Proto Aleksandar Bugarin was born October 4, 1968 in Pacir, Vojvodina, Serbia and grew up around Novi Sad. The son of a Serbian Orthodox priest, Aleksandar knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue the priesthood. He came to the United States in 1989 to attend the newly opened School of Theology at the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville, IL. He participated in many aspects of seminary life and worked his way through school graduating with his Bachelor of Theology degree in 1992. During this time he met his future wife, Gordana nee Markovic of Racine, WI, and the two were married in May of 1994 at St. Sava Monastery. In July of that same year, Aleksandar was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher. The S.S.S. St. George Choir of Kansas City traveled to Libertyville to sing responses for his ordination. From July to November 1994, Fr. Deacon Aleksandar served the Kansas City parish as its official parish deacon. In November of that year, he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher in St. George Church. Father Aleksandar officially took over as parish priest from the then retiring Protojerej-Stavrofor Fr. Milan Bajich in January 1995.
From the start of his ministry in Kansas City, Father Aleksandar tirelessly worked for the betterment of the parish. He renewed Serbian language classes for adults, cultural programs for the youth, started the publication of the Glasnik, the parish newsletter, and organizes a yearly pilgrimage trip to Serbia and Lika. The pilgrimage trip centers on some of the most holy sites and monasteries in Serbia. Additionally, participants are taken to see their family villages in mostly the Lika region where the original families that settled the Kansas City parish came from. It is because of Father Aleksandar’s detailed research and love of history that many of the American born parishioners of Serbian descent learned where their families had originated. In 2002, Father Aleksandar would receive his first priest elevation with the rite to wear the Red Sash from His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher. The year 2006 marked a major milestone in the life of the Kansas City parish.
The congregation celebrated its 100th Anniversary and consecrated its new church in Lenexa. Father Aleksandar worked diligently with the church’s building committee during the planning and construction of the new church. At the Divine Liturgy celebrated the day of the consecration, Father Aleksandar received his next priest elevation to Protojerej by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher. Over the next several years, Proto Aleksandar would take on additional rolls within the New Gracanica-Midwestern Diocese. He was instrumental in helping to form the first Serbian Orthodox Church in the state of Iowa. In 2013, the newly purchased and converted church in Des Moines dedicated to St. Demetrius was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Longin. It was at this church consecration that he would receive his last priest elevation of Protojerej-Stavrofor with the rite to wear the Pectoral Cross.
He would continue to administer to the Des Moines parish monthly until they received their first full time priest. He has also at times administered to St. Archangel Michael Church in Kansas City and All Saints Church in Sioux Falls. Additionally for the diocese, Proto Aleksandar was appointed and served as Dean for the St. Louis Deanery. Support was also given to the betterment of the Greater Pan-Orthodox community in Kansas City. He served as President of the Kansas City Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood, supported programs at Reconciliation Services attached to St. Mary of Egypt Church, and participated in the Eastern Orthodox Youth Camp (EOYC) every year since 1995. Service to others has always been important to Proto Aleksandar. Because of this, he completed 400 hours (first unit) of the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Research Hospital in Kansas City, MO and served as a chaplain at both Research and Menorah Hospitals.
Additionally during his time in Kansas City, he and Protinica Gordana were blessed with their three beautiful children: Jelena, Stevan and Kristijana. Each of his children along with Protinica Gordana have helped in numerous ways assisting and working the various fundraisers and activities of the church and its organizations.
On June 29, 2018, Proto Aleksandar was appointed parish priest of St. George Church in Joliet, effective August 1, 2018. He, Protinica Gordana, and their family look forward to joining the St. George family in Joliet.
As of December 1, 2017, at the behest of His Grace, Bishop Longin, Rev. Kostur was assigned to Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago, IL and Very Reverend Fr. Ned Lunich agreed to come out of retirement and serve as Temporary Administrator of St. George until a replacement was found. St. George was very grateful to Fr. Lunich for agreeing to return.
V. Rev. Lunich had been the parish priest of St. George, Joliet for 40 years, from 1974-2014. We welcomed his return, albeit on a temporary basis.
Nedeljko Lunich was born January 23, 1938 in Ruzic, Drnis, Dalmacija to his parents Dusan and Anica. As a young boy, Father Lunich attended Elementary School in his village and High School in Drnis. That was a time when not many went beyond elementary education. But, with encouragement from his parents, he went on to St. Sava Seminary in Beograd, Yugoslavia and graduated in 1959. He continued his education at the Theological college in Beograd, where he studied from 1959-1962. After spending a year in Italy, he came to the United States on March 15, 1963. On February 27, 1965, he was ordained to the deaconate and subsequently to the priesthood on March 15, 1965 by His Grace Bishop Firmilian of the Midwest Diocese.
Father Lunich’s first assignment was an assistant pastor to St. Lazarus “Ravanica” Church in Detroit, Michigan from 1965-1969. While in Detroit, the new St. Lazarus Cathedral “Ravanica” was built and consecrated in 1967. He then traveled on to St. George Parish in East Chicago-Schererville, Indiana from 1969-1974. In East Chicago, while church services were held in the Carpatho-Russian Church, church property in Schererville was purchased and a Church Hall with other accompanying facilities was built. And in 1974 was appointed parish priest in Joliet, Illinois, where he remained until his retirement in December 2014.
Over the years, Father Lunich continued on with and explored higher education, both as a student and teacher. He graduated with a Master of Arts degree and teaching certificate from the University of Detroit and studied at Wayne State in Detroit for a PhD. He taught at East Chicago Public Schools and Purdue University extension in Hammond, Indiana.
Some accomplishments include being awarded all priestly ranks. He was “Man of the Year” for the SNF in 1972. Father is a member of the Diocesan Council and was co-editor of the “Path of Orthodoxy” for 37 years. He served on many Diocesan and Central Church Committees during his long, 50-year service in the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was the Metropolitan’s Deputy and at the present time is the Bishop’s Dean of the Chicago Deanery. Father Lunich also served on the Board of Directors and Auditing Board for the SNF.
Father Lunich has two children, Stevan and Neda (Mike) and four grandchildren, Gabriella and Aleksandra Lunich and Stella and Michael Bilder.
While in Joliet, over 40 years, Father Lunich has led his congregation spiritually, with support, and progressively. In addition to his priestly duties, he was the business manager of the St. George Social Center for twenty-eight years. He has faithfully served for Sunday Liturgy and Holy Days, accompanying services with sermons of words of encouragement and wisdom. He has given support to parishioners and church organizations during the days of both hardship and celebration. He has also guided the St. George Church Board and Congregation in three integral building projects – this being the construction of our St. George Social Center in 1976, our new St. George Church in 1982, and the parish house in 1988.
All of the above mentioned have helped the St. George Church School Congregation become what it is today. We thank him for his years of devotion and congratulate him on his milestones.