The Clergy of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, regret to inform the brothers and sisters of our God-protected community that His Eminence Metropolitan +CHRISTOPHER, our beloved Archpastor and spiritual father, has reposed in the Lord on August 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm, following a short and serious illness at the age of 82.
Metropolitan Christopher was born Velimir P. Kovacevich on December 25th, 1928 in Galveston, Texas. His parents, Petar and Rista, both emigratd from Montenegro. In fact, his monther had just boarded the ship to travel to Texas to meet her future husband when Gavrilo Pincip assasinated Archduke Ferdinand and all ports were closed. Luckily, her ship was allowed to leave to come to America. Velimir was one of 12 children born to Petar and Rista, being the seventh sone of eight boys and four girls. As a young boy, Velimir was also referred to as Chris, being born on Western Christmas. It was clear that from a young age, the hand of the Lord touched him and call him to His service. He was a faithful altar boy to the Russian priest who served the Galveston parish, now one of the oldest Serbian churches on the continent. Even in his pretend play, he would hold services and would enlist his younger brother Blazo to assist in funeral services for dead birds.
While attending Ball High in Galveston, he held several jobs, working before and after school delivering milk and working in a bakery. His older brothers also had him use his advantage as a lefty by entering him in a number of local boxing matches. Upon graduating from high school in 1945, he traveled north to attend the newly established St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Seminary at the Monestary in Libertyville. He first went somewhat farther north to attend the Nashotah House Anglican seminary in Wisconsin. While at the seminary in Libertyville, he was a student of the late Bishop Nicolai Velimirovich. In one of his duties as driver for the local bishop, he visited many of the area parishes, including South Chicago, on a regular basis.
He graduated from St. Sava Monestary in 1949 and moved to Ohio where he attended the Univesity of Akron. It was in Akron that he met his future wife, Milka Raicevich. They married on September 20, 1951, and on November 25th of that same year, he was ordained a deacon in Clairton, Pennsylvania. One week later, he was ordained a priest and installed in his first parish at St. Nicholas Church in Johnstown, PA. In subsequent years, he continued his education and earned a B.A. in philosophy and a masters degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh. It was in Johnstown that two of his children, Petar and Paul, were born. In 1954 he became the parish priest of St. Sava Church in Pittsburgh. His daughter Valerie and son Velimer were born in Pittsburgh. In 1962, he and his family moved to Chicago where he became parish priest of St. Archangel Michael Church. In 1960 he was decorated with the red sash and on Christmas Day in 1964, Bishop Firmilian elevated him to the rank of Protopresbyter. In 1970, he was widowed when Milka passed away at the youg age of 40.
While being a parish priest in Western Pennsylvania and Chicago, Father Vel also served as chaplain to four universities. He assisted his parishes in becoming bilingual in their worship and education programs, and held the postions of secretary to the church Central Council, diocesan director of religious education, director of diocesan summer camp, and editor of two church journals and other publications. He organized the first SOTAYA chapter in South Chicago in 1962, being very active in providing religious education to Sunday School teachers. He was also extremely involved in the defense of the church during the period of schism, spending countless hours translating volumes of church documents from Serbian to English and assisting in the court trials that used these documents.
In 1978, the Holy Assembly of Bishops in Belgrade elected him to the episcopate. After being tonsured and taking the monastic name of Christopher, Patriarch German consecrated him as bishop on Pentacost Sunday. He became the first American born bishop to serve a diocese in North America. As Bishop of Eastern America and Canada, he of course left his South Chicago parish and moved to the diocesan residence in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Prior to becoming bishop, he earned his Masters of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts, and completed all the courses and examinations for the doctorate at the Chicago Theological Seminary. In the Eastern Diocese, Bishop Christopher developed a disocesan wide program in religious education and introduced computerization of all chruch administration and publications. He also represents his church on the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).
In 1991, the Serbian Holy Assembly of Bishops elevated the Midwest Diocese to the status of Metropolitanate and elevated Bishop Christopher to the rank of Metropolitan. In moving to St. Sava Monestary, now the See of the Metropolitanate of Midwestern American and Headquarters of the Episcopal Council and Central Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada, Metropolitan Christophers life again took him from the Pittsburgh area to Chicago. In 1997, the Nashotah House, in recognition for his exemplary ministries as parish priest and diocesan bishop, his courageous support for eduction, ecumenism, and the monastic life, his championing of church unity, and his outstanding leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church in this country conferred upon Metropolitan Christopher, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Metropolitan Christopher served as Dean of the St. Sava Orthodox School of Theology, which was re-established in 1986. He was instrumental in getting official recognition from the Illinois State Board of Higher Education for the school, which grants it authority to confer a Bachelor of Divinity Degree. He had worked tirelessly on the administration of the metropolitanate and being the presiding bishop of the Central Council. Monstary Church grounds and cemetery improvements have been major projects under his leadership, as well as the longstanding attempts to bring true administrative unity to the Serbian Orthodox Church on this continent. He has been a frequent visitor to Washington as an official representative of our church to address the break-up and wars in Yugoslavia, and particularly its effect on the churches, monasteries and Serbian faithful in that region.
Metropolitan Christopher has served the church faithfully for almost 60 years while continuing to be a loving father to his children and Djedo to his nine grandchildren.