This week we welcome our new Pastor, Father Mark Bernhard. Get to know Father Mark by checking out the interview with him below:
Where Are You From?
“My hometown is Elwood, IL. where I grew up on a hog farm started by my grandpa. I have about 60 cousins on my dad’s side who also live near the farm. It was a great blessing to grow up on a farm and develop a hard work ethic, discipline, and a love for God’s creation.”
Do You Have Any Siblings?
“Yes, I have an older brother, a younger sister, and a twin sister. I am a proud uncle of 5 nieces and nephews (the 5th is on the way via my twin sister)."
How Long Have You Been a Priest?
“4 Years. My first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Aurora. During this time, I also served as Chaplain at All Saints Catholic Academy in Naperville. This past year I served as the Parochial Vicar at St. Mary in Mokena.”
What Did You Do Before Becoming a Priest?
“I earned an accounting degree at Olivet Nazarene University.”
Describe Your Journey to Becoming a Priest.
“I’ll give you the short version and leave the longer version for a different setting! I grew up in a Catholic household. My parents would always take my siblings and me to Adoration, and we regularly prayed as a family. Later, my faith was strengthened in college after initially being challenged by my evangelical friends.
"After graduation, I joined the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) as a missionary for two years where I helped college students encounter Jesus Christ and grow as disciples. It was here that I really grew in my faith and saw how the Lord was working through me to evangelize others. I realized I wanted to do ministry for the rest of my life.
"Over time, the Lord implanted the idea of joining the priesthood into my heart. As much as I tried to shake it and run the other way at first, I realized God was calling me to be a priest.”
How Have Your First Four Years of Being a Priest Shaped You? Any Surprises?
“I’m a better man since becoming a priest, especially when it comes to sacrifice. Every vocation requires us to “give of ourselves,” whether you’re married or a priest. Over the past four years, I’ve begun to learn the meaning of those words. I pour my entire self into my vocation, and I feel fully alive, despite all of the difficulties that it brings.
"As a priest, I get to see the tragedy and messiness of humanity every day. I’m able to recognize how this messiness reveals the true beauty of God sending His only son to redeem us by dying on the cross.”
I’ve Heard You Love Sports. How Have Sports Impacted Your Ministry?
“Sports teach us to grow in discipline and strive for excellence. It’s a real virtue-builder. This translates well to our Catholic faith, where we should always strive to improve our relationship with Christ.
"I’ve always used the sports analogy to help evangelize others. When working with college students, I would sometimes challenge them to a basketball game. If they won, I would buy them lunch; if I won, they would have to come to my Bible study. Sports helped me build relationships with others because they saw that, even though I’m a priest, I’m also just a regular guy.”
What is Your Favorite Sports Team?
“The Chicago Cubs. I bleed Cubbie Blue. Overall, though, I like all Chicago teams (except the White Sox!)”
Had You Heard of Notre Dame Church Before?
“Yes, when I was in the seminary, I started a sports ministry where seminarians would visit Catholic schools in the diocese and play the Eighth-Grade boys’ basketball teams. We played Notre Dame School 6 to 7 years ago.”
Will Parishioners See You Around Town? Where Do You Like to Eat?
“I love walking and running outside, so I’m sure parishioners will see me around town. I don’t eat out at restaurants much. Usually, I’ll cook a whole batch of chicken or something else at one time and freeze it so I have quick meals during the week.”
Anything Else You Would Like The People of Notre Dame to Know?
"Please know that I’m excited and honored to be your pastor! I look forward to getting to know you over the next few months—please come up and introduce yourself. Know that I will pray for you every day and will work tirelessly to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ."