When people would ask our brother friar, Bonaventure Stefun, OFM Cap., how he was doing, he was famous for always responding "Terrific," accompanied by those eyes which told you he would make it be so. Our brother returned to the Lord on March 4, 2017, in Pittsburgh at the age of 88, and we know that it was a 'terrific' experience for him, something he had been waiting and hoping for.
Born in New Kensington, PA, on September 22, 1928, to John and Anna (Kovolik) Stefun, he was given the name "Joseph" at his baptism. One of nine Stefun children, he was to be the last surviving sibling. Preceding him in death were his sisters Anna, Barbara (Stanley), Mary (Schuler) and Elizabeth (Reedy); and his brothers Andrew, John, George and Raymond. Numerous nephews and nieces mourn his passing among whom is his nephew and fellow Capuchin friar Emett Schuler, OFM Cap., of our Capuchin College fraternity in Washington, DC.
After completing his primary education at St. Joseph Catholic School in New Kensington, Joseph Schuler enrolled at St. Fidelis Seminary in 1944. He was given the name "Bonaventure" when he was invested in the Capuchin habit in 1950, professing his first vows as a Capuchin Franciscan on July 14, 1951. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 9, 1956, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, subsequently finishing theological studies and taking classes in journalism and public speaking at the nearby Catholic University of America.
In 1958 he attended "Carnegie Tech" in Pittsburgh, PA, for further studies in journalism. With that academic background, he founded and produced Capuchin Challenge, a periodical featuring aspects of Capuchin life and ministry in the Province of St. Augustine and its missions in Puerto Rico and Papua New Guinea. He was editor of the publication from 1960 to 1970.
From 1971 to 1977 his attention turned to pastoral ministry as he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Dover, OH. It was following that assignment that Bonaventure was appointed the Spiritual Assistant to the Order of Secular Franciscans, thus embarking on a career of itinerant preaching where he was in great demand as a director of retreats and recollections days. He believed in preaching a genuine word, reflecting Francis of Assisi's fundamental understanding of the Goodness and Peace of God. He was a sought-after counselor and guide, and with his bold honesty and sincere kindness, he freed many men and women to know their own goodness in God's grace.
From 1990 to 2001 Bonaventure served as co-chaplain at St. Francis Medical Center in Pittsburgh. Then, in semi-retirement in his early 70s, he resumed preaching ministry and provided sacramental assistance at various parishes in the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg, PA. For a brief time (2005 to 2009), he was asked to join the Capuchin fraternity which served the Parish of St. Clare of Assisi in Clairton, PA, where he served as as a part-time, senior priest.
It was in 2009 when Bonaventure moved to St. Augustine Friary, where he remained for almost seven years until increasing blindness and health issues forced his move to Vincentian Home in Allison Park, PA, in late 2016.
"Bonny," as most friars called him, was always ready to lend an editing hand for publications of all sorts. He had a great respect for the written word. A prolific reader and author until his sight began to fail, he avidly read books across a wide spectrum of interests, a true 'renaissance' man. He wrote thousands of poems and shared them generously, many of which were found on our Capuchin website as his Inspirations. He was happy to have the website as a forum where more people would be exposed to his insights. Some would say that they sometimes did not understand all of "Bonny's" insights, but they were moved by his message and love for the simplicity of the Gospel.
Bonaventure also counted himself blessed to have so many devoted and helpful friends. His interest and expertise in psychology and the spiritual life led many to seek him out for spiritual guidance. He loved being in the company of his friends, who were always ready to attend to his needs and lend a hand. Our brother had confidence and surety in his opinions and was rarely reluctant to share them widely. Some were taken aback, at times, by his bluntness or his confidence, but others would come to know the sensitive and caring core that lay behind his strong exterior.
Our confrere was quite aware of his weakening condition and that he would soon be moving on to the completion of his earthly journey. He trusted in God's goodness, and we are just as sure that he is, as ever, 'terrific' in the loving heart he found as his earthly body surrendered to the Lord's embrace.
The body of our brother Bonaventure was received at St. Augustine Friary in Pittsburgh , PA, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, where an evening prayer Vigil was held, celebrating his life and our brotherhood.
The Mass of Christian Burial was prayed on Wednesday, March 8, at St. Augustine Church of Our Lady of the Angels Parish. Our brother Fr. Bob Marva, OFM Cap., Provincial councilor, served as main celebrant, and Bonaventure's nephew, Emett Schuler, OFM Cap., offered the homily. The burial of "Bonny's" remains follwed at the friars' plot of St. Augustine Cemetery in Millvale, PA.
May Bonaventure know eternal rest and joy in Your presence, O Lord.
Donations in honor of our brother Bonaventure and his
service to the Church and our brotherhood may be made
to the Capuchin Friars, 220 37th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15201.