PARISH OF SAINT JOSEPH, Kragujevac
Pastoral center was established in the second half of the nineteenth century in this town, when Serbia was freed and started to develop its industry, in which a large number of Catholics experts from abroad was included. After long hesitation, local Catholics were given their own priest, but never managed to get their own church. From the very beginning, they were pushing in the chapel – a small room in a private, rented house. Even today, despite numerous negotiations on building a new pastoral center and appropriate church (which should be in accordance with contemporary urban planning regulations and the needs of today’s believers), Catholics in Kragujevac only have a modest chapel in the parish house. Everything is very modest, unadorned and near new, large residential buildings. The plans have already been made for the construction, but nothing has been done so far!
More accurate information on pastoral center in Kragujevac dates back in 1885, when they officially started keeping parish registers. The First World War destroyed what had previously been built with struggle, so after the war everything had to be started all over again. For a time, the Apostolic Administrator of Serbia Ferdinand Hrdy looked after the Catholics in central Serbia (out of Belgrade) but Ivan Vinodolac was mentioned as a priest since 1923. Therefore, during the establishment of the Archdiocese of Belgrade, it was claimed that the Archdiocese has three parishes: Belgrade, Niš and Kragujevac – even though none of them were legally established. That happened in 1927, when first parish priests were designated according to canonical norms.
During the Second World War, there were numerous Catholic refugees in Kragujevac and its surroundings, particularly Slovenians, but they returned to Slovenia after the war. The parish has been experiencing continuous immigration and emigration throughout entire century of its existence,. Therefore, the exact (even approximate) number of believers is never known. The parish has an extensive diaspora.
The first resident priest in Kragujevac was the Barnabite, Father Cesare Tondini de Quarenghi who, at the request of Bishop Strossmayer, was sent to Serbia in 1883 by the Holy See, as he was very fluent in Russian. He attended “the school” of Bishop Strossmayer in Đakovo to master the Serbian language, where he actually learned the language well in six months and took over the care of Catholics in central Serbia (out of Belgrade). He settled in Kragujevac, as the local factories employed over 600 Catholic professionals and workers at the time, along with numerous people who lived in other places. As bishop’s delegate, he was given extensive powers (“vicem gerens”) by the bishop. Tondini had a modest chapel in a private house, but neither he nor his successors were able to build the church there– and this has lasted until today, although an agreement on the construction site had already been reached a few years ago. Father Marbeau, about whom we do not have any accurate data, came to aid for the French workers. Father Tondini served both the Catholics in Niš (about 200 permanent residents), for whom he built a chapel (it was blessed on 30 November, 1884) and an elementary school (8 February, 1885), and about 1,000 workers engaged in the construction of railway to Sofia and in various mines. When he handed the care of Catholics in Niš and Eastern Serbia to father Czock, he was able to devote more time to the scattered Catholics engaged in the construction of the railway to Skopje. But soon he was forced to leave Serbia (9 July 1885) and was replaced by Antun Vj. Edinger.