A great man is one who collects knowledge the way a bee collects honey and uses it to help people overcome the difficulties they endure - hunger, ignorance and disease!
- Nikola Tesla

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
- Franklin Roosevelt

While their territory has been devastated and their homes despoiled, the spirit of the Serbian people has not been broken.
- Woodrow Wilson

Father Philip Sredanovich

The Odd Adventures of an Early Serbian Priest

Fr. Philip Sredanovich is one of the strangest parish priests I’ve ever run across in my research of Orthodoxy in America.

He was born in Montenegro in 1881. He seems to have been educated and married in Russia (the 1920 U.S. Census says that his wife was born in Russia). Fr. Philip came to America just after the turn of the 20th century. In 1908, he made headlines nationwide for his supposed invention of a device to travel around the earth without moving. From the Washington Post (12/11/1908):

The Rev. Philip Sredanovitch, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church and editor of Justness, today announced a discovery, which, if it works out, will put Newton, Franklin, and Edison in the amateur class. The pastor-editor declares that he has invented a means by which the rotation of the earth on its axis may be taken advantage of in travel, and that by standing still one may go around the world in 24 hours.

He says he has found a way by which men may lift themselves above the earth to a point where they will stand still while the earth, rotating from west to east, will do their traveling for them. The secret is jealously guarded by the pastor and his wife, whom he credits with suggesting the idea. He asks $100,000 for the invention.

Sredanovich says: “We will hoist ourselves above the earth and await the coming of the desired place, then we will lower ourselves where we desire to be. In this way we may go from America to Europe in less than eighteen hours. My secret is how to stand above the earth and not be affected by the earth’s attraction.”

He says his invention makes it possible to get away from gravitation and still not be lose [sic] in space.

He does not say how one may get away from the swirling earth and take his stand in the ethereal world, but any one with $100,000 may find out. So far as is known, the pastor has invented no airships nor announced any scheme for climbing a sunbeam.

This has to be a joke, right? An educated clergyman couldn’t seriously think that you could circle the globe simply by “hoisting” yourself above the earth — could he?

This was when Fr. Philip was serving in Butler, Pa. He bounced around a lot. Here is an incomplete list of the places he served:

  • Wilmerding, Pa.
  • Butler, Pa.
  • Kansas City
  • South Bend, Ind.
  • Gary, Ind.
  • Kansas City (again)
  • Butte, Mont.
  • Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Steelton, Pa.
  • Johnstown, Pa.
  • Butte (again)

In those days, it was common for priests to spend just a couple of years (or less) at one parish before moving on to the next. But Fr. Philip’s travels seem to have been caused as much by his own personality as by the era in which he lived.

In November 1920, his parish council in Kansas City “fired” him, and he responded with four successive lawsuits in the span of three months. (This was before the Serbs had a bishop in America, and parish councils hired and fired priests, pretty much at will.) In one lawsuit, Fr. Philip asked for $25,000, alleging that “church officials were instrumental in causing slanderous remarks to be printed against him” in a Serbian newspaper. A few days later, he filed another lawsuit, this time merely seeking $120 in back pay (around $1,400 in today’s money). I don’t know the outcomes of these cases; my only source is the Kansas City Times, 1/25/1921.

After leaving Kansas City, Fr. Philip went to Butte, Montana, where he took over Holy Trinity Serbian Church. One day, in November of 1922, he was walking down the street when a group of teenage boys started to bother him. One picked up a rock, at which point Fr. Philip took off for his house. He went inside, got his pistol, and returned to the street. The youths continued to taunt Fr. Philip, who responded by shooting one of the boys in the foot. The injured 18-year-old was taken to the hospital, and Fr. Philip was arrested and charged with second-degree assault. (This is from the Idaho Daily Statesman, 11/30/1922.)

Fr. Philip soon left Butte (no idea if this incident was the reason), but he returned to the parish in 1949, spending the last three years of his life there. He died in 1952 and is buried at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois.

Matthew Namee

Source: Notes on Church History

(Matthew Namee is a founding director of the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA). He also manages SOCHA’s website and blog, Orthodox History.)


SA

 

People Directory

Milina Jovanović

Milina Jovanović came to the U.S. from Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1994. She holds a J.D. and a double master’s in interdisciplinary Social Sciences from the University of Belgrade and San José State University. She was a teaching assistant and a research associate at the Sociological and Criminological Institute in Belgrade between 1986 and 1994. As a graduate researcher in the U.S. she compared women’s education and employment in California and Yugoslavia and published the results of her research. Milina contributed to a nationally recognized study on immigrant contributions and integration practices in Santa Clara County (Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley), and co-edited KIN: Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities. Her book All Roads Lead to Jackson: Serbian American Contributions in Amador County, CA since the Gold Rush was published in 2013 by Sebastian Press. Jovanović’s articles have appeared in Serbia, other parts of the former Yugoslavia, U.S., U.K., Belgium, and France.

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Publishing

My Brother's Keeper

by Fr. Radovan Bigovic

Rare are the books of Orthodox Christian authors that deal with the subject of politics in a comprehensive way. It is taken for granted that politics has to do with the secularized (legal) protection of human rights (a reproduction of the philosophy of the Enlightenment), within the political system of so-called "representative democracy", which is limited mostly to social utility or to the conventional rules of human relations. Most Christians look at politics and democracy as unrelated with their experience of the Church herself, which abides both in history and in the Kingdom, the eschaton. Today, the commercialization of politics—its submission to the laws of publicity and the brainwashing of the masses—has literally abolished the "representative" parliamentary system. So, why bother with politics when every citizen of so-called developed societies has a direct everyday experience of the rapid decline and alienation of the fundamental aspects of modernity?

In the Orthodox milieu, Christos Yannaras has highlighted the conception of the social and political event that is borne by the Orthodox ecclesiastical tradition, which entails a personalistic (assumes an infinite value of the human person as opposed to Western utilitarian individualism) and relational approach. Fr Radovan Bigovic follows this approach. In this book, the reader will find a faithful engagement with the liturgical and patristic traditions, with contemporary thinkers, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, all in conversation with political science and philosophy. As an excellent Orthodox theologian and a proponent of dialogue, rooted in the catholic (holistic) being of the Orthodox Church and of his Serbian people, Fr Radovan offers a methodology that encompasses the above-mentioned concerns and quests.