In Search Of… Fr. Philip Sredanovich

I’ve got several new articles in the works, but law school has been brutal lately, so I haven’t been able to finish any of them. In the meantime, I thought I’d republish one of my old articles. This one was originally published on June 1, 2010.

Fr. Philip Sredanovich is one of the odder characters in American Orthodox history. Perhaps not as odd as the embellishing Agapius Honcharenko or the wandering Bulgarian Monk, but in all my studies, I’ve run across few parish priests stranger than Sredanovich.

Sredanovich was born in Montenegro in 1881. I read somewhere that he was educated in Russia, although I can’t seem to track down the precise source at the moment. (This is supported by the 1920 US Census, which says that Sredanovich’s wife was born in Russia.) He came to the US just after the turn of the 20th century; by 1906, he was pastor of St. Nicholas Serbian Church in Wilmerding, PA. A couple of years later, while serving in Butler, PA, he made his first newspaper headlines. From the Washington Post (12/11/1908):

The Rev. Philip Sredanovitch, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church and editor of Justness, today announced a discovery, which, if it works out, will put Newton, Franklin, and Edison in the amateur class. The pastor-editor declares that he has invented a means by which the rotation of the earth on its axis may be taken advantage of in travel, and that by standing still one may go around the world in 24 hours.

He says he has found a way by which men may lift themselves above the earth to a point where they will stand still while the earth, rotating from west to east, will do their traveling for them. The secret is jealously guarded by the pastor and his wife, whom he credits with suggesting the idea. He asks $100,000 for the invention.

Sredanovich says: “We will hoist ourselves above the earth and await the coming of the desired place, then we will lower ourselves where we desire to be. In this way we may go from America to Europe in less than eighteen hours. My secret is how to stand above the earth and not be affected by the earth’s attraction.”

He says his invention makes it possible to get away from gravitation and still not be lose [sic] in space.

He does not say how one may get away from the swirling earth and take his stand in the ethereal world, but any one with $100,000 may find out. So far as is known, the pastor has invented no airships nor announced any scheme for climbing a sunbeam.

This has to be a joke, right? An educated clergyman couldn’t seriously think that you could circle the globe simply by “hoisting” yourself above the earth — could he?

Moving on… Sredanovich bounced around a lot. Here is an incomplete list of the places he served:

  • Wilmerding, PA
  • Butler, PA
  • Kansas City, MO
  • South Bend, IN
  • Gary, IN
  • Kansas City, MO (again)
  • Butte, MT
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Steelton, PA
  • Johnstown, PA
  • Butte, MT (again)

Of course, in Sredanovich’s day, it was quite common for priests to spend just a couple of years (or less) at one parish before moving on to the next. But Sredanovich’s travels seem to have been caused as much by his own personality as by the era in which he lived. In November 1920, he was “fired” from his post in Kansas City, responded with four successive lawsuits in the span of three months. In one suit, he asked for $25,000, charging that “church officials were instrumental in causing slanderous remarks to be printed against him” in a Serbian newspaper. A few days later, he filed another lawsuit, this time merely seeking $120 in back pay. (I don’t know the outcomes of these cases; my only source is the Kansas City Times, 1/25/1921.)

After leaving Kansas City, Sredanovich went to Butte, Montana, where he took over Holy Trinity Serbian Church. One day, in November of 1922, he was walking down the street when a group of teenage boys started to bother him. One picked up a rock, at which point Sredanovich took off for his house. He went inside, got his pistol, and returned to the street. The youths continued to taunt Sredanovich, who responded by shooting one of the boys in the foot. The injured 18-year-old was taken to the hospital, and Sredanovich was arrested and charged with second-degree assault. (Idaho Daily Statesman, 11/30/1922)

Sredanovich soon left Butte, but he returned to the parish in 1949, spending the last three years of his life there. He died in 1952, and is buried at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois.

This article was written by Matthew Namee.

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