Parish History


The House That Miladin Built

fr miladin garichWritten By:  By Seraphim Winslow

From Sunrise to Sunset Avenue, heading west along one of those gorgeous, tree-lined streets that you find all throughout the cozy community of Fair Oaks, look to your right after passing the sign for the cemetery. Turn your gaze upward toward the heavens. You will suddenly gasp as you see one of the most impressive and elegant examples of Eastern Orthodox Church architecture that you’ve ever seen on the West Coast. You will behold the house that Miladin built.

Since he arrived in 1960, Fr. Miladin Garic was the spiritual force behind the Serbian Orthodox community in the east Sacramento region. Fr. Miladin fell asleep in the Lord on Nov. 24th, 2015, and now lies next to his beloved wife, Nina, in a churchyard on a peaceful hillside facing the very first Serbian Orthodox Church in America, in Jackson, where he also served as priest for several years. Such was the life of this dynamic churchman, affectionately called “Proto Garic” by his flock, that Jesus’ words immediately come to mind: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Miladin Garic was born in Serbia on the first day of the year 1921. As if mysteriously anticipating the formal title of “stavrofor” (cross-bearer) that would be conferred upon him by the Serbian Orthodox Church late in life, young Miladin would be charged with so many heavy crosses of trial and suffering that he was made truly worthy an honorific that many Orthodox clergy take for granted.

When World War II exploded across Europe, Miladin was forced to finish his theological studies in a camp for displaced persons in Italy, where a group of fellow displaced persons, who also happened to be uprooted Orthodox clerics and theologians, got together to help Miladin complete his studies. It was a propitious start to what would turn out to be a long and heroic life in service to God and his fellow man.assumption church

In 1941, when the Axis powers headed by the Nazis carved up Serbia, Miladin joined a resistance army committed to oust the occupiers of his motherland. In this capacity, Miladin was twice wounded in action. He was decorated with the national Medal for Bravery. His godson, Fr. William Weir, said, “Proto Garic experienced the full extent of tragedies that accompanied the war alongside all of the Serbian people.” This became most poignantly true in October 1944, when the fascist Ustashi burned down the house containing Miladin’s nearest and dearest: his mother, grandmother, sisters, and two brothers. All died in the fire.

Miladin escaped to Austria with the rise of communism in Serbia. No longer a resistance fighter, he found his way to England in 1948 where he would take up the burden of manual labor, toiling in factories, hospitals and—like so many other displaced Serbs in other countries—in the mines. It was also in England where he would meet his wife, Nina. They married in July of 1948.

In June of 1953, Miladin became Father Deacon Miladin. Less than a month later, a pious and energetic Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church with an affinity for Serbia and the Serbs ordained Fr. Miladin to the priesthood. That Archbishop was the glorified saint who is now known throughout the whole Orthodox world as St. John Maximovich of Shanghai and San Francisco. The newly ordained Fr. Miladin, having been made an Orthodox priest by one of the holiest men of his time, was assigned to minister to a parish Vancouver, Canada. He served that community for seven years, and people there who remember him do so fondly.

After 32 years serving the Christians of Fair Oaks—administering the sacraments, serving liturgies, visiting the sick, conducting funerals, and organizing festivals—Fr. Miladin would eventually oversee what was perhaps his greatest accomplishment: the design and construction of the beautiful, brick Church on Sunset Avenue in Fair Oaks, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; an impressive and elegant example of traditional Orthodox church architecture.

Orthodox Christians often observe that the death of a holy person will occur auspiciously; that is, a sign of God’s approval will accompany the passing of those whose lives have been pleasing to Him. Fr. Miladin died less than a week before one of the most momentous events in the history of the Serbian Church in America: the translation of the relics of St. Sebastian to San Francisco and Jackson. This newly canonized saint was the founder of the parish of the little white church in the Sierra foothills. So, at the exact moment when St. Sebastian was returning triumphantly to the spiritual community that both he and Fr. Miladin nurtured and loved, the soil was still fresh—the flowers still fragrant—on that spot of Earth from which St. Sebastian, Proto Garic, and Protonica Nina will be called forth by the Light to arise and greet a glorious and never-ending day. The Orthodox would call this divine favor.

Fr. William Weir, who now serves as a priest alongside Fr. Dane Popovic at the church that Fr. Miladin built in Fair Oaks, described a dinner that took place in Fr. Miladin’s honor shortly after his passing. “We turned off all the lights. As emcee, I asked all those who had been baptized by Proto Garic to light the candle on the table in front of them. Next, those whom he married; then, those whose children he baptized; then, those family members for whom he served a funeral, and so on. In a short time, every candle was lit, and the hall was brilliant with the light of the Lord and work of the Lord by our dear, departed Proto Stavrophor Miladin.”

May the memory of Protopresbyter Stavrofor Miladin Garic be eternal!




“…and on this rock I will build My church.” (Matt 16:18)




More than 2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve Apostles gathered in the Upper Room. Birth was given to the New Testament Church at that very moment. By late afternoon, some 3,000 souls believed in Christ and were baptized; hence, the first Christian Community was born. From Jerusalem, the Christian Faith spread to lands near and far —   Judea , Samaria, Antioch, Asia Minor, Roman Empire, …United States of  America … and  Sacramento, California. As the Serbian Orthodox community grew in Sacramento, the faithful had a strong desire to worship in their local community. On October 12th, 1952, a group of Serbian Orthodox Christians gathered together to map out plans for a future Church.  Officers were elected, by-laws were written and submitted and to the Eparhija, and soon after, we received our Charter.  The name of our church was chosen – "Uspenije Presvete Bogorodice" – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

During the initial years, the parish faced many challenges. Foremost were a church building and a permanent pastor. However, our community was blessed because we were able to hold services at the Episcopal Church on Capitol Avenue. On August 28th, 1954, the first Krsna Slava "Uspenije Presvete Bogorodice" was celebrated.  The first Sunday School classes were held in October, 1954. In September 1954, Reverend Milovan Shundich was appointed as pastor to the Jackson and Sacramento parishes; however, financial woes prohibited our newly formed parish from obtaining a permanent priest. Also during this time, our parish incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of California.  Reverend Dusan Vavich came to our parish in September 1957. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the parish grew and bought their first Church located at 3866 65th Street in Sacramento. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was consecrated on October 18, 1959. Most Reverend Bishop Dionisije, Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese for the United States and Canada was present.

Fr. Vavich left the parish in 1960 and Rev. Miladin Garic assumed the duties as parish priest. Our parish enjoyed many years of spiritual harmony. The period between 1964 and 1975 found us celebrating the burning of the mortgage of the church, purchasing and paying off a parish home on Fotos Court, a triplex next to the church, and a duplex property. On July 17th, 1978, three acres of land in Fair Oaks were purchased. After five years of careful planning, the building of the Fair Oaks Church, Social Hall and Parish home began.

Blessing of the Grounds was held on Sunday, October 12th, 1980.  A Pontifical Liturgy was held followed by the Ground Blessing ceremony with His Grace Bishop Gregory officiating.   Kumovi were Lubo Martinovich Danica Ryder. The new hall and parish home were dedicated on October 18th, 1981. Gordon Gojkovich was Kum for this occasion.  The Cornerstone Blessing for our new church was held on July 31st, 1983; Kumovi for this occasion were Mane and Savka Mileusnic. The Blessing of the Bells and the new Pavilion were also celebrated shortly thereafter; Kumovi for the Blessing of the Bells were Gordon Gojkovich, Danica Gojkovich Ryder, John Gojkovich, Jennie Gojkovich Stossel, Ken Kinnaman, and Gina Gojkovich Kinnaman; Kumovi for the new Pavilion were Pete and Ceil Stefanick. Through-out all the ceremonies we were honored by the presence of His Grace Bishop Gregory and welcomed the responses of both St. Steven's Cathedral Choir from Alhambra, CA, as well as our own Pera Ilich Choir under the direction of Irene Vickers.

Many committed members worked diligently in raising funds to pay off the mortgage of the Fair Oaks Church. Clearing the debt allowed us to pursue our dream to adorn the church with frescoes. Miloje Milinkovic, a talented fresco iconographer, adorned our beautiful parish with frescoes from the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Holy Apostles, and martyred Saints of our faith. Our Church frescoes were consecrated on October 22, 1986.

Protopresbyter Garic served as our parish priest for 32 years until his retirement on December 15, 1992. The Reverend Dobrivoje Milunovic served as our parish priest from December 1992 until August 2002. Our current Parish Priest is Protopresbyter Dane Popovic, who continues to guide our spiritual growth.   

We are deeply indebted to the founders of our church who had the vision and perseverance to establish a place of worship for us. We wish to express our gratitude to all those faithful people who, through their love and support, have made it possible for our parish to exist and grow into what it is today.

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