The Reverend Monsignor Anthony Kovacic died Sunday morning, February 8th at Pennybyrn at Maryfield following a period of declining health.
Father Tony, as he was known by his friends, was born January 11, 1920 to Joseph and Neza Vrek Kovacic in the former Eastern European Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in modern-day Slovenia. He was one of seven children all of whom predeceased him.
Monsignor Kovacic expressed a desire to become a priest at a very early age. His vocation was encouraged by his family. After the Nazi’s invaded and took control of his homeland, life became very difficult for the Kovacic family. A few years ago, Monsignor noted that the day the Nazi’s invaded “was the saddest day of my life to see Hitler’s divisions marching in and seeing flags everywhere with the swastika on it.” Pursuing his dream of being a priest became more difficult at this point but with perseverance and the assistance of Pope Pius XII, Father Tony and five other seminarians were rescued from occupied Yugoslavia and brought to Rome to complete their seminary studies. From 1941 until 1949 Father Tony studied in Rome where he was ordained a priest by Pietro Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi at the Seminary Chapel of the Pontifical Urban University in 1947. He earned a doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1949. During his seminary years, he met seminarians from all over the world two Italian priests who would later become Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI respectively.
His priestly work began in the camps for displaced persons near Salerno, Italy where he served as chaplain from 1949-1951. On July 5, 1951 he came to the United States aboard the USS General Sturgis and began his service as a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh which at that time encompassed all of North Carolina except the Abbey Nullius of Belmont. He served in various assignments within the Diocese of Raleigh and was serving as pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albemarle, North Carolina when the Diocese of Charlotte was created by Pope Paul VI in 1972.
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During his years of service in the Diocese of Charlotte, he served as pastor of St. Ann’s in Charlotte (1973-1979); Sacred Heart in Salisbury and VA Chaplain (1979-1982); St. Leo’s in Winston-Salem (1982-1985); and Queen of the Apostles in Belmont (1985-1994). In addition to his parish work Father Tony, who was names a prelate of honor by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II on December 29, 1989, was the founding director of the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Diocese of Charlotte from 1980 until 1996 and the Director of the Propagation of the Faith in the Diocese until 2009 when he moved from his apartment in Belmont to Pennybyrn at Maryfield in High Point North Carolina, a retirement community sponsored by the Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.
Monsignor Kovacic is survived by his niece and nephew, Ana and Rajko Kovacic, both of Slovenia. A prayer vigil for the deceased will be begin at 6:30 p.m. at Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont, North Carolina on Wednesday, February 11th.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. at Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont, North Carolina on Thursday, February 12th with the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, presiding.
Committal will take place at Monsignor Kovacic’s home parish, St. Lawrence of Brežic in Slovenia.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the building fund at Queen of the Apostles in Belmont, the Seminarian Fund of the Diocese of Charlotte or Pennybyrn at Maryfield.
Arrangements are entrusted with McLean Funeral Directors, Belmont.