On September 15, 1999, we welcomed our new priest, Father Dragan Zaric, and his wife Teofana, herself an iconographer, from Serbia. During this period, many activities took place in order to raise the funds to pay off the debt. Finally, that happened on January 6, 2004, when symbolically the mortgage papers were burned in the Badnjak fire. Father Dragan departed to missionary parish in Charlotte, North Carolina, in June of 2004. At the time of Fr. Dragan’s departure, there were about 200 families in the parish.
In October of 2004, a new priest, Fr. Ljubisa Brnjos, along with his family, arrived at the parish. Coming from Trebinje, Republika Srpska where he served for eight years in the Diocese of Herzegovina, he met and was introduced to the parishioners. After settling in and familiarizing themselves with the parish, it became evident that a proper church was needed. The plans for the building began to unfold. In November of 2005, we held the very first fundraising dinner at The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Maitland. The church board and its president Jovan Dragosavac welcomed his Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan who gave his blessings for this historical gathering.
Architect Vladan Gluvacevic took the opportunity to present his design/blueprints for the first time to all of those in attendance. Likewise, it was announced that the new church would be built at the location of the existing one, being that it is the highest point on the land. Furthermore, the architectural plan was explained with a goal to combine the church, a lecture hall, and several classrooms in one, two-story building. Forty thousand dollars were raised at this event, which would be crucial for the period to come. In the years following, great efforts were made in order to have the building plan approved and to find workers and volunteers to help with such a massive project.
Toward the end of 2006, with the goal of increasing our donations, a SerbFest was organized for the first time. This festival aims toward inviting the surrounding Floridians to enjoy Serbian culture, traditions, music, cuisine, and entertainment. Throughout the years, it has grown in size and become the biggest Serbian festival in the South. The festival is traditionally held every year on the second weekend of October. Amidst the festival, the church continues to maintain a wax-candle workshop founded in 2006, where volunteers work, making candles for sale in an attempt to bring more donations to the table.
The construction of St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church officially began in 2011. Architect Vladan Gluvacevic worked full-time for four years, overlooking the construction. Within the first months of the year, the old church was taken down, the basement was dug up, and the foundation was set. The conceration of the foundation was also held in on February 20th of 2011. The blessed event brought together about twenty priests from the Serbian and surrounding Orthodox churches to serve under the guidance of his Grace, Bishop Dr. Mitrophan. This historical event, along with the raising of the dome, brought the largest number of Serbian Orthodox people to any church event since the parish was formed. Within the church’s foundation, a charter was burried which reads: “Благовољењем Оца, учешћем Сина и садејством Светога Духа, положи се ова повеља и осветише се темељи цркве Преподобне Мајке Петке Параскеве, Орландо, Флорида, дана 20. фебруара 2011. године, за време Његове Светости Архиепископа Пећког, Митрополита Београдско-Карловачког и Патријарха Српског Господина Иринеја, Његовог Преосвештенства Епископа Источно-Америчког Господина Митрофана, пароха Орландског, пречасног Протонамесника Љубише Брњоша, архитекте Владана Глувачевића и Предсједника Црквено-школске општине Марка Зечевића.”
The raising and placement of the dome, along with the blessing of its cross, was held on May 11th of 2013. The church is now in the final stages of construction and its parishioners hope to have it blessed and available for services within the year 2019.
The presidents of the church board throughout the years were Jovanka Martić Bickerton, Michael Minich, Zika Djordjevic, Dragan Savić, Jovan Dragosavac, Marko Zecevic, and Goran Duvnjak. Other prominent parishioners include Darinka Trbovich, Stevan Nedeljkovic, Olivera Pavlovich, and Michael Mezentsoff.
Today, this very young and active parish has 240 homes. Organizations within the church include Church School, Folklore Group “Serbian Crown”, Candle Workshop “Danica”, Bocce Club “Ravna Gora”, and Soccer Club “Obilic”.