+ Samuel (Savo) Cugalj
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
It is with faith in Christ and hope in the Resurrection that we announce the passing of a faithful communicant of our St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, and a person who was ever-ready to work on behalf of Christ’s Holy Church. +Savo was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and is survived by his wife Marsha of 53 years, his devoted children, Dr. Adam Cugalj (Sarah) and Danielle Cugalj. He is the grandfather to Nicholas, Jordan, Nathan and Noah, and Kum to 23 godchildren. During +Savo’s work in the Church, he served for 23 years as Parish Council President, and was particularly devoted to Refugee Relief and Resettlement during the war years in Bosnia. In addition, Savo was a great supporter of the Fresco Project and also, along with the priest and Parish Council, introduced Stewardship in the parish. These were far-reaching programs, and the St. Stephen Church became an example of charitable and liturgical life. Savo served as Vice-President of the Diocesan Council of Eastern America and Canada, was a member of the Central Church Council, and taught Christian Education in our parish for 13 years. The viewing will take place in the St. Stephen Church, Lackawanna, NY, on Friday, August 13 from 2-8 PM, with a Pomen at 7 PM. On Saturday, the Funeral Service will be held at 10 AM, followed by the burial at Lakeside Cemetery. Flowers are gratefully declined. Donations may be made in Savo’s memory to the St. Nicholas Family Charity Fund of the St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church. May his memory be eternal.
Christ is Risen, my dear brother Savo!
Usually, on occasions like this, I would first lead the attendees and even family members through the basics of our Orthodox faith, understanding life and the tragedy of death, and conclude with the Resurrection of Christ, the most powerful message and our only hope! But here, I do not need to do so! You spent your entire life in the light of Resurrection!
Indeed it is a great joy today that we can glorify the wonderful God in His saints! Today you have been given rest with the saints! It is not I who numbered you among the saints, but rather God himself! I would take this opportunity to remind all of you, dear brothers and sisters gathered here today, that St. Apostle Paul refers to all the members of the church community as saints because the source of their life is the one who is “Holy, One Lord - Jesus Christ”. All those who are united with Him through His Holy Mysteries are holy! And Savo was always one with Christ partaking of His Holy Body and Blood, and now is more than ever, seeing God face to face!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” These words the Divine Apostle Paul writes to his beloved Timothy predicting the end of his earthly life. Your fight, Savo, was excellent. The race could last longer, but let God’s will be done, and your faith kept! And today you are receiving your crown because you certainly are among those who lived with love for His appearing!
Your faith, Savo, is a true example for us all! It wouldn’t be at all inappropriate to inscribe on your head stone the great words chosen vessel of God, again St. Apostle Paul, from his writing to the Corinthians: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ!” (1. Corinthians 11:1) All of us here in your beloved Church of St. Stephen will retain what we have learned from you: first I as a priest, and then all the altar servers, chanters, choir members, parish council members, and every single member of any of our auxiliary organizations… Your work and your dedication set the example for us all: old and young, men and women. Among the numberless talents you possessed, I would emphasize one in particular: your talent in leadership! It is a great challenge for me, as a shepherd of this reason endowed flock, to find someone who will be capable to substitute for you. It is not easy because we not only need someone with great social skills, but primarily someone with great faith and understanding of the Word of God. I strongly believe that Christ’s words: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) have made the greatest impact on your soul. There is no other way to explain your love and dedication towards all those who are in any need. There are countless witnesses of your genuine love for those who suffer. I have to mention here, only as an example of Christ’s love, your tireless charitable work, especially expressed to those of our brothers who came to this country not having anyone or anything here. They were blessed by finding the Church of St. Stephen and finding you as the parish council president at that time. I will always keep in mind your question during every parish council meeting: how much money do we have in the charity fund? You asked this question not because you were concerned about the amount of money we had, but rather you wanted to understand how many people were we able to support in the previous month! The collecting of the funds itself was never something that was of your primary interest, but rather your concern was giving to those in need because you always knew that when something is given in love, it is multiplied in abundance! You were always more satisfied when we had fewer funds because it was clear that we had helped someone.
Related to this matter, there is one more inevitably important topic of your great interest that we have to mention here. It is the stewardship program in our parish. It was more than obvious that you understood with your whole heart, and more importantly, in the deepness of your soul, the significance of this program. The stewardship program is not just like any other possible program for organizing community life. It is actually an expression of our Orthodox Christian faith, and a witnessing that all that we have is a God-given gift to us. Now, it is our turn to take the best possible care of the gifts we have received, and as multiplied and enhanced, offer them back to God! Usually, most people remain on the surface of this program being interested only in one segment of the three Ts - the treasure. But you were always there not only to talk about, but also to show, by your example, the equal importance of the other two Ts - time and talents. Your dedication of your time to God through church services was praiseworthy! You will be truly missed not only during our weekday liturgical feast celebrations, but especially during all of the services of Great Lent and Holy Week. With your talents you served everyone! You served our Holy Church on different levels and capacities, from the Diocese to the Parish level; you served this great country in the military, you served the state and local community and every single person you had a chance to meet.
Thank you to you and your kum, our beloved Fr. Rastko, for all you have done for our wonderful Parish. I know you did all of this to the glory of God!
Dear Marsha, dear Danielle and Adam, dear Nicholas, Jordan, Nathan and Noah, dear all 23 godchildren of our beloved Savo, dear church of God! Rejoice today because we have gained one more fervent intercessor before the face of God. His daily and weekly prayer requests and lists with all of your names do not depend anymore on my sinfulness and often forgetfulness to read them, but now they will be offered directly before the throne of the Almighty God by Savo himself! Rejoice you, dear brother Savo, because for sure you have already heard the voice of God and the words: Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
May your memory be eternal, brother Savo, worthy of blessedness!