Gala in New York City – Restoring Hope, History and Future

The Gala fundraising dinner that was held on Saturday November 4th, 2017, more than one year after the tragic fire, which defaced Saint Sava Cathedral, was a very successful and uplifting event.

Photography by Milan Milatovic

Among the three hundred attendees were church leaders, royal family members and caring Serbian and non-Serbian friends, who, by coming to offer their moral and material support, made this evening truly special. The honored guests who were present were: His Grace Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Diocese of Eastern America; Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Mihailo and Princess Ljubica Karadjordjevic; His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of Washington and All America and Canada (Primate, Orthodox Church in America); His Grace Bishop Dr. Maxim of the Serbian Diocese of Western America; Her Excellency Consul General of the Republic of Serbia Mirjana Zivkovic; V. Rev. Nicholas Belcher, representative of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America; V. Rev. Dr. Zivojin Jakovljevic, Cathedral Dean; Ms. Maria Mirkovich, Board of Trustees, President; Dr. Zorka Milich, Chairperson, Restoration and Development Committee; and Canon Dr. J. Robert Wright, Episcopal Diocese of New York. We are also very grateful to Rabbi Arthur Schneier and his wife, who could not stay for the entire event, but who nevertheless graciously responded to Bishop Irinej’s plea and came to support this honorable cause.he Gala fundraising dinner that was held on Saturday November 4th, 2017, more than one year after the tragic fire, which defaced Saint Sava Cathedral, was a very successful and uplifting event.

This evening was particularly uplifting due to the presence of the restoration team members, who came with their families. As Bishop Irinej rightly pointed out, they not only provided a discounted rate for the cleanup of the debris of our church, but also demonstrated exceptional love and diligence during their work. While cleaning an immense amount of debris by hand, they were able to find the relics that were stored in the stone and enclosed in wax, which miraculously sustained the fire. Those in attendance were representatives of: G.P.J. O’Donoghue Contracting Corporation, headed by Patrick O’Donoghue; Old Structures Engineering, by Donald Friedman, who has worked on our church roof for the past 20 years; Slocum Construction Consulting; CGM Engineering; and Zivkovic Connolly Architects with Brian Connolly, led by the architect, Don Zivkovic. Don is an Australian Serb, graduate of Columbia University, and our church’s Project Executive. We were specially blessed that we had with us this evening Nada Sizemore, the legal counsel of the Diocesan Administrative Board, who left her own fundraiser event in Boston to be at the Gala in New York.

Additionally, our church was honored to see Saint Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church’s Board President Stephen Hlampeas, who attended the Gala with a number of parishioners from this church. Saint Eleftherios’ parish has welcomed Saint Sava parishioners during this difficult time and provided the space for regular church services. As the Greeks had provided a refuge in Corfu during World War I by welcoming the Serbian king, the government and the army, so they have, once again, welcomed and extended their assistance to Saint Sava parish.

We particularly wish to commend our Opancici folklore group for an outstanding performance. Their work and talent was evident during the short program they offered and we are very fortunate to have them amongst us.  In like manner, we wish to acknowledge the musicians, George Milosh, tenor; Djordje Nesic, piano; Vukan Stanisic, guitar; and Srdjan Djivoje, guitar, who with their music greatly enhanced the ambience of this evening. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to our Masters of Ceremony, Petar Markovic and Ivana Nikolic, who made certain that the program was conducted with grace and ease. And last, but not least, a heartfelt appreciation goes to Dr. Zorka Milich, the Chairperson of the event, and her Gala team, who have faithfully worked to make this event a success.

During His address, His Grace Bishop Irinej emphasized that the rebuilding of Saint Sava Cathedral does not mean only the recovery of brick and mortar, but more importantly, the restoration of hope, history and future. “If ‘the past is the prologue of the future,’ one must never forget how the church came about. It was a gift of one exceedingly gracious individual, Bishop William Manning to the Serbian Bishop Nicholai. This gift represents more than a simple handover of a temple. It is rather a proof of the love shared by two individuals, two churches and two nations.  The Serbs at that time paid thirty thousand dollars for the transfer, which for them was a substantial amount. But, as they managed to raise this sum then, we, too, will be able to raise the funds to restore it,” Bishop Irinej stated. “No church has been rebuilt over night,” added Bishop Irinej. “One such example is Saint Sava church on Vracar in Belgrade, which is being built for almost a hundred years. Such is also the case with the church of Saint John the Divine. In like manner, God has placed into our hands this sacred task, the rebuilding of this Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Sava, the patron of the Serbian Church and the Serbian people.”

Analogous to His Grace’s words, it can be said that the Gala gathering this evening was not just a fundraiser. It was also an opportunity to thank those individuals, who have committed themselves to this holy project and an appeal to the faithful to join in and put their hearts into this worthy cause. If we do our part and place our love and trust in God’s guidance, He will in turn restore and sustain both our holy church and us.

Rev. Stavrophor Dr. Zivojin Jakovljevic
Saint Sava Cathedral, Dean

To view the photographs from the Gala, please click here.

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