“Regnum Christi is my spiritual home – this is where God led me, where he wants me to be and become part of the story of salvation, and where he wants me to receive his grace and grow to spiritual maturity myself. This is my spiritual family.”
On July 1st of this year, Fr. John Bartunek, LC, joined the North American Territorial Directive College for a three-year term.
Before becoming a Legionary priest, Fr. John received his BA in history from Stanford University in 1990, and worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach, and even spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago. In 1993, however, he heard and followed the call to the priesthood, joining the Legionaries of Christ and becoming ordained a priest ten years later in 2003. Since then, Fr. John has gone on to earn his doctorate in moral theology, has taught at various ecclesiastical institutions at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC.
In his prolific writing apostolate, Fr. John has written and published many retreats, essays, and books, including The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer, Spiritual but not Religious: The Search for Meaning in a Material World, and Inside the Passion, the only authorized, behind-the-scenes explanation of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, for which Fr. John provided on-set spiritual support. Fr. John currently resides in Atlanta, where he serves as the Territorial Vicar on the North American Territorial Council for the Legionaries of Christ.
Fr. John describes his first experience of the Regnum Christi charism as “love at first sight.” After converting to the Catholic Church, Fr. John felt a call to the priesthood, and began spending time with a variety of religious orders to discern where exactly God might be calling him to live out his vocation as a priest. But immediately upon visiting the Legionary novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut, Fr. John knew that the Legionaries of Christ was where God wanted him to be, and that this was to be his spiritual home. It was here where he learned about Regnum Christi as an apostolic body and a larger spiritual family to which he now belonged. And here he found that what he loved most about the Legionaries of Christ – their joyful sense of urgency for the mission, their fidelity to the Church and to the Holy Father, their community spirit, and their very strong Eucharistic and Christ-centered spirituality – were all characteristics that were shared and enriched by the rest of the Regnum Christi members.
But despite this immediate certainty in his vocation to become a Legionary priest, Fr. John’s time of formation was not always easy. He recalls his formation years as a time of spiritual purification and real growth in human maturity, and there were even moments when his spiritual directors suggested that the Legionaries of Christ may not be the path to which God was calling him. “I really had to dig deep and discern, and after a lot of prayer and discernment and discussion and conversation, I was very convinced that this was where God had led me, and this was where God wanted me,” says Fr. John. “When the scandal of the founder broke, I had already been through my own personal crisis which had confirmed my call to holiness and my mission within the Legion, and within Regnum Christi. This is my spiritual home – this is where God led me, where he wants me to be and become part of the story of salvation, and where he wants me to receive his grace and grow to spiritual maturity myself. This is my spiritual family.”
And for Fr. John, being a part of the Regnum Christi family brings with it a great desire to be at the service of Regnum Christi members in their various states of life, and at the service of their shared mission to support the Church and evangelize culture. As a Legionary priest, Fr. John hopes that living out his own brotherhood with Christ and sonship with God in a deep and meaningful way, he is able also to live out that spiritual brotherhood and fatherhood with his spiritual family of Regnum Christi, and to help form integral apostles. And it is his vow of obedience as a Legionary priest that inspires, guides, and sustains him most in this mission of forming and serving apostles. “I love our commitment to integral formation, that balance, that completeness, that ongoing desire to grow and discover and be creative in our formation and our apostolate. And I love being able to serve knowing that I am exactly where God wants me to be in my vow of obedience.”
Fr. John knows that his new role on the North American Territorial Directive College will bring with it plenty of challenges, but he’s looking forward to the opportunities that it provides to serve Regnum Christi and journey towards a vibrant and hope-filled future. “I think there’s a challenge to take what we learned in our renewal and our greater maturity during these last years of self-reflection, and to bring that to bear in such a way that we can rekindle a real, positive, creative, and optimistic sense of mission and commitment in each one of us, finding ways to live a spirit of communion more and more dynamically and fruitfully, to be creative apostolically, and, most importantly, to not be afraid,” says Fr. John. “Regnum Christi is a community of communities of apostles, and each one of us needs to be fearless and joyful apostles who find ways to support the Church, reach new people, and form leaders who can bring the Gospel into the real nodal points of culture in an effective and winsome way. I love discovering the richness of our charism, and being enriched by other members of our spiritual family, and that’s what I’m looking forward to in this new role, to be able to support all of our members so that we can continue to live the renewal, increase our impact, and grow so that we can serve the Church in this new evangelization.”
The Territorial Directive College is the governing body for the Regnum Christi Federation in the territory, and is responsible for implementing the directives and indications given by the General Directive College, ensuring that everyone, especially the Regnum Christi local directors, fulfill their responsibilities according to the statutes; furthering the consolidation, projection, and development of the apostolic activity of Regnum Christi; fostering territorial formation initiatives, especially for formators; promoting pastoral work for vocations; supervising the administration of the Federation; promoting a healthy economy based on solidarity; and fostering vertical and horizontal communication in the territory.