The Founding of a Congregation
There were few Serbian immigrants in the city of Milwaukee
before the beginning of the 20th century, but by 1912
there were about two and a half thousand Serbian souls
here. A great number of Serbs settled in towns surrounding
Milwaukee and this number accordingly was much greater.
The first institutions established by the Serbian immigrants
were the fraternal benevolent Lodges. Four such lodges
existed before the founding of the church congregation.
A great need was felt for a church. The following people
took the initiative to found a church congregation here:
Rade Ostojic, Aleksa Klisanac, Mile Rausevic, Nikola
Kordic, Obren Zdrale and Marko Novakovic. They called
for an assembly of Serbians to take place on February
8, 1912 in the shop of Rade Ostojic, where the founding
of the Serbian Orthodox Church took place. Seven days
later they presented a petition to the city and county
authorities for permission to found the church. In addition
to those who signed this petition, the following people
participated in the initial founding of the congregation:
Nikola Latinovich, Iso Agbaba, Trivo Bjelajac, Mile
Drobac, Vaso Miljus, Luka Stojsavljevic, Milan Jovanovic,
Dahcar Zoric, Petar Zoric, Rade and Mile Maricic, Nikola
Ciganovic, Simo Bukvic and Dane Medich.
same year, the house at 724 S. 3rd St. was purchased
and transformed into a house of worship. The house was
registered in the name of Rade Ostojic who acted as
a temporary president. The house was purchased for $3,500.00.
A down payment of $500.00 was made and the remainder
was paid off monthly on a land contract. The first Divine
Liturgy was served on Christmas Day, January 7th, 1913.
First Executive Board
On March 21st of the following year, the first election
assembly was held and the first executive board of the
church congregation was elected. Vaso Dragojlovich was
elected the first president, Simo Ozegovich vicepresident,
Mihailo Javorina secretary, Trivo Bjelajac treasurer,
Jovo Goronja president of the auditing committee and
Uros Sijan and Alex Klisanac as members of the auditing
committee. The first elected church board was made of
reputable and distinguished men. They succeeded in placing
the congregation on a solid foundation.
Early Parish Priests
There were 12 parish priests at the Church of St. Sava
during the first period: Dusan Bogich 1912, Ilija Kapidjich
1912, Arhimandrite Hadji Joanikije Markovich-Decanac
1913, 1915, Milan Jugovich 1914, Pavle Veljkov 1916,
Janicije Kukuljevich 1917 and 1918, Prota Milan Mrvicin
1919, and 1924-and again in 1931, and 1936, Prota Filip
Sredanovich 1925 and 1926, priest Marko Komnenich 1927-1931,
at various times during Fr. Komnenich's absence Fr.
Matija Stijacich served, Prota George Petrovich from
1936 to 1942.
Very Rev. & Protinica
In November of 1942,
Prota Milan Brkich was elected as parish priest.
With his arrival at the St. Sava Church in Milwaukee
there began a new era, filled with enthusiasm
and excitement. The new pastor found good men
and good Serbs in Milwaukee. This young, energetic
visionary surrounded himself with men of good
will, those who were constructive and well meaning,
and with them he marched without fear or apprehension
to create that which was aspired to for many years.
Earlier parish priests also put forth great efforts
to preserve and improve the spiritual life of
the congregation. Archimandrite Hadji Joanikije
Markovich-Decanac was experienced and already
in his old age. He worked in this young parish
in the year of 1915 to acquire the things necessary
for church life. He instituted the record books,
which still exist today and are of immeasurable
It was not easy to preserve and uphold a newly founded
congregation from which even as early as 1912, ninety
seven men from Milwaukee returned to the old country
to participate in the Balkan Wars, and in 1915, two-hundred
and sixty-four volunteers returned to take part in the
World War I on the front at Salonika. Joanikije Kukuljevich
and Marko Komnenich put forth great efforts to uphold
the faith and loyalty to the church.
Proto Milan Mrvicin deserves much credit for founding
the school and caring for the spiritual and cultural
education of both children and adults. Prota George
Petrovich-Kordunas also is deserving of great credit
for his care for the Serbian youth, especially the choir.(Photo
at right: First Choir of St.Sava Serbian Orthodox Church
with Reverend Milan Mrvicin as Pastor)
Laying Solid Foundations for the Future
Prota Milan Brkic, who was elected parish priest on
Oct. 11, 1942, laid the solid foundations from which
everything that we have today would rise.
The land on 27th street which was bought in 1938 was
sold, for according to the opinion of Fr. Milan it could
not satisfy the needs of the congregation.
Fourteen acres were bought at 51st street and West
Oklahoma Avenue. In 1946, a decision was made to build
American Serb Memorial Hall. The hall was constructed
with all of the interior furnishings and was completed
and opened July l, 1950. The hall is dedicated to the
Milwaukee Serbs, members of the church congregation
who have their lives in defense of their homeland, America.
The hall was consecrated by the late Bishop Nikolai
Velimirovich and the kum was Robert Bob Susnar.
At this time many new immigrants began to arrive in
Milwaukee from displaced person camps in Germany. This
new immigration by its very nature brought in new potential
power to the spiritual community in Milwaukee to enhance
In its first year of operation Serb Hall was incredibly
successful. Mike Potter was elected manager of the hall
and when it became apparent that the mortgage on the
hall would be paid off in two to three years, a special
assembly of the church congregation was called in 1951
where it was decided to begin the preparations for the
building of a new church. It was decided that each parishioner
should contribute $100.00 into the building fund.
On August 25, 1955
it was decided to begin building the new cathedral
church of St. Sava in the Serbo-Byzantine style.
The following day, August 26, 1956 saw the celebration
of the first Serbian Day and the first shovel
of dirt was taken at that time. The land was consecrated
by Bishop Dionisije of the American-Canadian Diocese.
Construction of the Church, Sunday School and Parish
On October of 1956 work began on the construction of
the church, school and parish home. The school was finished
by the end of the year and was consecrated March 3,
1957. The kum for the consecration was the church sexton
and very active worker, Jovo Devich. Work had gone along
very well to the end of the year at which time the period
of the spiritual life at the old church was brought
to an end.
Fr. Brkich takes
the first shovel
1956 Sign erected
a meeting on February 4, 1958, the president of the
congregation, George Stojsavljevich, announced that
the construction of the new church, school and parish
house was complete. At this meeting the building committee
was dissolved because it had finished its work, and
at a meeting held March 3rd a committee for the dedication
booklet was held and Peter Pavlovich elected to its
presidency. Workers were in a frenzy to complete the
preparations for the consecration which was supposed
to take place in combination with the 3rd Serbian Days
celebration to be held August 30th and 31st. The reputable
church member Milan Prijic was elected to be kum of