Saint Day for all of the Dabor Bosnia Saints, including St. Budimir!
A father survives the Nazis, but is executed for his faith by the Communists.
The son, surviving on a young boy’s memories of a loving parent, must deny the father publicly lest the same authorities put him to death.
After immigrating to America, the Rev. Vasilije Sokolovic continued to be haunted by all that he did not know of the fate of his father, who was dumped in a shallow grave in an unmarked field in Serbia in 1945.
But the longtime pastor of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma never lost faith.
Rev. Budimir Sokolovic, canonized as a priest-martyr, entering him into a select pantheon of saints that the church declares led lives so holy that the faithful may pray to them for inspiration and divine protection.
Budimir of Dobrun and 29 other priest-martyrs of World War II.
The 66-year-old priest makes the sign of the cross and lets the tears flow as he speaks of the wonder of moving from a lifetime of praying for eternal peace for his father to being able to pray to him in heaven.
“He is closer to God,” Sokolovic said in an interview at St. Sava. “I’m not anymore sorry for what I suffered all my life. Thank God.”
In 1944, the Rev. Budimir Sokolovic rode into the Serbian village of Milanovac on horseback, scooped up 6-year-old Vasilije and his brother and told them, “You are my life.”
It is the last memory Vasilije Sokolovic has of his father, who returned to the battlefield during World War II as a spiritual counselor to a Serbian group that fought against the German occupation of Yugoslavia.
In the Gospel accounts, fear of retribution causes the apostle Peter to deny Jesus three times. Sokolovic understands the pain of the early church leader forced to deny a loved one.
But he followed his father into the seminary, becoming the 42nd generation of Sokolovics to enter the priesthood.
Sokolovic feared revealing his heritage even in the seminary, telling his story only to trusted older priests. He still is overcome with emotion at the memory of priests who knew his father hugging him and giving thanks that he and other members of his family were alive.
In 1966, Sokolovic left Yugoslavia under a false name and immigrated to America. He worked in steel mills and construction in Gary, Ind., before he got his first parish in Masontown, Pa., in 1970. He served there for five years and was a pastor in Steubenville, Ohio, for a decade before coming to St. Sava in 1985. He served as pastor of the Parma church until 1999.
The pain of a boy without a dad became the suffering of a man haunted by not even knowing where his father’s body lay. It “was thrown into the ground like a dog, never any prayers.”
Sokolovic’s daughter, Mirjana Damljanovic, remembers that on family trips back to Yugoslavia, her father would put on his liturgical robes and say a memorial service over a patch of ground near where his father was killed.
When a Serbian Church official told him that the Holy Assembly of Bishops approved his father’s cause for sainthood, Sokolovic “just burst into tears he was so overcome with joy,” his daughter said.
Today, he is writing the hymns to be sung on his father’s feast day, and “he lives now with a real mission,” said his wife, Zorine.
Catholic and Orthodox faithful pray that departed loved ones go to heaven, but it is only in the cases of saints that the church speaks definitively of an individual’s place in the afterlife.
The boy who grew up afraid to tell anyone “who I am, who my father was” has lived to see his father achieve sainthood.
“The great suffering,” Zorine Sokolovic said, “led to great glory in the end.”