http://www.post-trib.com/news/2883760,varnava1111.articleSt. Sava church to recognize Serbian saint, a Gary native
November 11, 2010
BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS, (219) 648-3086
MERRILLVILLE -- St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church will recognize a homegrown saint tonight in a special service.
St. Confessor Varnava, who was canonized in 2005, was born Vojislav Nastich in 1914 in Gary. He was the first American-born Serbian to rise to sainthood.
The great vespers service, which will be conducted by the Rev. Marko Matic, starts at 6 p.m. It will be followed by a presentation by the Rev. Thomas Kazich, who is a Gary native and the director of religious education for New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate in Grayslake, Ill.
The service is scheduled for today because Friday is both Varnava's feast day and the date of his death. The church is at 9191 Mississippi St.
Varnava has a direct connection with the history of St. Sava. He was the first child baptized at the church's early location at 19th Avenue and Connecticut Street in Gary, and he served as its first altar boy.
The church has an icon of Varnava on the north wall of the church.
Varnava attended Froebel Elementary School in Gary before his father moved the family back to Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, in 1923.
Varnava became a priest in Yugoslavia in 1944, but he quickly ran afoul with the communist government.
He was actually imprisoned for three years for his outspoken views about spreading orthodoxy and against communism, and he was under house arrest when he died in 1964. Kazich said Varnava died under suspicious circumstances, but no autopsy was completed at the time of his death.
Varnava's legs were crushed in a train accident in 1951, and they didn't heal well, but he was still able to spread his faith by traveling around the country in a little Peugeot automobile.
Kazich, who attended Froebel, was inspired to do his seminary thesis on Varnava after being inspired by another Yugoslavian theologian in 1968.
"I knew some of his relatives, and I acquired his letters," Kazich said. "It just became obvious that's what I should do."