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Missionary priest quietly devoted life to forming others

 
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Divine Word Father Walter Bunofsky, 87, who served as a chaplain, pastor and seminary formator, died Dec. 29, at Techny, Ill.

“Walter had a gift for listening to others,” said Divine Word Father Michael Hutchins, who served as president of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, during many of the years that Father Bunofsky was stationed there. “With kindness and grace, he gave guidance to those who approached him for spiritual direction. He gave his all when helping people solve day-to-day problems in their lives. Students cherished him as a mentor.”

Born in 1931 in Struthers, Ohio, he was the second of Michael and Mary (nee Smrek) Bunofsky’s three children. He professed religious vows in 1952 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1960.

For the first nine years of his priesthood, he served as a vocation director, journeying with young men as they discerned God’s will for their lives. In 1969, he asked for an opportunity to work in African-American ministry and was assigned to St. Anselm parish on the southside of Chicago. He later served St. Nicholas parish in St. Louis and as chaplain of the Holy Spirit Adorations Sisters, the contemplative religious order founded by St. Arnold Janssen.

In 1994, he began a 21-year tenure at Divine Word College at Epworth, Iowa. During those decades, he served in grant development, formation and spiritual direction. Father Bunofsky also enjoyed simple, quiet pleasures, such as playing clarinet and guitar, writing poetry and gardening.

He pursued different types of creative endeavors. Whether his medium was wood or words, Father Bunofsky infused art with inspiration that he received from expansive reading—from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” to the Scriptures.

He left the world artwork by which to remember him. An accomplished woodcarver, he donated “Anna,” a model of a three-mast Yankee clipper crafted with redwood and basswood, to the Divine Word College library. He also wrote a booklet called “The Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Ministry” to encourage Eucharistic adoration. In 2015, he moved to Techny in retirement but continued to write poetry.

He is survived by two sisters, Florence Garcher and Elaine Mureko.

Father Bunofsky’s wake was held on Jan. 3 in the chapel of the Divine Word Residence, followed by his funeral Mass. He was buried in St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

Memorial donations can be made in the name of Father Bunofsky for the care of elderly and infirmed missionaries and sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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