Saint Petka Serbian Orthodox Church
Records indicate that around ten Serbian Orthodox families lived in Escondido in 1961. Among them was a well-known noble man, the great grandson of Konstantin – Sale Radov, Kosta Radulovic who live in the area with his wife Berta.
In the second half of the 20th century a great number of Serbian families moved to Escondido, San Marcos and the Vista area establishing their roots in Southern California. In August of 1973 they decided to build a monastery as a spiritual center for Serbs that live in Southern California. At that time around 250 Serbian Orthodox families lived in the San Marcos and Escondido area. Most of them were members of Saint George Serbian Orthodox Church in San Diego, approximately thirty miles from Escondido. With the growing number of families in North County, the need for a permanent spiritual and social center was vital for perpetuation of Svetosavlje, the Serbian heritage and culture. For the next several years a conversation about building a Serbian cultural center was discussed until three successful community businessmen: Sinisa Cenic, Bosko Kresovic and Caslav Mitic found and put a deposit on several acres of land, pending on the community’s approval.
The announcement went out to all members of North County that the meeting would take place at the home of Caslav and Ivanka Mitic. Around fifty people came to the meeting to discuss the possibility of purchasing the land for a Serbian national and religious center. Those present at the meeting elected Bosko Kresovic, born in northwest Dalmacija, as the president, and brother Savo Vujnovic, born in Lika, as secretary. The main items on the agenda for the meeting were: how much land to purchase, what building to erect, and the relationship of North County Serbian Orthodox families with the St. George parish in San Diego.
At the meeting, a decision was made to purchase ten acres of land for the Serbian Center. The first building to be erected was a monastery refectory and then a monastery church and monastery quarters. It was decided to dedicate the church to the newly canonized Serbian saint, the Holy Martyr Deacon Avakum who died a martyr in Belgrade in the year 1814, having refused to deny Christ and accept the Islamic faith.
During the meeting, the Action Board was elected with the main goal of finding land for the future Serbian national center. That evening the following individuals gave their first donations this blessed endeavor: Sinisa Cenic, Bosko Kresovic and Caslav Mitic gave $5,000 each, Milorad Vladic and Bozidar Nestorovic $1,000 each, Ilija Ilijevski gave $300, Spasoje Nikolovski gave $250, Dobrila Vujko, Zivko Kirovski and Milan Mutic gave $100 each. The collected donations were given to Bosko Kresovic for the deposit.
The next meeting of the Action Board brought fruits as well. Milan Andjelkovic, born in the village of Vratnica, old South Serbia, gave the following historical speech: “My brothers, I see that it is almost impossible for us to find land suitable for our needs. As you know, in Escodido I have eight and a half acres of land in the most beautiful location in Escondido. This land seems to be suitable for all of our needs. My cost for the land to date has been $90,000. This land is worth much more than that now. My heart aches when I see that Serbian people would like to have their own holy shrine and a roof above their heads in Escondido, but we cannot find the right place. This is why I wish to sell my land to my Serbian people for $50,000 which is much less than I what I paid for it, meaning that $40,000 would be my gift to our future monastery. My only provision is that when the time comes and building of the monastery church starts that it be dedicated to Saint Petka, my family Slava.”
Those present that evening congratulated Milan on his generous gift which concluded the search for property of the future Serbian Orthodox monastery of Saint Petka.
The property was recorded in San Diego County on the feast day of the Holy Cross, September 27, 1973. The Action Board became the Broad of Trustees of the monastery with the following members: Milan Andljkovic, Bosko Kresovic, Nikola Dujakovic, Sinisa Cenic, Bozidar Nestorovic, Savo Vujnovic, Dusan Grujic, Vaso Stojanovic, Caslav Mitic, Danilo Jovanovic and Milorad Vladic.
With time it was more evident that the North County area, that is San Marcos, Escondido and Vista, were becoming more defined as a geographical area and with a growing number of retirees; the need to have a parish in this area was the next likely step. Subsequently, one hundred and twelve faithful from the area signed a petition on March 8, 1986 to the then administrator of the Western American Diocese, His Grace Irinej, to establish a church-school congregation and parish at the monastery of Saint Petka monastery and explained during the visit that the necessary conditions for a monastery were weak since the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia had a small number of monastics at the time. Since the petition was signed by 112 faithful who willingly accepted all requirements necessary to support a parish life in fulfilling all obligations towards the diocese and their own parish needs, Bishop Irinej granted his archpastoral blesssings for the founding of the Serbian Orthodox Church-school congregatin of the Venerable Mother Parskeva in San Marcos, California. This decision was prescribed and made official on June 1, 1986.
On January 16, 1986, His Grace Irinej appointed Protopresbyter Velimir Petakovic as representative and member of the diocesan Administrative Board to form administrative and technical documentation for the already begun church. The new administrator of the Western American Diocese, His Grace Sava, agreed with all the decisions regarding Saint Petka parish and property and blessed the continuation of the parish life.
The foundation of St. Petka church was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Irinej on May 11, 1986. The Hierarchical Liturgy was served by His Grace Irinej, Protopresbyters Milorad Dobrota, Radoslav Terzin and Velimir Petakovic, Protonamesnik Petar Jovanovic, Presbyter Budimir Andjelic and a great number of faithful from North and South County. The Liturgy responses were sung by St. George parish choir.
It should be noted that in our Orthodox Church what prevails even today is the practice of the antimension, a piece of cloth containing relics of saints (a sign of unity of the church in time) as well as the signature of the local bishop, which affirms that it is the bishop that makes the parish Eucharist valid, that there is only one Eucharist in each place. Finally, the stress on the central and crucial importance of the actual and not simply the symbolic celebration of the Eucharist signifies that Christian spirituality is not based on contempt for or depreciation of matter. The Eucharist involves eating and drinking, that is, a meal. It also involves material elements, bread and wine, as well as human labor. All of these are sanctified in the Eucharist and the Orthodox faithful are awarded of this truth.
The present church was consecrated on October 26/27, 1991 by His Grace Hrizostom. In addition to the church edifice, Saint Petka parish today has a custom built parish home, social hall (recently remodeled), small reception hall, parish library and classroom. In addition to the original property, Saint Petka has acquired three more acres of land for future expansion. A mini soccer field and playground were added a few years ago.
Religious education is conducted each Sunday after Divine Liturgy and during the week for adults. The parish also has a very active folklore group, Avala. The following priests have served at Saint Petka parish: Protopresbyter Radoslav Terzin, Protopresbyter Milorad Dobrota, Protopresbyter Velimir Petakovic, Protopresbyter Milan Vukovic and presently Protopresbyter Milovan Katanic.