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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Matthew A. Rarey | author
Jun 02, 2012
Filed under Chaplains

Chaplain won’t let cancer keep him down

Des Moines chaplain Monsignor Frank Bognanno not afraid to go to great heights . . .

Monsignor Frank Bognanno

Monsignor Frank Bognanno
Des Moines Chapter

At 72, Monsignor Frank Bognanno continues going onward and upward in life. Former chancellor of the Des Moines diocese, past chairman of the National Association for Catechumenal Ministry and current pastor of Christ the King Parish in Des Moines, he has a rare distinction among clerics, having completed several triathlons. His latest upward challenge has been with the return of a “thankfully minimal form of prostate cancer,” and he expects to be OK. It didn’t hinder him from recently climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to promote cancer research, awareness and prevention.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

When I was in the fifth grade, a priest gave a mission at our parish. He said that some of you boys should think about becoming a priest. I felt he was talking to me. I never got it out of my mind. When I got to high school, I thought maybe I would get married, become a dentist. But no, I felt I should become a priest.

After going to Loras College I went to St. Bernard Seminary, both in Dubuque, Iowa, and was ordained in 1965. That was the same year everything changed in the Church with the Second Vatican Council.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

When I was at St. Augustine Church in Des Moines, one of our parishioners, Bob Galligan, told me about Legatus and Tom Monaghan. Bob introduced us. Several of my parishioners were able to qualify. They started up a chapter and I was its first chaplain, but it went into limbo for about three years.

When it was reignited about eight years ago, another priest was chaplain. Then I became chaplain again, probably around 2006. I like the concept of bringing together leaders to reinforce one another in the faith.

What impact has Legatus had on your diocese?

It’s difficult to gauge the impact because so much of what Legates do, they do in their work lives. I should mention that the current governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, is a former member of Legatus and a good Catholic and very popular. He’s a member of my parish.

We have about 15 member couples, so I’d like to see us move forward with more members. I’d also like to see a stronger emphasis on the New Evangelization, especially through acquainting members with the skills they can use to share the faith with fallen-away Catholics in particular. I’m going give a talk to the chapter about this in September.

You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?

I’m a member of the Rotary Club and also the Iowa Board of Medicine. I’m also involved with Above and Beyond Cancer, an organization meant to show that cancer doesn’t have the last word: You can go up and above yourself. Although I had prostate cancer and it has returned, I just literally went up and above myself with a hiking trip up Mount Kilimanjaro [in January 2012]. I said Mass while going up.

Any lessons you’ve learned as a priest that are especially apt for business leaders?

To obey the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and what one discerns as the will of God in any situation — even if it means moving beyond one’s comfort zone. Following those inspirations with courage and prudence pays huge dividends.

Can you recommend any devotions?

Devotion to The Divine Mercy, which Blessed John Paul II defined as the love of God in the face of weakness and sin. We need to bring the love of Jesus to the weaknesses of our culture, which needs guidance. But guidance can’t be done by reason alone. It needs to be guided by faith as well. Reason guided by faith, done with love, is Divine Mercy coming to meet the challenges of our culture.


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