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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Br Rick Bunch, SOLT, Rest in Peace

Early Monday morning, August 20th, Br Richard Bunch, SOLT, died of a cardiac arrest in William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom.  He died at peace with God and man, after having received the last sacraments of confession, holy communion, the anointing of the sick together with the apostolic pardon, and after an afternoon of tea, coffee, and good conversation and laughter at a local restaurant.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, September 4th, at 10am at Virgin Mother of Good Counsel parish with a rosary the night before at 6pm.  He will be buried at nearby Hawkinge Cemetery, followed by a tribute and meal at the Church Hall.

Here is the audio of a conversation he had with Fr Sam Medley, SOLT, hours before he died, where he speaks of the Christian meaning and value of the mystery of suffering and how he would like to have this present at his funeral mass.

If you have trouble listening to this, click here.

Br Richard Bunch, SOLT, was born on June 12, 1954 in Missouri as an Orthodox Jew.  He and his parents lived in Manhattan, New York City, where he attended Hebrew school.  One day on the way home from school he stopped in a big beautiful building.  There he discovered an amazing peace which he couldn't describe, and it was only later that he found out that it was St Patrick's Cathedral and the peace was the divine presence of our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  His parents died in when he was only 13.

After graduating in Harvard in 1973 with a degree in International Relations and Psychology, he joined the navy for a 4 year tour.  After encountering the great love of Jesus Christ, he became Catholic and joined the Redemptorists, making his final vows in 1981.  He became a clinical psychologist, getting a doctorate from St Louis University and doing counseling at the Chicago Institute of Professional Psychology and teaching at the University of Chicago.

Although he was doing great work helping people bring their hurts and pains to God, Our Lady had different plans for him.  He discerned a call to join the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in 1992.  He was then sent to Thailand, where he founded Alden House, an NGO that served those infected with HIV.  At its peak the Alden House project ran 6 homes for the HIV infected.  He said about the next twenty years in Thailand, that it was God's greatest gift to him.  There he discovered Jesus Christ in the suffering and the dying.

He baptized thousands, rescuing women from cages, children from brothels, and becoming an expert in social reform.  He was a consultant to the King of Thailand, met Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, whom he described as, "the most informed person he had ever met about HIV and social reform needed to end it."  He also met Blessed Pope John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and many other holy men and women working for the poor and suffering in Thailand.  At one time, the apostolic pronuncio of Thailand had tried to convince him to become a bishop, but he refused any nomination of it.  "I am not called to be a priest, but a brother to all in Jesus Christ."

This may sound like a lot of accomplishments but perhaps his greatest achievements were in the way in loved those that he served.  He adopted two children and raised them, but had many other spiritual children all over the world.  He was known for his wit and quick sense of humor, but also his love of music, taste in fashion, films, and food.

In the year 2000 he suffered a massive heart attack and lived the rest of his days with 81% of his heart in myopic infarction (death of heart tissue).  His cardiologist comically referred to him as "the walking dead."  He also suffered from diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and severe neuropathy.

Br Rick was assigned to the parish of the Virgin Mother of Good counsel in Hythe, Kent, UK, with the final mission to die.  A month after he arrived he said, "I haven't come here to die.  I have come to live!"  We will mightily miss you Br Rick!