Biography of Bishop John B. Brungardt
Ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1998 by Bishop Eugene J. Gerber at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Bishop John Balthasar Brungardt served the Diocese of Wichita for 12 years in a variety of pastoral assignments prior to coming to the Diocese of Dodge City in late 2010. He served as pastor at seven parishes, chaplain and religion teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School from 1998-2001, as director of the diocesan office of Respect Life and Social Justice from 1999-2004, moderator of the diocesan office of Hispanic ministry since 2005, and chancellor of the diocese since 2005.
Bishop Brungardt was born July 10, 1958 in Salina, Kan. to the late Mr. and Mrs. Francis and Virginia (Burton) Brungardt. He received a bachelor’s degree in Physics with a minor in Mathematics in 1980 from Benedictine College, a master’s degree in Physics in 1983 from Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in 1993 from Kansas State University. He completed his seminary formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio in 1998 with a master’s of Divinity and a master of arts in Moral Theology.
Southwest Kansas Register: Bishop Brungardt, John Balthasar is a distinctive name. Is there a story behind it?
Bishop John Balthasar Brungardt: It is a family name - Balthasar is my dad’s middle name, and my grandfather and great-grandfather’s first names. Balthasar is reported to be one of the three magi who visited the Christ Child (Balthasar, Melchior, and Caspar – Google sometimes spells it Gaspar); thus my favorite holyday is Epiphany! Now I come from the east to bring God’s gifts to the good people of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.
SKR: Which St. John is your personal patron saint?
Bishop Brungardt: St. John Bosco of Italy. He was a teacher and priest, who assisted troubled youth to learn about Jesus, to go to school, and to learn a trade. I try to emulate St. John Bosco, as a teacher of the faith, and as a priest, and now as a bishop, to bring the love of God to the faithful.
SKR: You chose Joseph as your confirmation name. Can you share your reasons for selecting that name?
Bishop Brungardt: St. Joseph is a great role model for Catholic boys and men. He was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus, and is an example of courage and chastity for all.
SKR: You were ordained at the age of 40. Can you share something about your belated vocation story? You mentioned that Bishop Paul S. Coakley (now Archbishop of Oklahoma City) was your spiritual director. What impact did he have on your vocation?
Bishop Brungardt: Some call entering the seminary at age 35 a belated vocation; however, it was right on time (God’s time)! I began my adult life as a science and computer teacher for 13 years. Then I had a period of spiritual re-awakening in 1990 after my mother’s death. I began to celebrate daily Mass, had a greater devotion to prayer, and returned to teaching in a Catholic School. I had been asking myself what I wanted in life; then I began to ask what God wanted of me (“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” - 1 Samuel 3:9). Bishop Paul Coakley, then an associate pastor of my parish, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Wichita, would preach beautiful homilies that seem directed at me. He was the first one I spoke to about my vocation, and I asked him about his homilies, and he smiled and said: “The Holy Spirit!” Bishop Coakley opened my eyes to the powerful work of the Lord in my life.
SKR: Was there a particular individual who inspired you to become a priest?
Bishop Brungardt: My parents and family have been an inspiration to me throughout these years. And there are countless bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, and lay people who taught me so much about the love of our Gentle Jesus and His Catholic faith.
SKR: You mentioned that you were at Pontifical College Josephinum at the same time as Father Louis Trong and Father Ted Stoecklein of our diocese. What are some of your fond memories of seminary?
Bishop Brungardt: The Josephinum was a wonderful seminary where I listened to God’s call to the priesthood. It had a great balance in spiritual, academic, pastoral, and human formation. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on liturgy and liturgical music. The Josephinum had liturgies in Spanish every Wednesday; little did I know that Hispanic Ministry would be an important part of my priesthood, and now my episcopal ministry!
SKR: Can you share some specific, pleasant memories of events or moments in your early years of priesthood?
Bishop Brungardt: My first confession was a great gift. Just as the penitent entered the confessional, I said to myself, in fear: “I cannot do this, I cannot do this.” Then the Lord touched me powerfully with His grace, and I said to myself, in peace: “I cannot do this without You, I cannot do this without You.” Jesus said to “be not afraid” (Luke 12:32) many times in the Gospels; let us trust in Him.
My first sacrament as a new deacon was baptizing my nephew Paul. What a joy it was to gather with my family to share God’s love with Paul! As I was pouring the water, my little niece Catherine, a cousin to Paul, said: “Uncle John’s pouring water on that baby’s head!”
SKR: What is your greatest joy of your priestly ministry?
Bishop Brungardt: I love to teach and preach, and to celebrate the sacraments.
SKR: Can you share a word, phrase or an emotion that you uttered or felt the very moment that you were informed of your new appointment? What was the first thing you did after you were given the news?
Bishop Brungardt: I was on the way to a funeral when Archbishop Sambi, the Holy Father’s representative to the United States, called me. I was overwhelmed; I can remember little else. After his call, I just sang the praise and worship song, “Father, I adore You,” over and over. After the funeral, I drove to the chancery in Wichita to write my acceptance letter to Pope Benedict and to speak with Bishop Gilmore. I spent time in prayer, asking God to help me with this great gift.
SKR: Do you have any hobbies? What leisure time activities do you enjoy?
Bishop Brungardt: I like to read, take long walks, and spend time with family and friends,
SKR: At the press conference on December 15, 2010, you announced your episcopal motto: “Filled with Compassion.” Can you share with us how you came to select those words as your motto?
Bishop Brungardt: In the seminary we were introduced to the idea of a “personal vocation.” This is an aspect of the priesthood that expresses a particular calling to the future priest. I discerned this to be the virtue of compassion. The Lord has blessed me with the virtue of compassion throughout my life, and I see it as a particular calling in my priesthood.
My priestly motto was “The compassionate love of Jesus” which was from Psalm 103:4: “The Lord crowns you with love and compassion.” As I discerned my episcopal motto, these ideas came back to me. I woke up one morning with the Prodigal Son story in my head, and remembered that the son’s father was “filled with compassion” from Luke 15:20: “... while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
I ask God to fill me with compassion as I minister with the good people of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City. The Lord will help me each step of the way. Jesus loves us more than we can ask or imagine!