Fr. John Brungardt, 52, will become the new bishop of Dodge City in Kansas, succeeding Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore as he retires at age 68.
The bishop-elect is a Kansas native, currently serving as chancellor of the Diocese of Wichita and the pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist parish in the town of St. Mark, Kansas. He received ordination as a priest at age 40, a significant change from his previous career as a science teacher at a Catholic high school.
In a recent interview, the bishop-elect described his rural upbringing and faith formation in a strongly Catholic family, as well as the “spiritual re-awakening” he later experienced after his mother's death in 1990.
That loss led the professional educator into a life of intensified faith, with “more devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary, prayer and daily Mass” – all of which eventually led him to discuss his future plans and possible calling with local clergy.
After studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, Fr. Brungardt became a priest in 1998. Once ordained, he continued his long-running involvement in pro-life work, which had initially helped him to discover his vocation while still a layman. He also learned Spanish, the first language of many of the faithful he will be leading in the diocese of Dodge City.
Bishop-elect Brungardt described his new calling as an “extraordinary and overwhelming” one, but said he was “happy to serve the Lord and the Holy Father and the good people of the Diocese of Dodge City as their bishop.”
The new bishop's predecessor, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore, received permission to retire from Pope Benedict XVI, in accordance with a provision of canon law that encourages a diocesan bishop to step down if illness or another serious reason prevents him from fulfilling his duties.
In a message announcing his retirement, Bishop Gilmore said the diocese “needed fresh eyes, fresh hands, and a fresh heart.”