Leaven Blog

The tale of Father Livojevich and the big toe

by Joe Bollig

There are a lot of great little stories out there, but they don’t always make it into the columns of The Leaven.

Sometimes they’re left out because of space limitations, or because they’re not central to the main point story, or the facts of the situation can’t be sorted out.

Such was the case when I interviewed Father Ron Livojevich about the 50thanniversary celebration of the founding of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park.

Father Livojevich is always a lot of fun to listen to, maybe because of his sense of humor and ability to spin a tale — perhaps gained from his days as a U.S. Navy Chaplain.

Holy Cross, where he served as a newly ordained associate pastor from July 1970 to July 1973, was his first parish.  A first parish is like a first love, he said. He’ll always love Holy Cross.

One of his interesting experiences there was anointing a parishioner who suffered a massive heart attack on St. Patrick’s Day in 1973. He was at a party in the parish hall (the basement) when he got the call to hustle down to Shawnee Mission Hospital.

“I went down there,” said Father Livojevich. “I went in [to the emergency room] and there were doctors and nurses all around him. One doctor would holler ‘Stand back!’ and they’d shock him with the paddles. He’d almost jump off the table.

“I couldn’t get in to anoint him. The only thing I could see sticking out of that pile of people was his big foot with his big toe, so I anointed his big toe.”

Despite the medical personnel’s vigorous efforts, nothing seemed to work. Father Livojevich went out into the waiting room to wait with the man’s wife.

“Within about 10 minutes the doctor came out,” said Father Livojevich. “He looked like he was walking in a daze. He came over and shook my hand. He said, ‘Your medicine is better than mine,’ and he walked off.

“I said, ‘What the heck’s that all about?’” said Father Livojevich.

“I don’t know,” said the man’s wife.

They found out later that the man was well and truly dead when the priest walked into the emergency room. Soon after he administered the anointing of the sick, however, the man suddenly came back to life. Not only that, there was no heart damage. The man lived for another 25 years.

“I thought that was one of the most incredible things I experienced with the sacrament during my first tour,” said Father Livojevich.

From that time on, no matter where the Navy deployed him, Father Livojevich would receive bourbon or rum-soaked Grandma’s Fruitcake in the mail every year from this man.

“It would have a little note that would say, ‘I’m still alive,’” said Father Livojevich. “No matter where I was, here would come Grandma’s Fruitcake. I don’t know how he ever got onto that, because I can’t stand fruitcake.”

Eventually, the man died. Father Livojevich celebrated his funeral Mass and presided at his burial.

“He was a unique fellow,” said the priest. “I loved him dearly.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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  • We knew Father Ron when he was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi TX! Wonderful sense of humor and bowled a mean came. My parents Everett and Pamela Allen loved him dearly. Offering up my Adoration hour for him!

  • What a terrific story. Father Ron and I were friends in our youth. I would like to reconnect with him. Would you please tell me how to get in contact with him. Thank you.

    • Hi Joseph, thank you for your comment! You can call the archdiocese at (913) 721-1570 and they should be able to connect you with Father Ron.

  • Fr Levoyevich married us at MCRD in 1991. We are trying to catch-up with him and Thank him for getting us started in our married life!!

  • Fr Ron and I had a wonderful working relationship when we were both stationed at MCRD Parris Island. He was an outstanding Chaplain mentor to me and delightful companion along the way. We’d swap sea stories and such. He was known as the King of the Treadmill or the Kansas Flash. In other duty stations, I’d call AUTOVON to catch up and share prayer requests. If he was in the office, his phone person would tell him “that woman was on the phone for him.” We have a big laugh over that.

  • Father Ron, a wonderful tale of your priestly powers !! We, the parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul in Seneca love you the same. Thank You for all you do when you come to Seneca to assist Father Arul. My father and mother, Fritz and Rita Holthaus loved your visits to their home when dad was homebound. I heard this numerous times from them, your bringing the Eucharist and praying with them. God Bless you Father Ron for all you do for our archdiocese and may you be given many hearty thoughts of thankfulness by others. You are one fine priest and we love your sermons and tales !!
    Betty Lou and Mike Haug, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca.