PARISH OF ST. GEORGE NEAR CELJE

 

The archaeological findings on the hill Rifnik near Šentjur testify to the spread of Christianity in the wider area of the Roman city Celeia already during the last centuries of the Roman Empire. So far two churches and a series of articles that witness to the fact have been discovered. After the stabilization of population and political situation in the second half of the 10th century, the oldest parishes began to emerge in the Slovenian area, the parent parishes, among which was Ponikva. It comprised the entire territory which now belongs to the parish Šentjur. The landowners had an important role in establishing the church organization. St. Hemma of Gurk made an important contribution to the process in the area east of Celje. According to the known sources the parish of St. George was first mentioned as a separate ecclesiastical unit in 1340 when its leader Ulrich was appointed. Its extent was greater than today; in the 18th century several independent church units were formed from the parts of the parish.

Regarding the church organization, the parish Šentjur was ruled by the patriarchs of Aquileia for several centuries until the patriarchate was abolished in the mid-18th century. Since 1493 the entire parish Ponikva and all the parishes which evolved from it, among them Šentjur, were an integral part of the pastoral work of the Novo mesto chapter which had incorporated the parish of Ponikva. From 1749 to 1789, the parish Šentjur was ruled by the Gorizia archbishops and metropolitans. After that it belonged to the diocese based in St. Andraž in Carinthia. Until the end of the 18th century, the parish priests in Šentjur held the title of a bishop's commissioner or dean, since then the office of the dean was transferred to the parish Šmarje. In 1859 the blessed Bishop Anton Martin Slomšek from the nearby Ponikva transferred the seat of the diocese to Maribor and reorganized its work, and the parish Šentjur became part of the renewed diocese. Finally, in 2006 when in the context of major reorganization of the Slovenian Catholic community the diocese of Celje was established, the Šentjur parish became part of it.

In the parish a number of religious signs, chapels and churches were built in the past. The oldest church stood on the site of today's church of Our Lady of Sorrows at Botričnica. The present parish church of St. George was built in the 18th century; at least two church buildings had already been erected on the site. The present church was consecrated in 1721. Next to the church stood a camp with defensive towers which offered the locals at least some security.

Next to the church there was a cemetery. In the early 19th century, the cemetery was moved to the present site. The interior of the church as well as its surroundings saw a number of changes after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). An integral part of the parish were buildings for the clergy, because there were always a number of priests serving the parish of St.George. In the years following World War II the parish lost its property and several outbuildings lost its original meaning.

At present the parish of St.George has four mission churches. At Botričnica stands Our Lady of Sorrows church built in 1736. The Church of St.Rosalia was built in 1646 as a pledge against plague that propagated around Celje in the early 17th century. Although the present church of St. Primus and Felician was built only in the 18th century, it is certain there had been a liturgical place before then. The church of St. Achatius, built in the end of the 17th century, was erected as an expression of gratitude for the Christian army victory over the Turkish army. In the past, graveyards stood in the vicinity of most of the mission churches. During the First and the Second World Wars, the church buildings were damaged and plundered; military authorities seized the bells and other equipment. To offer the residents of the surrounding villages a shorter route to the church and the children to religious education, a chapel dedicated to Ss. Cyril and Methodius was arranged in the dominion Blagovna in 1968.

In addition to sacred places, the bells and the organ which are regarded as an essential component, the Catholic life of a community includes a number of activities which are part of the religious life organized in the course of the liturgical year. The community bonds during the celebrations of the sacraments. Besides the parish and assistant priest, there are also the finance council and the parish pastoral council (the latter elected in 2010) that take care for the operation of the parish. The children attend religious education, there are meetings for the young and different groups. In addition to the parish choir, there are also several singing groups. Popular missions used to be organized as a special form of renewal of religious life. The more interested community members participated in many church societies and fraternities that ceased operations in 1941. At present their mission is carried out by various church congregations. The young scouts are particularly active in the parish life. After the Second World War, pilgrimages to various Slovenian towns and abroad were popular. The parish offers a variety of religious press and issues its own parish bulletin. Groups and individuals are involved in the events of the Church in Slovenia.

Deep Christian roots in many villages that make up the parish Šentjur are also reflected in a number of religious vocations: priests, religious sisters and brothers. Although working in different institutions in Slovenia and abroad, they all maintain connections with the parish and love to return for a visit. After 35 years, a first mass was offered in Šentjur in 2010.