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S T U D E N C I

Parish and the diocesan shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

   The parish of Studenci today, whose centre is situated along the main road, midway between Ljubuški and Čapljina, borders upon parishes of Humac, Čapljina and Međugorje. It consists of five inhabited places. Three of these, Studenci, Stubica and some parts of Crnopod, belong to Ljubuški county district. The other two, Prćavci and Zvirovići are parts of Čapljina county district. The parish is named Studenci after the homonymous village, which is its centre. In this village there are many wells with natural and cold water springing out. In old Croatian language a well was called "studenac" and the plural of it is simply Studenci.

Panorama Parish Studenci

Parish Studenci abounds with various resources

   This area, stretching along the river valleys of Studenčica and Trebižat, has been populated since the earliest times. Even in Roman time, except for its natural resources, fertile fields and flowing water, the closeness to towns of Narona (Vid near Metković), Mogorjelo near Čapljina, millitary settlement Bigeste near Ljubuški and Roman road which led from Bigeste through Studenci, along Lukoć valley to the north, made it extra attractive. Bearing in mind that this territory was part of Roman province Dalmatia, the Christianity came here only few decades after Christ. Saint Paul notes that during his lifetime his disciple Titus went to Dalmatia (2 Tim 4, 10).

   Numerous archeological sites remind us on those times. Unfortunately they still have not been sufficiently examined.

   For example, Illyrian-Greek money was found in Studenci, two drachms of town Dyrrhachium (229-100 BC). It dates back to early Iron Age (300-200 BC).

   At Rašić cemetery in the field there is a pre-historical tumulus and Middle Ages cemetery. On a hummock by the road there are preserved three standing tombstones of a tablet shape and they date back to Bronze Age and late Middle Ages.

   Near the well Studenac at Kajtazovina site there is Middle Ages necropolis with four standing tombstones of a trunk shape, fenced in by the road, and these date back to the late Middle Ages.

   At Crkvina site in the middle of the field by the river Studenčica there are pre-historical discoveries and Roman settlement. Clusters of examined stones and abundance of Roman ceramics fragments and brick-bats, including some rare architectural fragments can also be found here. All this dates back to the late Iron Age (600-500 BC) and to the time of Romans (100-400 AD). Precisely on this site the bronze statue of a girl was found. It is dated back to the 6th century BC and comes originally from ancient Etruscany, in Italy. In our days this province is called Tuscany. The statue has no point of contact with native Illyrian art of that time. Experts agree that it served as an object of worship to pagan Illyrians. It is most probable that it represented some goddess which they worshiped. The statue, most likely, came to Studenci through trading between two tribes Delmats and Etruscans, or by robbery. It is kept in Land museum in Sarajevo.

   Doubtless, the most interesting is Middle Ages necropolis of standing tombstones in St. John the Apostle cemetery at Upper Studenci. There are 74 standing tombstones of different shapes, tablets, trunks and sarcophagus placed in direction west-east. There are various types of decorations on them: torzic tape, symbolic signs, curl, shield with a sword and anthropomorphic motifs. All this dates back to the late Middle Ages and it is direct evidence that this area had been densely populated before the Turks came in 1482.

Necropolis in the upper Studenci

   Although all of these found things mentioned above are very valuable, only some are in a certain way protected by being stored into museums or are deep under the earth.

   As an inhabited place Studenci is mentioned in the first Turkish census from 1477 and also in following ones.

   Zvirovići and Prćavci, two villages belonging to Studenci parish of today, are mentioned in the church register of faithful from 18th century, but as parts of Brotnjo parish, and later as parts of Gabela parish after its establishing in 19th century. On the other hand, at the same time and according to the same registers Studenci belonged to Veljaci parish, and later to Humac parish when it was established half-way through 19th century.

   In 1908 the bishop of that time in Mostar Paškal Buconjić established the parish of Studenci separating certain parts of Gabela and Humac parishes. He annexed to it villages Studenci, Zvirovići, Prćavci, Stubica and consequently part of Crnopod was joined with it because some parishioners from Studenci moved to live there. The bishop decreed the Sacred Heart of Jesus as parish heavenly protector. Don Marijan Kelava was appointed to be the parish priest. In the beginning he lived in a modest country house which had been hired. During the autumn of the same year he built a new parish house and on the first Christmas he celebrated holy Mass in its basement. In the spring of 1909 he himself moved in the house. In the following years he began preparations to build the parish church, but the First World War, which soon broke out, interrupted the building. For this reason the church building was erected much later (1934-1938) when the parish priest was Don Jure Vrdoljak.

   Already in 1908 there had been an idea to open a school in the parish, but it came to realization only in 1933. Then, at the same time, by the merit of Fra Grgo Vasilj, the parish priest, in the two houses, hired from Ivan Keža and Marijan Ereš primary schools were opened and classes commenced. The first teacher was Paško Zjačić from Šibenik. After the World War II schools were opened in every other village and each had its own school building. Nowadays there are three primary schools on the parish territory: in Studenci, Prćavci and Zvirovići.

   During the World War II the parish suffered a disastrous damage. At the end of the War the population of the parish was just above 2000 members; 257 believers were killed, four priests, natives of the parish: dr fra Rade Vukšić, fra Andrija Jelčić, fra Nenad Pehar and fra Lujo Milićević, including fra Grgo Vasilj, former parish priest. Some were killed during the War, but most of them were, without any trial and fully innocent, killed by partizans after the end of the War in 1945.

In the courtyard of the parish church: Monument to victims of the Second World War and Homeland

   There were following catholic societies in the parish until 1945: the Third Order of St. Francis, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society, Catholic Action and Society for Propagation of the Faith. After that all these societies ceased existing because of the communist persecution of the Church. The parish priest of that time msgr. Andrija Majić although innocent, was twice imprisoned (1949-1950 and 1958-1962). Many parishioners were also persecuted and were not able to contact their family members who had emigrated to foreign countries. Poverty and famine were frequent until the mid-sixties of the 20th century. Only then first parishioners started to obtain their passports and to depart abroad in order to work. The phenomenon of going away of young people on a large scale, which developed at that time, lasted as far as mid-eighties, and had great consequences for the parish in every sense.

   Affiliated church of St. Stephen the first Martyr was built in Stubica in 1975. Today on the parish territory there are ten cemeteries with a nice chapel in each one.

   Since the establishment of the parish there have been 11 parish priests and parish administrators. Two of them were Franciscans. 17 parish vicars helped them in pastoral care. The sisters have been present in the parish since 1967 with occasional breaks. They are members of the congregation ''Handmaids of Little Jesus'' which was established by the archbishop of Sarajevo Josip Stadler in 1890. Since 1996, twice a year, parish magazine Povezanost has been published. There are also two successful choirs in the parish (great choir and children choir), mandolin orchestra ''Golden Heart'' and culture club ''Studenčica''.

   The population of the parish today is 2110 or 481 families. Very rich spiritual life is one of its main characteristics. This is probably one of the major reasons that the parish has given 22 priests, 9 sisters and that divorce is a strange thing to them. All parish priests have cherished devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin Mary so that believers from different parts of surrounding area would gather around the parish church, especially so for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

   Responding to the request made by the parish priest and priests born in Studenci parish, and respecting the long tradition of veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in this place, bishop Ratko Perić decreed the parish church in Studenci to be the diocesan shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19, 1998. The decree was issued for the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the parish and for the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the construction works on the church building. This made an impact on believers to gather even in greater number and pilgrim groups from abroad come very often, too.

Pilgrims from all over the world come to the sanctuary