Archimandrite FIRMILIAN to both his Church and to his people, the Holy Hierarchical Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on the 27th of July, 1963, elected the same as Bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Midwestern America. The then Bishop-elect FIRMILIAN was consecrated, as the first Hierarch of the infant Diocese, in the Cathedral Church of St. Sava in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the 1st of August, 1963.
The 1st of August, 1988, marks for His Grace, Bishop FIRMILIAN, a jubilee in honor of his 25 years of archpastoral service to the Lord. His was a hierarchical ministry filled with many and painful years of litigation. It may rightfully be stated that His Grace has indeed proven himself to be, in the words of the Troparion to Hierarchs, “a champion of Orthodoxy and defender of the faith!” For he literally consumed himself in his devotion to save his Church from the fateful schism which rendered it torn and mutilated.
Never waivering in his assurance of the victory of truth, Bishop FIRMILIAN, once again, lived to see his beloved Monastery of St. Sava returned to the Church. Himself, returning again at the Monastery in 1979, Bishop FIRMILIAN labored ceaselessly to restore the memory of the forgotten Bishop MARDARIJE (Uskovovich), founder of the Monastery and first Serbian Orthodox Bishop of America and Canada, and to complete his, “MARDARIJE’s Dream,” by renovating and enlarging the Monastery Church to its present conception.
After celebrating both the Nativity of the Lord and his own birthday, in year 1984, Bishop FIRMILIAN suffered a series of heart attacks and several strokes. Valiantly, carried by his faith, and the outpouring love and prayers of the faithful from all jurisdictions, Bishop FIRMILIAN overcame a hurdling coma, once again being able to delight in the Monastery that he loved so well.
“…I came here tonight out of my love for, and to pay tribute to, my longstanding friend, a scholar and an outstanding churchman, Bishop FIRMILIAN, who, during his pastorate in New York City labored together with me in the formation of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas…”
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of
North and South America
(Excerpt from His Eminence’s Keynote address
at the 1984 Church-National Assembly
“…the prayers of thousands of your friends and admirers have been answered. It was a marvelous thing to sense the love and affection in which you are held throughout the Church.”
Bishop James W. Montgomery
Episcopal Bishop of Chicago
(Assembly Banuet, Chicago, 1984)
“…We strongly believe that His Grace, Bishop FIRMILIAN, has contributed much to the spiritual progress of Orthodoxy in North America.”
Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
“…Bishop FIRMILIAN has displayed a true spirit of Pan-Orthodox cooperation in our joint efforts for the Orthodox Church in America and we are grateful to honor him…”
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America
“…As a colleague on the faculty of St. Vladimir’s and later as a distinguished member of the Episcopate of the Sister-church of Serbia, His Grace has always been a friend, of which I was proud…”
V. Rev. Dr. John Meyendorff
St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
Crestwood, New York
“On this blessed occasion we wish to offer our congratulations to you and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and our thanks to God, who in His mercy and wisdom has called and sustained such devoted and faithful men to His service and the world’s benediction. May we add our own great joy to your own and to that of your Church.”
Rev. Dr. Robert Tobias
McCormick Lutheran School of Theology
(1971 40th Anniversary Celebration)
Eis Polla Eti Despota!
From 1998 Calendar
of the Serbian Orthodox Church
in the United States