Serbian Orthodoxy and the Seminary

Author: 
St. Vladimir's Seminary

Seven seminarians from the Serbian Orthodox Church are enrolled at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the 2018-2019 Academic Year. The Serbian Scholarship, so generously established by some of the Seminary’s outstanding servants and donors, pays for up to three Serbian Orthodox students each year to attend seminary. Funding is needed, however, for the other four. St. Vladimir’s Seminary needs your help to raise $25,000 to cover the cost of tuition, books, and room and board for these future leaders of the Serbian Church.

To make a donation for St. Vladimir’s Serbian Orthodox seminarians, click here.


Dr. Veselin Kesich (+2012) taught New Testament studies from 1953-1991, and served as acting Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary from 1983–1984.Dr. Veselin Kesich (+2012) taught New Testament studies from 1953-1991, and served as acting Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary from 1983–1984.The archives of St. Vladimir’s Seminary (SVOTS) are filled with Serbian names. Over its eighty-year history, the Seminary has counted numerous Serbian Orthodox among its faculty and student body. That long, distinguished list includes His Grace Bishop Firmilian (Ocokoljich), Dr. Veselin Kesich, His Grace Bishop Irinej (Dobrijevic), and St. Nikolaj Velimirović, who also taught at St. Tikhon’s Seminary in South Canaan, PA and Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY. You will also find Serbian Orthodox among St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s most generous supporters and donors, who have worked tirelessly to help maintain the long, fruitful relationship between the Seminary and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

His Grace Bishop Irinej (Dobrijevic), a SVOTS alumnus, currently serves on the Seminary's Board of Trustees.His Grace Bishop Irinej (Dobrijevic), a SVOTS alumnus, currently serves on the Seminary's Board of Trustees.“Thirty or forty years ago, the cream of the crop of Serbian priests came from St. Vladimir’s Seminary,” said Dr. Brian Gerich, trustee emeritus, who served on the board of St. Vladimir’s for more than twenty years. “They were huge leaders, and because of that the Seminary has always been highly regarded in the Serbian Orthodox community in North America.”

More than one graduate of the Seminary has touched the life of Gerich, his family, and his parish, St. Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra, California. His pastors, all SVOTS alumni, have included Protopresbyters Dennis Pavichevich (+2018), George Gligich, and Nicholas Ceko, who is now dean of the Cathedral and is assisted by Priest Norman Kosanovich, also a SVOTS alumnus.

“The first alumnus to serve us was Fr. Dennis Pavichevich,” Gerich recounted. “When Fr. Dennis joined us, he was ‘on fire’ for Jesus Christ, and he taught us the importance of a eucharistic life. He also spoke about how St. Vladimir’s had changed his life.”

Protopresbyter Dennis Pavichevich (+2018) graduated from SVOTS in 1975Protopresbyter Dennis Pavichevich (+2018) graduated from SVOTS in 1975“From then on, we made sure every priest we had after Fr. Dennis was a graduate of St. Vladimir’s, if we could.”

Serbian Orthodox students started enrolling at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the late 1940s, hailing from the United States, Canada, and Europe.

“The Serbian Orthodox became involved because they saw the importance of St. Vlad's and the quality of its faculty and teaching, and what they were doing in producing priests,” said Ted Bazil, senior advisor for Advancement, who himself has held a long association with the Seminary. “We have seen perhaps a hundred Serbian Orthodox students graduate from St. Vlad’s over its history.”

In the 1990s, members of the Serbian Orthodox Church began establishing the Serbian Scholarship at SVOTS, so that no young Serbian men would be turned away from becoming priests. Brian Gerich was among those generous donors along with fellow trustee emeritus Mitchell Zunich and Mr. and Mrs. Petar Gerich.

Trustee Emeritus Dr. Brian Gerich served on the board of St. Vladimir's Seminary for more than twenty years.Trustee Emeritus Dr. Brian Gerich served on the board of St. Vladimir's Seminary for more than twenty years.“Mitch Zunich, my good friend, said, ‘I will join you,’ and that's how it started,” Brian recounted. “Ten years ago, I asked for all the people that had received those scholarships. It's a huge list.”

“If you end up with 30 or 40 thousand dollars’ worth of debt, how are you going to pay that off on a priest’s wages? My goal is to make sure the Serbian Orthodox seminarians have no debt—and if there are no Serbian students, then any other student who needs help.”

Another longtime trustee from the Serbian Orthodox Church, Alex Machaskee, also established a liturgical music scholarship fund at the Seminary. He calls SVOTS the “citadel” of Orthodox theological teaching.

“Through its leadership, faculty, and press, the Seminary is respected throughout the world for its scholarship,” said Machaskee. “Once when I was in Jerusalem and attended an Arab Orthodox church, I mentioned to the priest that I was on the board at St. Vlad's. He became ecstatic at the news and gave me a whole loaf of holy bread!”

Seminary Trustee Alex Machaskee established a liturgical music scholarship at St. Vladimir's.Seminary Trustee Alex Machaskee established a liturgical music scholarship at St. Vladimir's.Machaskee added that he is pleased that the Serbian students he has met through St. Vladimir’s have been exemplary.

“We have several St. Vlad's alumni as priests in Northeast Ohio, and I am very proud of the service they provide to their churches and congregations,” Machaskee said.

Servants for the Serbian Orthodox Church continue to be formed at St. Vladimir’s. Seven students from the Serbian Church are enrolled as seminarians in the current academic year (2018-2019): Dorde Tomic, Dn. Stefan Djoric, Mihajlo Gnjatic, Miroslav Miljevic, Stefan Mastilovic, Nebojsa Varagic, and Dn. Larry Soper (pictured below). Another Serbian, Alumnus Fr. Aleksa Pavichevich (’08), is a Doctor of Ministry student.

“Having more Serbian Orthodox students around me this year influenced me in every aspect of my life at St. Vlad’s,” said second-year seminarian Dorde Tomic. “I could feel the presence of Serbian spirit all the time, which both challenged me and encouraged me to improve my knowledge day by day.”

Seven Serbian Orthodox seminarians are enrolled at SVOTS for the 2018-2019 Academic Year.Seven Serbian Orthodox seminarians are enrolled at SVOTS for the 2018-2019 Academic Year.

The large number of Serbian Orthodox seminarians at SVOTS is cause for celebration, but also cause to renew commitment to current and future seminarians from the Serbian Church. The Serbian Scholarship, so generously established by Brian Gerich and others, pays for up to three Serbian students each year to attend seminary. Funding is still needed, however, to cover the cost of tuition, books, and room and board for the other four. The Seminary needs to raise $25,000 before the end of the 2018-2019 academic year in May to clear all debt before the other Serbian Orthodox students can register for next year.

"We are thankful to God for the visionary founders of the Serbian Orthodox Scholarship, and we are thankful to God for our alums and current students who benefit from it,” said Seminary President Archpriest Chad Hatfield. “However, we need to raise $25,000 to meet the expenses of those Serbian Orthodox seminarians not covered by this scholarship fund. Together, I am confident that we can give these outstanding ordination candidates the boost that they need."

Gerich, despite being among those visionary founders, remains humble about his giving.

"People who read Scripture or listen to homilies hear often the commandment to go out and baptize all nations,” said Gerich. “For some people, they may not feel educated enough or confident enough.”  

“Early in my adult life, I realized that I did not have a calling to be an evangelist. But I remember a pious old priest once told me that a well-educated priest, over the life of his service to God, will touch ten thousand lives. That is something that I could get involved in by supporting the Seminary financially. If I could give someone an education at St. Vladimir's, and that person goes out and touches ten thousand lives, that's a bargain.” 

Long may the connection between the Serbian Orthodox and St. Vladimir’s continue!