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Pro-life champion, missionary, pastor served the poor in Chicago and the Philippines

 
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Father Michael Bonner SVD, a missionary in the Philippines and the United States, died at Techny on Feb. 23 at the age of 80.

Father Bonner, who championed the pro-life cause, served as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago for a quarter of a century. Born and raised in Chicago, he was the second of Patrick and Ann Mary (nee Philbin) Bonner’s three sons.

As a child, he attended St. Francis de Sales grammar school on the city’s Southside. In 1953 after two years at Mendel Catholic High School, the young Michael Bonner transferred to the Divine Word Brothers’ Candidate School at Techny.

Within a year, he decided to study for the priesthood. One of his early ministries became a sign of things to come. As a seminarian, he taught seventh grade religion at St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling, Ill.

Following his profession of vows in 1957 and ordination in 1966, Father Bonner left for his first assignment in the Philippines. For 25 years, he worked as a parish priest and director of high schools in Abra, Cagay and Bangued. At one assignment, he served a parish that encompassed 26 barrios with 13 chapels. In the Springtime, he often celebrated First Communion for more than 100 communicants.

During his time in the Philippines, Father Bonner was director of St. John High School in San Juan, Abra; director of Divine Word College in Bangued, Abra; chairman of the Abra Catholic Rhythm Clinic; a member of the Priests’ Senate; and chairman of the Diocesan Clergy monthly meeting. In addition, he assisted the staff at the cathedral on Sundays.

In 1991, Father Bonner returned to the United States to become pastor of St. Benedict the African parish in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood until 1994 when he was assigned to St. Bronislava, a parish in the South Chicago neighborhood that predominantly served families of African American, Hispanic, Haitian and Polish descent. In 2004, he was installed as pastor of St. Joseph the Worker parish in Wheeling, Ill., where he served until he retired in 2016.

Father Bonner held a master’s degree in Guidance and Counselling from University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines.

He is survived by two brothers, James and John Bonner.

Two funeral Masses were held for Father Bonner. The first took place at the Divine Word Residence at Techny on Feb. 27; the second at St. Joseph the Worker on Feb. 28. He was buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

Memorial donations can be made in the name of Father Bonner in lieu of flowers. They may be made 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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