“I have the feeling of some accomplishments, which makes me feel, I would say, satisfied. On the other hand, I feel, perhaps, I could have done more in certain areas,” said Reverend Nedeljko “Ned” Lunich looking back on 50 years in the priesthood. Ned served 40 of those 50 years at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Joliet.
One success Ned is proud of is moving the parish from its previous location at Scott and Ohio streets on the east side of Joliet to 300 Stryker Ave. However, Ned wishes he could have effected more spiritual enrichment, especially focusing on Eastern Orthodox tenets and initiating formal Bible studies.
For instance, Eastern Orthodoxy requires a strict fast four times a year, in the weeks before Christmas, Easter, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul and before the Dormition, the falling asleep of Jesus’ mother, Ned said. It also requires confession of sins in the presence of a priest before receiving communion. Despite occasional dispensations, the precepts have not changed, regardless of relaxations with interpretation. “We tend to allow people to decide based on their own consciences,” Ned said. And of Bible studies, he added, “We have not been very successful with that.”
Now after 50 years in the priesthood Ned is retiring. He reflects back to his childhood. Ned born in 1938 and raised in a small Yugoslavian village. Ned has memories of five protective older sisters and of hiding in the woods from Croatian extremists. Ned attended an “open air” school for four years, starting at the age of seven. During the winter class would be moved to a rented room. A change in the education system cause Ned to miss the fifth grade. When he resumed school, it was located five miles away from his home. Ned’s form of transportation to school were his feet.
Ned’s strong faith made his hardships more bearable. Ned said his family observed all Orthodox holy days, fasting periods and traditions. Not many people in his village had the opportunity to attend school, which made Ned in demand by the local church.
Seminary became the choice when he failed his military physical due to temporary conjunctivitis. Four years later, Ned enrolled in Theological College, in Beograd, served two mandatory years in the military and then finished college. “I was the first person in my family to graduate from college,” Ned said.
Ned came to the United States in 1963. Ned continued his studies at the University of Detroit and Wayne State University, both in Michigan. In 1965, Ned got married and was ordained to the diaconate, and then the priesthood.
Ned served as an assistant priest at St. Lazarus Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Detroit for four years, then as parish priest at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in East Chicago before his Joliet appointment in 1974.
Ned will remain at St. George until the end of the year. “My parishioners at St. George, I appreciate all their hard work and their dedication for the good of the church,” Ned said, “and also their kindness shown to me all these years.”