New faces at the Catholic Chancery

Appeal leads to creation of Family Life Office

Janeé Bernal

By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic

In the office belonging to Janeé Bernal at the Catholic Chancery in Dodge City, there is a small shelf with few items dedicated to the Beatles.

    With a son named JohnPaul, it’s not uncommon for Bernal, director of the new Diocesan Office of Matrimony, Family Life and Natural Family Planning, to feel the need to mention that, no, he was not named after two of the Fab Four.

“I’m a huge fan of the Beatles,” Bernal admits with a wide smile. “But JohnPaul was named after the pope.”

As if to add his own personal testimony, there is a life-sized cutout of John Paul II standing in a corner of her office.

Bernal, who resides with her husband and three children in Garden City, was hired as a direct result of the generosity of local Catholics through the Vibrant Ministries – Uniting Our Church Appeal. The Most Rev. John B. Brungardt has long felt the need for an office dedicated to the family, and through the kindness of local Catholics, he is seeing it come to fruition.

“We are blessed to have Janeé as director of this important office,” Bishop Brungardt said. “She has the teaching skills, the love of the Lord, and a heart for family life that will serve the diocese well.”

The bishop has dedicated this first year of Bernal’s employment as a year of self-formation, she explained.

“I’ll begin by learning how to serve in this ministry by completing pastoral ministry classes and attending numerous conferences and training sessions.”

It’s a tall order. She’ll be serving in a capacity that would typically utilize a separate person for each ministry. And this is why Bernal will be relying on the kindness – and stewardship -- of strangers.

“The vision is that I will oversee these components -- Matrimony, Family Life and Natural Family Planning,” Bernal explained. “Eventually, I’ll be meeting with the parishes to learn what their specific needs are.  Then I’ll be seeking out and recruiting mentor couples for Natural Family Planning and marriage preparation to teach at their parish.

“Pope Francis said that family is key to re-invigorating our Church,” Bernal added. “We must put the emphasis on the family again. That’s the only way to put families in the pews -- to make sure families are intact. I’ll be finding out what the needs are in the parishes and finding resources to strengthen family life.”

Prior to her hiring, she served for six years as Assistant Professor of Education at the Newman University Western Kansas Outreach Center in Dodge City. Before that, she taught for eight years in public education in Garden City.

She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from K-State, and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis on ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Fort Hays State University.

It was while attending diocesan youth events such as TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) and high school mission trips that she met her future husband, Jesse, now a Garden City high school teacher.

“I credit [former Diocesan Youth Director] Steve Polley and LeaAnn Scott for us meeting,” she said.

Janeé and Jesse have three children, JohnPaul, 7, Gabriella, 4, both of whom attend St. Dominic School, and Jude, 1. Bernal’s mother and father reside in Great Bend, and she has extended family in Leoti and Marienthal.

She learned about the chancery position after a conversation with her doctor, who lamented the limited availability of NFP programs. He encouraged her to seek ways that she might be of service. This was the same day that the job listing was placed on the diocesan website.

It was a whirlwind experience. After being hired, she was sent to the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers in Lafayette, La. There she learned that “there are so many people in other dioceses who are wanting and willing to help. It was so powerful.”

And she learned a second powerful lesson that she will take with her throughout her ministry:

“Two of the keynote speakers, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak, said that every single day, every single family should work, play, talk and pray together. It’s so simple. It will strengthen your family.

“I have a teacher’s heart, but a heart for ministry, as well,” Bernal concluded. “So, this is a good mix. I feel very honored to be able to fill this office at the diocesan level after so many years of not having anyone dedicated to this ministry full-time.”