His Grace Bishop Longin from the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America recently presented Father Marko Matic, parish priest at St. Sava Church in Merrillville, Indiana, with a cross signifying the rank of Stavrophor, the highest recognition for a priest serving in a parish in the Serbian Orthodox Church.

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Click image to enlarge: Bishop Longin (center) is seen placing the pectoral cross on Father Marko Matic during a special ceremony Nov. 12, 2016.

The honor was presented Saturday, Nov. 12 during the Holy Liturgy which took place after a special Church blessing that was necessary following the recent floor renovations throughout the Church and before the offering of blessings at the groundbreaking for the new Orthodox Cemetery now under construction on the grounds at St. Sava Church.

Though the Bishop bestows the rank of Stavrophor upon the Priest as the spiritual leader, it is also a sign of recognition for the good work that is going on throughout the parish.

The word Stavrophor literally means “cross-bearer” and upon receiving this distinction a pectoral cross is worn by the priest on the chest, suspended from the neck by a cord or chain. During the ceremony His Grace Bishop Longin blessed the cross and placed it on Father Marko Matic.

The Stavrophor rank is awarded to a priest after many years of dedication and successful work in one or more parishes.

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Click image to enlarge: Bishop Longin (far right) is seen with Father Marko Matic as he now wears the pectoral cross signifying “Stavrophor” immediately following the blessing.

This recognition was awarded to Father Marko Matic for the continual growth His Grace Bishop Longin has seen at St. Sava Church over the years, along with the supportive recommendations by members of the parish.

Father Marko Matic has served as parish priest at St. Sava for nearly a decade. During this time parishioners have continually sought to build a sense of community for celebrating culture and spirituality in the Orthodox Faith.

Evidence of this has been seen in recent years with the construction of the South Wing Social Center, Lower Level Sunday School Facilities, Soccer Fields, Pavilion Event Center, and the new Cemetery project. Further evidence can be seen with the establishment of the museum, its many exhibits, and  people relentlessly supporting the many special events, festivals, bake sales, youth programming, and spiritual observances.