GREEN BAY — John Bundra had a good reason not to pursue the call to the diaconate. He travels 100,000 miles a year across the U.S. and into Canada for business. He thought that he was too busy.
The Holy Spirit had other plans.
Bundra first explored the diaconate more than six years ago following a business trip. During the flight home, accompanied by his wife, Debi, he assisted a co-worker’s wife who is a nervous flyer. The woman, whose husband had departed for a meeting on a different flight, asked Bundra if he ever thought about becoming a deacon. “You ought to consider it,” she said, “You would make a good one.”
“I don’t know what she was seeing in me,” said Bundra, director of sales for SCA Tissue, based in Neenah. “When we got back home, I looked at Debi and said, ‘I have to look into this.’”
Bundra had considered pursuing the priesthood as a college student at John Carroll University in Cleveland. The call to serve had stuck with him throughout the years. He spoke with Deacon Paul Grimm, director of the diaconate, but didn’t think the class schedule would work.
Four men to be ordained deacons May 10
Bishop David Ricken will ordain four men to the diaconate on May 10, 10 a.m., at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The men include John Bundra, Ernesto Gonzalez, Jr., Mark LeGreve and Mike Zebroski. Each candidate is profiled here.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I decided to put it in the hands of the Holy Spirit,” said Bundra. “Over the past five years, everything was still the same. I was still traveling nationally for sales meetings. One of our daughters lives in Ireland, so we’ve traveled there. My parents died. We’ve had confirmations and weddings, yet I haven’t had one conflict. I haven’t missed a course, class or assignment. I haven’t missed a business meeting. I could not organize this even if I wanted to. It always worked out.”
Bundra credits his parents, the late Joseph and Joan Bundra, for the strong faith example they provided their six children. He grew up a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Chicago. His family moved when he was in eighth grade, so they joined Immaculate Conception Parish in Chicago, where he met Debi coming out of church.
After they got married, the couple moved to the apartment where Bundra grew up, a two-flat owned by his grandparents. He finds humor in the location.
“I sell toilet paper for a living and have for 35 years now,” he said. “The apartment was on the corner of George and Whipple streets in Chicago. George Whipple, of course, was the ‘Please don’t squeeze the Charmin’ guy. There are all these connections in my life. I will be ordained a deacon at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and St. Francis Xavier Church is where I made all the sacraments except marriage.”
Bundra moved to northeast Wisconsin in 1989 while working for Fort Howard Paper Company. His ministry involvement grew over the past 17 years as a member at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay. He and Debi, who have four grown children and four grandchildren, have been longtime choir members. They have also served as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
Ministry in the form of Friday and Sunday services at ManorCare Health Services in Green Bay has been rewarding, said Bundra, who has also served as a lector and as a member of the worship committee. He hopes to continue to provide outreach at the nursing home, hospital and to the homebound following ordination. He will serve as a deacon at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon.
“We’ve moved a few times for my job, so we are familiar with going somewhere new,” he said. “It’s another adventure. We know some families at Nativity. It seems to be a good fit. I look forward to sitting down with Fr. Jack (Harper, pastor) and Deacon Mike Schmidt to discuss what I will be doing. My role is to serve. In addition to helping out with funerals, baptisms and weddings, what are things that I can help reinforce or start? How do we reach out to the community?”
Bundra, who has completed training in Seafarer’s Ministry, also looks forward to preaching opportunities as a deacon.
“My kids would say, ‘Good, Dad, now someone else can listen to your stories,’” he said with a laugh.
Ordination on May 10 will bring together family and friends, including his children and their families, his brothers and sisters, and college roommates.
“That’s the affirmation that it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I thank them for their support.”
His thoughts on that day will likely turn to his parents, he added.
“I can feel them with me through the journey,” he said. “They were probably the biggest influence for me.”