A Brief History of Sts. Peter & Paul Serbian
South Bend, Indiana
(Researched and rewritten by Eva Balaban
Sts. Peter & Paul Serbian Orthodox Church, 1634 South Kendall
Street, South Bend, Indiana was organized in 1911, by a small group (11
families) of Serbians who immigrated from their native land in the
Balkan peninsula (Lika, Yugoslavia) and settled in this area.
It is difficult to establish the exact time when the first Serb settled
in South Bend, Indiana. Our first pioneer was Vuksan Drca, from Lika,
Yugoslavia, who came in 1902. Following him were Mile Gvozdenovich,
Lazo Sevich also of Lika, Yugoslavia.
With a never-ending faith and a love for almighty God and His Holy
Orthodox Faith, this then is the story of the children of God in this
parish of Sts. Peter & Paul. Strangers in this unknown land of
America, arrived from their peaceful Serbian lands, gathered together
to preserve their faith anew in this strange land of freedom. They kept
their faith; they worshipped almighty God as their forefathers had done
centuries before them. They did not fail to hand down, to their
children, the precious heritage of the Faith of their fathers.
Begun humbly by a small group of men and women who came ninety-five
years ago, and perpetuated by those who followed, this colony of Serbs
flourished in this city. The dawn of history arose for the Sts. Peter
& Paul Serbian Orthodox Church. The first thought in the minds of
these Serbian immigrants was to erect their home of worship. Through
hard work and many sacrifices, the cornerstone of the church was laid
in 1911 and blest by the Very Rev. Archi- mandrite Janjicije Hadzi
Markovich, host priest. .
After a year the church was completed and Consecrated on July 12, 1912,
by the Russian Orthodox priest, the Very Rev. Aleksander Kukulevsky of
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Very Rev. J. Kadrovsky, Russian priest
of Gary, Indiana, (representative of His Grace Aleksander, Russian
Bishop of New York), and Very Rev. Jakov Odzich, Serbian priest.
Kum at this Church dedication was Jovan R. Voynovich and second Kum
Jovan T. Voynovich.
During the past historical years to the present, our Church has been a
welcome and sacred place of worship for the Orthodox Christians of this
vicinity. Here the Orthodox Christian Serbs received spiritual
inspiration in the teachings of our Holy Orthodox Faith and its
traditions in accordance with the Holy Gospel.
The first officers of the church were: President, Rade R. Medich; Vice
President, Stevan Petrovich; Secretary, Danilo Obradovich; Financial
Secretary, Jovan Polovina; and Treasurer, Vuksan Medich. Other officers
were Danilo Voynovich, Gavro Gvozdenovich, Rade Tezich, Pavle Medich
The first child,baptized in the church was Mile Polovina. The first
marriage was Gavro Gvozdenovich and SmiIja Medich. The first book
(Matica) was started in 1915 by the Very Rev. Filip Sredanovich. The
first church publication began in 1948 and was named "Glasnik". .'
The pioneer members of the newly formed Sts. Peter & Paul Church
were as follows:
Mile Gvozdenovich, Mile Mandich, Danilo (Braco) Mandich, Jovan R.
Voynovich, Jovan T. Voynovich, Jovo Radakovich, Mile Radakovich, Rade
Sarac, Dane Medich, Jovo Durakovich, Ilija Durakovich,
Vaso Sucevich, Mile Baich, Stevan Mandich, Jovo Buich, Joveta Kantar,
Joveta Skorich, David Orelk, Sava Babich, Damjan Babich, Radan Medich,
Rade Medich, Nikola Grbich, Mike Raich, Ilija Skrbich, Jovan Medich,
Jovo Medich, Petar Babich, Bude Polovina, Marko Polovina, Petar
Mandich, David Stevich, Mile Pecanac, Mile Obradovich, Stevo Bokan,
Petar Beslach, Bozo Sarac, Mane Banac, Luka Stikovac, Nikola Yazich,
Peter Yazich, Andrija J. Medich, Petar Kerkez, Savo Zorich, Stanko
Medich, Dane Medich, Lazo Beslac, Ilija Majstorovich, Sava Pulaich,
Mile Karanovich, Jovan Skorich, Rade Medich, Djujan Mandich, Simo
Medich, Mileta Kantar, Milos Durakovich, Djuro Durakovich, Milos
Sevich, Petar Opala, Jasko Sedlan, Ludan Knezevich, Nikola Mandicho,
Mile Filipovich, Stevo Beslach, Dane Knezevich, Lazo Stevich, Ilija
Medich, Mile Drca, Ilija Razov, Gavro Vuksa, Djuro Drca, Nikola Kantar,
Jovan Drca, Milas Prica, Jovan Beslach, Spasenuje Vuksa, Jovo Prica,
Nikola Milanovich, Nikola Tezich, David Mandich, Dane Voynovich, Djuro
Gvozdenovich, and Rajko Vojnovich.
Adjoining the Church was our Serbian National Hall, a separate building
that was erected in 1927. Novica Minich was President of the
parish at that time and Rade R. Medich was Chairman of the Building
Committee. In 1940, a home was purchased next to the hall for our
Priest and his family.
In 1950, under the direction of Rev. Fr. Dushan Klipa, our priest and
spiritual advisor, a Church School (for our children) was formed with
Mrs. Michael (Dorothy) Delich acting as the first Superintendent. In
the advancing years, an "Altar Boys Society" was formed under the
Supervision of Mrs. Michael (Lillian) Medich.
It was in June of 1955 that Rev. Fr. Dushan Klipa turned over our
parish to Rev. Fr. Djuro Vuckovich. In 1960, the congregation purchased
approximately 22 acres of land with plans to build a future new church.
Our land was dedicated with Glisho Rapaich of Gary, Indiana, being Kum
for the ceremony. Then in 1962, the Keria Trail Hall was built and
dedicated with Mane Medich serving as Kum. Plans
began to materialize for the building of a new Church. Our men worked
shoulder to shoulder -
grounds planting trees and Fr. Djuro was right there, with them,
wielding a shovel.
Some years later, Fr. Djuro found it necessary to retire because of ill
health and Rev. Fr. Lazar Kostur joined our parish for a short time..
When Fr. Kostur left, Rev. Fr. Vlado Suka became our parish priest. Fr.
Suka always welcomed Fr. Djuro's assistance as health permitted.
On August 28, 1977, in the very early hours of the morning, our
parishioners suffered a deep and devastating loss when our beloved
church on Kendall street burned to the ground. The late Proto Djuro
(who, at the time, lived across the street), in desperation attempted
to enter the burning building to save our Holy Icons but was subdued by
the firefighters. It was truly an unfortunate and helpless feeling as
parishioners gathered in disbelief but could only watch this tragedy
unfold. Many tears were shed on that infamous day. Very few articles
were rescued from the burning Church except for the Baptismal Font,
which was refurbished and remains as a sad reminder in our Church on
Keria Trail and is used in all christenings to this day.
Unfortunately, our parishioners suffered still another loss when on
August 28, 1978, our beloved and respected Rev. Fr. Djuro Vuckovich
one year to date from the demise of our Kendall Street Church. An
honorable man and Priest past into history but left us with many
Time was of the essence and Rev. Fr. Vlado Suka immediately took the
lead in investigating permits, etc., for the building of a new Church
on our 22 acres on Keria Trail. Fr. Suka sought the help
and advice of other Church prelates as well. Under Fr. Suka's
direction, along with the executive Board, a Building Committee was
established under the chairmanship of Steve Kosanovich. Even while
plans were being formed by the Building Committee, the question of
finances needed to be addressed. It was then that Mile Polovina chaired
a committee to seek financial help, and in no time, typists gather at
the old hall with their typewriters clicking away writing letters to
all churches and organizations seeking monetary help. Some of our
members even went on foot to local area businesses. We found people to
be very sympathetic and generous to our cause.
Undaunted by this enormous project, Fr. Suka and our parishioners were
fueled by the love for our Holy Orthodox Faith. Together they forged
ahead with determination and courage and a cornerstone was laid in
September 11, 1978. Our Church was completed in 1979 followed by the
Consecration ceremonies in September of 1979. In the meantime, work was
already in progress on the new Parish Home where Fr. Suka, Popadija
Jelena and family eventually were its first occupants.
We, the sons, daughters and grandchildren of our pioneers have been
entrusted, by the grace of God, to serve, protect and honor our Holy
Orthodox Faith and its Church just as our forefathers did before us. We
cannot, must not, will not break this trust. It literally belongs to
all of us - treasure it!