The Nineteenth Diocesan Days gathering of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America opened on September 4 at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Alhambra, California. This year’s assembly welcomes His Holiness Patriarch Irenej of Serbia to America to celebrate the canonization of the Serbian-American saints St. Mardarije Uskokovic and St. Sebastian Dabovich. Following a day of diocesan meetings the festal Vespers in honor of St. Sebastian was served in the cathedral church. At the end of the service the Patriarch offered some inspiring words in honor of the new saints, speaking of the fruits of holiness in their lives and their continued prayers on our behalves:
They have been glorified for they have sown the seeds of the Gospel first and foremost among their own people, but also among all peoples who were thirsty, whose hearts were open to cultivating the seeds of the Word of God. Having sown the seeds of the Gospel in their hearts the fruits first and foremost appeared in their own lives, bearing witness for all to the richness of the Word and Kingdom of God. As for their holy struggles on the path towards God—all of the difficulties and temptations that they endured—all of these things the Lord knows full well, but at the same time, the people also recognized these things, and by this the people had faith in them as apostles and missionaries, and thus the seeds they planted, with their labors, through their holy love, have come to bear fruit.
And we glorify God Who has given to our people, and to all who confess our Lord Jesus Christ, for the blessing and power of the prayers of these saints whom He has glorified. May it be blessed, that they pray in the Holy Spirit, with grace and love for the people, for their prayers are powerful and full of strength. With their presence before the face of God, through their love for us, they support us, they convey our prayers to the Lord, which is a great blessing for all of us … It is a great joy, both for us and for our people, and this joy of the saints is in fact a foundation for the Church of Christ.
Following the Patriarch’s words His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Western American Diocese greeted all the faithful gathered, who then enjoyed a time of food and fellowship, during which the cathedral dean V. Rev. Protopresbyter Stavrophor Nikola Ceko introduced the many distinguished guests, including His Holiness Patriarch Irinej and the Serbian bishops of America, as well as His Grace Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Metropolitan Saba of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church in North America.