“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape” (CtC 12).
Our fellow friar, faithful priest of Sacred Heart Province, and former provincial minister
Dismas Bonner OFM
died at 2:00am on Sunday, November 13, 2011, at the age of 82. He was at Loretto Home in the motherhouse of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield, Illinois. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) had so restricted the proper functioning of his lungs that he could only breathe with great difficulty. Dismas (William) was born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, on September 15, 1929, of William L. and Rose E. (nee Orr) Bonner. At the age of 22 – after some time at Purdue University and at the St. Joseph Minor Seminary in Westmont (Oak Brook), Illinois – he entered the novitiate on July 4, 1951. In 1952 he made his simple profession and professed his solemn vows on July 5, 1955. On June 24, 1958, Dismas was ordained a priest by Bishop Henry Pinger OFM. After a year as administrator of St. Bernard Parish in St. Bernard, Nebraska (1959-1960), and after a very short time at Alverna Retreat House in Indianapolis, Dismas headed off to Rome and studied at the Antonianum for a year. In 1961 he returned to Washington, DC, to finish his studies in Canon Law at Catholic University. Wile there he also served as local leader for the friars at Sacred Heart Friary and as assistant chaplain at Walter Reed Hospital. Dismas began his teaching career in Canon Law in 1963 and carried on his professorship for the next 15 years, living at various friaries: St. Joseph’s in Teutopolis (1963-1968), St. Joseph’s at Catholic Theological Union (1968-1972) in Chicago, St. Peter’s in the Loop (1972-1976), and back again at CTU’s St. Joseph Friary (1976-1978). He was appointed general visitor for the Byzantine Custody of St. Mary of the Angels in 1975. On June 20, 1978, Dismas Bonner OFM was elected provincial minister of Sacred Heart Province, following Vitus Duschinsky OFM. He served in this capacity for nine years, and brought the brotherhood to a deeper awareness of and commitment to fraternal life, a variety of ministries, and the exigencies of social justice, human respect, and unity among diversities. In 1987, after his term as provincial minister he took a year’s sabbatical. He based himself at the Holy Land Monastery in Washington, DC. Then in 1988-1989 he lived at Tau House in New Orleans, Louisiana, and worked as a member of the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center Team. From 1989 to earlier in 2011 Dismas lived at St. Germain Friary in Dittmer, Missouri, and carried out a number of important ministries: spiritual director at St. Michael’s Center run by the Servants of the Paraclete, councilor for St. Louis Consultation Center and Behavioral Medicine Institute, retreat master and preacher, three times a visitor general for other OFM Provinces (St. John the Baptist Province in 1989, Christ the King Province in Canada in 1991, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in 1998), and consultant to his own Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart in canonical issues, in procedures and processes for provincial chapters, and in leading the journey into transformative visioning. Three times he served as guardian of his local fraternity in Dittmer. Dismas was truly a wisdom figure for the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), especially in the United States. He was also a man of great humor (who could forget his jokes that made Canon Law come alive?), a person of great compassion, and stalwart champion of the Franciscan life. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a wry smile on his lips. He loved to be with others; he loved to celebrate; he loved to offer another advice and care. May Father Dismas rest in peace! The Funeral Services for Dismas Bonner OFM will take place on Wednesday, November 16, 2011, at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in St. Louis Missouri (3140 Meramec Street, Saint Louis MO 63118- 4399; 314.353.7470). The reception of the body and prayer service with the sharing of memories will begin at nine o’clock in the morning. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated there at 11:00am. A luncheon will follow in the parish center. He will be buried in the Friars’ Section of Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Saint Louis.