After 52 years of service as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, missionary, and chaplain, 78-year-old Branislav “Branko” Dedic is often asked, “Why haven’t you retired?”
“What I want to say is that I am so scared of retirement because I feel so blessed and called by God to do what I am doing and I cannot imagine not being active,” replied Dedic, chaplain at AdventHealth St. Thomas Hospice in Hinsdale, Illinois, United States.
Dedic grew up in an Adventist family in former communist Yugoslavia and was inspired by his father and his uncle, both Adventist pastors, to pursue a life of service in the Adventist church. “My father was a church leader who fought the communist regime for religious liberty,” he said.
After completing seminary studies, Dedic served as a pastor in Yugoslavia and later as a missionary in Cameroon in Central Africa, where he worked as a school administrator and secretary/treasurer of the local Adventist conference in Yaoundé, the nation’s capital.
“It was the best life experience, because every single day you help somebody,” he said. “At the end of the day you just say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to help people who are suffering.’” The work was often physically and emotionally demanding, but very rewarding. That is why my heart is there forever,” said Dedic, who has asked his family to send his ashes to Cameroon after he dies.
In 1987, he moved to the U.S., where he was named pastor of a Yugoslavian Adventist Church in Chicago, Illinois. For 14 years, Dedic oversaw a significant increase in church membership under his leadership.
By 2001, Dedic was ready for a new role in the church, and with encouragement from the Illinois Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, he assumed his current position as AdventHealth St. Thomas Hospice’s only chaplain. In this role, Dedic brings spiritual comfort to hospice patients and their families, in their homes and in hospitals and nursing homes. He works full-time from Monday through Friday and often visits patients and their families or officiates at patients’ funerals on weekends.
Just as Jesus used parables to instruct and to comfort people, Dedic uses spiritual stories to bring solace to those he serves. “These stories often open doors for me to continue my visits,” he said.
“Many families, after a patient dies, send me a note saying, ‘Thank you for bringing some sunshine to each visit during a time of clouds and storms in our life,’’’ he said. Those same families often ask him to officiate at a loved one’s funeral service.
Though the work can take an emotional toll, Dedic still finds it very rewarding. “You are blessed by God to provide your shoulder to patients and their families during the worst time in their lives.”
That’s why it’s hard for him to contemplate retirement. “My motivation every day is to go and be with patients and their families, and to do my best,” he shared. “I truly believe that this is the greatest blessing that God ever gave me.”