Sunday, August 27, 2023, the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, was a joyous day in our parish for a number of reasons. This article is dedicated to just one of them: the elevation of our parish priest, The Very Reverend Fr. Vladimir Vranic, from the rank of Protonamesnik to that of Protojerej.
His Grace Bishop Mitrofan elevated Fr. Vladimir to the rank of Protojerej during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, served on the occasion of the celebration of our church Slava, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. In the nave of the church, Fr. Marko Dimic read out the decree elevating Fr. Vladimir. His Grace then recited a prayer for Fr. Vladimir’s priestly service as a Protojerej. The congregation proudly exclaimed “AXIOS” and “DOSTOJAN” (meaning “HE IS WORTHY”); in so doing, the faithful were testifying to the exemplary character of Fr. Vladimir, and to their confidence in him, all of which His Grace recognized in deciding to bestow the honour upon Fr. Vladimir.
Exhibiting his characteristic humility, Fr. Vladimir gave a speech in which he expressed that the bestowal of the honour of Protojerej is in fact a recognition of the community, for according to him, “a priest is nothing without a community.” However, on this joyous occasion, it is important to recognize just how much Fr. Vladimir means to our community, and the role he has in it. There is no better way to start than to draw from his sermons. What does Fr. Vladimir regularly remind us that we are called to do, as Christians? To be Christ-like. To follow God’s two greatest commandments: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). It is safe to say that a congregation could not ask for a more appropriate example of what it means to be Christ-like and what it means to follow God’s two greatest commandments than what we have in Fr. Vladimir.
Indeed, I regularly hear praise of Fr. Vladimir in that regard. As just one example, a respected member of our community, who has known many priests in his several decades of church involvement, has referred to Fr. Vladimir as not only the best priest he’s ever met, but the gold standard for priests: “He’s what you think of when you picture the ideal priest.” I regularly hear examples from members of the community who are on the receiving end of Fr. Vladimir’s love, including examples of Fr. Vladimir going out of his way to provide solace to those who need consolation, and to visit the elderly and the sick; he is not just ministering to them, but showing them true compassion and love on a human level – his genuineness and sincerity shine through. From these descriptions, I am reminded of the parable of the sheep and the goats: “I was a stranger and you took Me in … I was sick and you visited Me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Fr. Vladimir’s impact goes further. Through his amazing example, combined with his compelling preaching of the Gospel, Fr. Vladimir inspires others to strive to be more Christ-like, and to unite themselves with Christ. One parishioner put it as follows: “His deep love of God and teachings help to strengthen our Orthodox faith through his inspiring homilies, approachable personality, humility, humour, respect, words of gratitude, beautiful singing voice, tenderness with those experiencing loss or illness and gentleness with the young and elderly. His passion for Christ is infectious.” One need only look to church attendance and the increased rate of partaking in Holy Communion to find quantitative proof of the effectiveness of Fr. Vladimir’s ministry. Through his active involvement in our community’s many organizations, he provides much needed guidance and encouragement to all subsets and individuals of our community. Perhaps one of the ultimate forms of love and respect for Fr. Vladimir is evidenced in the number of parishioners who openly speak of consulting him for advice on a wide range of issues, and the comfort he brings to them.
While the always-humble Fr. Vladimir, upon being faced with praise, would likely counter that many of the things described here are merely part of fulfilling the role of a priest, make no mistake, Fr. Vladimir greatly exceeds those expectations. Yes, he certainly fulfils all the duties of a priest, but one cannot ignore the special soul beneath the cassock – an inspiring character full of love for Christ and for His people. One cannot ignore the difference he makes in the lives of his parishioners, both at the individual and community levels. Everyone who crosses paths with Fr. Vladimir is better off for it; certainly, crossing paths with Fr. Vladimir is a special blessing.
Fr. Vladimir serves as an inspiration to all of us. His example compels us to continuously be better people of faith, better Christians: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we attempt to conceptualize what it means to be a Christian, we need not look any further than our trusted spiritual father, Fr. Vladimir. Our community is blessed to have him, and we are blessed that he has been recognized for his efforts by our bishop. May our community be forever grateful for the gift of having Fr. Vladimir as our priest: grateful to God, grateful to His Church, grateful to our Bishop, and grateful to Fr. Vladimir. May we all keep him in our prayers the same way that he keeps us in his. And of our newly honoured Protojerej, may we joyously say: AXIOS! DOSTOJAN!
– A parishioner and spiritual child of Fr. Vladimir with the assistance of others.