By God’s mercy, last Sunday November 27, 2016, our newly enthroned Bishop, His Grace Bishop Mitrophan, paid his first canonical visit to our parish. In the presence of many of our parishioners, His Grace co-celebrated the Hierarchal Holy Liturgy with our Fr. Vasilije Tomic, Fr. Milutin Veljko of St. Sava’s parish in Toronto, and with the newly arrived Fr. Vladimir Vranic of the Cathedral Church of St. Archangel Michael in Belgrade. Our esteemed chanters were joined by the junior choir who chanted through the service, to the great joy of all present. The Hierarchal Holy Liturgy was concluded by a wonderful homily that our Vladika shared in both Serbian and English, followed by introducing Fr. Vladimir Vranic as the newly appointed priest for our parish. Fr. Vasilije Tomic thanked our Vladika for his firm support of our parish as well as for his wise choice of a new and well-qualified rector, and he also welcomed and shared his sincere sentiments towards Fr. Vladimir and his family. This was a delightful moment for all our parishioners gathered that day!
After the Hierarchical Holy Liturgy, our Vladika Mitrophan, together with the priests, joined our congregation at the agape meal that was prepared by Tojcic family and served by our Kolo sisters. Having many duties to attend to, His Grace had to leave right after the meal, but not before he shared a few thoughts with us. His Grace told us about the need for Orthodox Christian families to support their parishes through stewardship, i.e. supporting their parish on a regular and committed way, whether financially or through volunteering time and effort, rather than through membership fees and occasional ad-hoc fundraiser campaigns. He shared with us multiple examples from the Eastern Diocese where such change in practices that he oversaw as the Archpastor have improved the situation in the respective parishes not only materially, but spiritually too.
With these thoughts, the extraordinary parish assembly was opened by Fr. Vasilije Tomic, who again welcomed Fr. Vladimir Vranic and confirmed his genuine support for him as our rector. The president of the Parish Governing Board, Aleksandar Cvijetinovic, introduced the assembly to the fact that we have been financially struggling for the past year, and are in need of all parishioners taking their role of support and stewardship more seriously and in a more committed and regular manner, in order to succeed, by God’s grace, to keep and maintain our parish. Alleviating our parish of the basic financial pains and shortcomings would, for once, allow all those working to focus on the ministry and building of the parish, rather than spending most of their time and strength only for making ends barely meet. To inform the assembly more precisely of all of the essential financial ins and outs of our parish, Zoran Radisic, the vice-president of the Parish Governing Board, prepared and presented a number of graphs that showed clearly the amounts and trends of funds that came in from different sources (e.g. donations, rent, sale of food, candles, etc.) and the funds that went out for different expenses (e.g. mortgage, insurance, priest’s compensation, various dues and bills, etc.) based on the accounting done by our treasurer Joanne Nedeljkovic. These have clearly shown that we have been incurring an increasing loss this year, which, if not remedied, would eventually force us to lose our property and disband our parish.
To avoid such a dire scenario, two basic proposals were made. One was to encourage and motivate our parishioners to start donating on a regular and committed basis whatever amount they were able and willing to give on a monthly basis, rather than on an ad hoc basis of giving on feast-days and only when asked to. That would allow for better budgeting and knowing what funds to expect. The other proposal was to try to get a sufficient number of families willing to take up smaller individual loans on their name towards paying off the property mortgage (currently at about $800,000), since our monthly mortgage payments of $6000 are the single greatest expense we are burdened with, and most of that money goes on interest. While the assembled parishioners were open and approving of the first proposal, it was a great encouragement and joy to see a very quick and determined reaction to act on the second proposal right away! In a few minutes, 21 families have pledged right then and there to raise a total of $115,000 towards paying off the mortgage. After a short discussion, it was decided that, led by our new rector Fr. Vladimir Vranic, we shall continue with this campaign by knocking on the doors of each family in our parish to ask for their stewardship, as well as for their support of this specific initiative to help payout our mortgage by the feast of the Meeting of the Lord (Sretenje), on February 15, 2017 (since we need to renew our mortgage again in March 2017). On that wholehearted note, Fr. Vladimir led the dismissal prayer and closed the assembly meeting.