PARISH OF SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, Kraljevo
We need to tell you one of rare stories about Catholic Church in Kraljevo so as to understand the history of Catholics there. The story begins with the opening of the aircraft factory on 12 September 1926, when it started recruiting local workers. At first, it was a very simple workforce. The French, who founded the factory, brought a certain number of workers with them that kept growing until the end of 1928. The state resolved the lack of workforce in different ways. Some experts, technicians and engineers were transferred from the Military-Technical Institute in Kragujevac and that was the core of the plant. Kraljevo did not have qualified sheet metal workers at the time, at least not in significant numbers, and those that were available were semi-literate. That is why workers were brought from the entire country, especially from more technically developed areas– Croatia, Slovenia, Vojvodina and Dalmatia. So after a few months, every French worker, technician or engineer had his own assistant from Yugoslavia, who worked and learned, and as soon as Yugoslavian mastered the job and could work independently, the Frenchman would pack and went home. The French quickly adjusted to life in small, underdeveloped Kraljevo. In addition to the school they founded, they strived to build a church in Kraljevo for their religious needs, which will be regularly visited and gifted abundantly. The French and the English had their priest with them who served the Holy Mass in the open air. When everything was prepared for the construction of the aircraft factory in 1923, the construction of residential buildings in present-Hajduk Veljkova Street began simultaneously. That street is still called “French colony” by people from Kraljevo. The experts from France settled there with their families after building the factory. They were all Catholics, and therefore, it was important for them to provide a place where Holy Mass will be served for them, as there was not a Catholic Church in Kraljevo. This need was even more felt in the barracks, where there were quite a lot of people from Croatia and Slovenia, mostly Catholics among the soldiers, officers, and members of their families.
The priest from Kragujevac was coming from time to time or someone from Belgrade when he was held up so the Mass was served in the barracks. The Archbishop of Belgrade Rafael Rodić came to Kraljevo on 29 June 1929. He was greeted by the representatives of civil authorities and numerous citizens at the railway station.
The then town authorities were soon asked about the construction of Catholic Church. Thus, the conference of the most respectable citizens and representatives of humanitarian and cultural associations was held in great town hall on June 24, 1931 with the aim of establishing a committee for building the Catholic Church in Kraljevo. The committee consisted of 30 prominent citizens.
A fundraiser was held and 30,000 dinars was collected on that occasion.
The Archdiocese of Belgrade was notified on this, and it engaged an architect Katušić on the project of the church and parish house construction. Financial aid arrived from all sides and after a few months, the construction works started. The municipality allotted a location on the corner of Hajduk Veljkova and Obilićeva street. Workers and believers, mostly from Kraljevo, participated in the construction works, but craftsmen from Dalmatia (who also came in the Middle Ages to build monastery Studenica) also came to aid. Everything was finished on 19 November 1933, when the Catholic Church was consecrated. Numerous believers gathered there on that day, as it was the only Catholic Church in inner Serbia except for one in Kragujevac. The church was consecrated by Archbishop Rafael Rodić, assisted by the Deputy Bosnian Provincial Friar Marijan Jakovljević, guardian of the Franciscan monastery in Belgrade Friar Josip Markušić, advisor of the Archbishop of Belgrade Prof. Vlašić, the Secretary of the Archdiocese Lujo Česlar and parish priest from Kragujevac Ivan Vinodolac.
Friar Kruno Misilo was appointed as temporary parish priest who immediately took up the service. The ceremony ended with a banquet in hotel Belgrade, which was attended by numerous officials of civilian and military authorities. The bells donated by King Alexander arrived on 19 November 1933. Since then, until this very day, the bells will be calling the believers of Kraljevo, Čačak, Vrnjačka Banja, Trstenik and Kruševac to Mass.
There are several chapels in the territory of the parish:
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Užice
The chapel was built in 1934 during the service of Friar Serafin Sarić. The tenants, the Lekaj family, lived in the parish house until a few years ago. Parish priest Stjepan Vinojčić visited them regularly every first Saturday of the month, until the death of Mr. Zef Lekaj in 1998. Parish priest renovated the chapel and made some changes, reducing room of the church to separate room for an office and a room for the parish priest.
Chapel of Our Lady Help of Christians in Vrnjačka Banja
Sisters of the Holy Cross took over the service at the hospital in 1957, so a chapel was opened there. But the sisters prayed to God to find a house nearby as they did not want to live near the hospital since any emergency would interrupt them in prayer and meditation. When Mr. Stojadinović, “Doctor specialized in silicosis,” was leaving to Germany and selling his residence across the hospital, none of the citizens dared to buy it, fearing tuberculosis that the doctor treated at his residence. So the sisters bought the lower floor of the house and later accepted Mrs. Sofija Stojadinović for the lifelong care. But the last, unfortunate war caused the nurses’ departure in November 1991. The chapel in the sisters’ house was opened in 1960 and renovated in 1986. When they left, parish priest Vinojčić lived in that house for a year and then it was broken in and occupied by the refugees from the surroundings of Dubrovnik, who were born in Jagodina. Parish priest renovated the interior of the monastery, waiting for better days when people from Vojvodina would once again start coming to Vrnjačka Banja. Before the war, there were also 11 Janjevaca, season workers, with their families who lived here.
Chapel of the Holy Trinity in Kruševac
The church owned land in Kruševac that was taken away in 1962. After numerous difficulties and a series of misunderstandings, the parish priest Stjepan Barišić with the help of Simon Gaši’s family found a house in 42 Kosovska Street which was acquired in 1986 where a chapel was opened to meet the needs of local believers. Parish priest Vinojčić had long pondered whether to restore the chapel, as the old altar from Vrnjačka Banja was brought there, but Janjevci began to move out to Zagreb. The parish priest started the reconstruction of the chapel in 1987. Architect Kvaternik made drafts, and work was performed by Stevo Gabrić from Subotica. During the war, 110 Janjevci moved from Kruševac.