Priest dies days before 60th anniversary

Northcote parish stalwart Fr Ivan Lunjevich died just eight days before the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. On July 19, a packed St Mary’s Church in Northcote heard Bishop Patrick Dunn pay tribute to a priest who served there as senior associate for a quarter of a century, up to 2010.

Fr Lunjevich had died at Mercy Parklands Hospital on July 14, aged 86.

Bishop Dunn called him “our beloved friend, Fr Ivan”.

The bishop recalled when he himself worked at Northcote. “And pretty soon after I arrived, he managed to tell me that he had gone to the seminary exactly seven days after I was born. He just wanted to remind me — he had a bit of experience under his belt.”

In the homily, Msgr David Tonks noted that Fr Lunjevich’s anniversary of ordination was on what is now the feast of St Mary Magdalene, on July 22.

The homilist noted four things about the saint that “match well with Ivan”.

These were her human dimension, her encounter with the Lord, her sense of vocation and her vision of the Risen Lord.

Under the first category, the human dimension, Msgr Tonks spoke about Fr Lunjevich’s driving habits, his sense of style, his prowess in making pasta and his battles with cancer and depression.

But “in some ways”, what kept him going was “his deep and beautiful faith”, Msgr Tonks said.

At the heart of much of the late priest’s faith was “his own personal, mystical experience”.

“That deep sense that he had of being visited by Lord and the Lord said to him something very simple — you are the one I love.”

Fr Lunjevich would pick up on this in his preaching, telling people “you are the you God loves”.

Msgr Tonks noted the late priest’s “profound sense of vocation”, which Fr Lunjevich attributed
to attributed first of all to the Mill Hill priests of the Far North who used to come and celebrate Mass in the family home once a month when he was young.

Msgr Tonks added that “as a servant of the Lord and priest, [Fr Ivan] believed in people, not in rules”.

“He was never too concerned about what we are supposed to do, as long as it was enhancing the dignity of someone else.”

In the end, Fr Lunjevich “waited for death with beautiful serenity and absolute confidence that he was entering the embrace of God”, Msgr Tonks said.

During the Requiem Mass, the chalice and paten given to Fr Lunjevich by his parents at his ordination were placed on his casket.

Fr Lunjevich served as assistant priest at Henderson, the Cathedral, Howick, and Whakatane.

He was a parish priest at Waiheke, Tuakau and Beach Haven, as well as other assignments at Meadowbank, Three Kings, Epsom and Northcote.

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Michael Otto

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