Christopher (Kovacevich) of Midwestern America

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Metropolitan Christopher (Kovacevich) of Libertyville and Chicago of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was Metropolitan of the Metropolitanate of Libertyville-Chicago and Primate of the Serbian Orthodox in America from 1991 to 2010. He was also the first American-born bishop to serve a diocese of the Serbian Church in North America.


Velimir P. Kovacevich, one of twelve children, was born on December 25, 1928 in Galveston, Texas to Petar and Rista Kovacevich who had emigrated from Montenegro. Velimir grew up in Galveston and served as an altar boy at one of the oldest Serbian parishs in North America. After graduating from high school in 1945, Velimir attended Nashotah House Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin before entering and graduating from the newly established St. Sava Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois, where he was a student of the late Bishop Nicolai Velimirovich.

After graduating from the seminary, Velimir moved to Ohio to attend the University of Akron. There he met Milka Raicevich who he married on September 20, 1951. On the following November 25 he was ordained a deacon in Clairton, Pennsylvania, followed a week later with his ordination as a priest and installation at his first parish, St. Nicholas Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. While in Johnstown, Petar and Paul were born to Fr. Velimir and Milka.

Fr. Velimir subsequently earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts. He also completed courses and examinations for a doctorate at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

In 1954, Fr. Velimir was appointed priest at St. Sava Church in Pittsburgh. There, his daughter Valerie and son Velimer were born. In 1962, Fr. Velimir and his family moved to Chicago where he became the priest at St. Archangel Michael Church. In 1960, he received the award of the red sash, and on Christmas Day in 1964, Bishop Firmilian elevated him to the rank of Protopresbyter. In 1970, Fr. Velimir was widowed when Milka passed away at the early age of 40.

Elevated to the episcopate in 1978 by the Assembly of Bishops of the Church of Serbia in Belgrade and tonsured with the monastic name Christopher, he became the first American-born bishop to serve a diocese of the Serbian Church in North America. As Bishop of Eastern America and Canada, he developed a diocesan-wide program in religious education. Active in ecumenism, he has served on the joint commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops and on the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue, and represented his Church at high levels in both the National and World Councils of Churches.

In 1991, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Church of Serbia elevated the Midwest Diocese to the status of the Metropolitanate of Midwestern America and elevated Bishop Christopher to the rank of Metropolitan and Primate of the Serbian Orthodox in America as Metropolitan of Libertyville and Chicago. In 2009, the Serbian diocese in the United States and Canada were restructured and the Metropolitanate of Midwestern America became the Metropolitanate of Libertyville-Chicago with his see at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery.

Metr. Christopher also served as Dean of the St. Sava Orthodox School of Theology, which was re-established in 1986. He was instrumental in getting Illinois State Board of Higher Education recognition for the school and the authority to confer a Bachelor of Divinity Degree. The school, located in Libertyville, Illinois, is collocated with the St. Sava Monastery.

In May 2010, Metr. Christopher served as secretary of the North American Episcopal Assembly of the Orthodox Church. On August 18, 2010 at the age of 81 and on the eve of the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord according to the Julian Calendar, Metr. Christopher fell asleep in the Lord after being diagnosed with bone and brain cancer. He was buried at St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville.

Succession box:
Christopher (Kovacevich) of Midwestern America
Preceded by:
Bishop of Eastern America and Canada
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Metropolitan of Libertyville and Chicago
Succeeded by:
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