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08.08.2017 | 19:32 | IKA E - 192358/8

Memorial Held for Fra Bonaventura Duda, OFM, at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Zagreb

"He was inspired by St. Francis and was his true disciple." "He was a man of faith and the Church, who contributed much to the Church, the society as a whole, Croatian culture and Croatian science." "He was a man to whom God gave goodness, wisdom, prudence, understanding in dialogue with others, patience that his voice would not remain a cry in the wilderness but that it would knock on the door of the mind and penetrate to the depths of human nature."

Zagreb, (IKA) – On August 7, a memorial was held at the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Zagreb for the late Fra Bonaventura Duda, OFM, who died during the morning hours of August 3 at the age of 93, in his 76th year as a religious and his 68th year as a priest at the Franciscan monastery in Varaždin, where he had spent the last years of his life.
The memorial began with the deceased's favorite song, Will I, Too, Go to Heaven? (Hoću li i ja u raj?), which was sung by Fra Miroslav Petrac, OFM. The moderator, Prof. Dr. Mario Cifrak, OFM, dean of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Zagreb, then greeted those assembled, who filled every seat of the church. In his introductory remarks, he said: "Last month, on July 17, we celebrated Fra Bonaventura's name day together with him, after which he said: 'Until we meet again in heaven!'" Mayor Milan Bandić of Zagreb and Academician Zvonko Kusić, president of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, expressed their condolences.
This was followed by recollections about Fra Bonaventura by his confrères, friends and colleagues: Academician Josip Bratulić; Prof. Dr. Peter Kuzmič, dean of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek; and Dr. Sr. Finka Tomas, representative of the provincial of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. Assist. Prof. Dr. Darko Tepert, OFM, on behalf of the deceased's confrères with whom he lived, spoke about Fra Boneventura's character and works, especially his love for his fellow Franciscans:
"He liked to tell us about his religious life, from those first days when he was a seminarian in Varaždin, the hard years during and after the Second World War, how he spent his years as a theology student at this monastery in Zagreb, and his studies in Rome, where he particularly credited his spiritual and religious growth to Fra Aleksa Benigar, whose beatification he fervently supported. His work among his brothers during and immediately after the Second Vatican Council was particularly noteworthy. In the spirit of the Council, he supported liturgical renewal but also the renewal of religious life and the overall life of the Church. However, this was not motivated by revolutionary zeal, which would have been contrary to his character and spirituality, but by the zeal of his devotion and obedience to Christ and the Church. From those years, as well as later, it is impossible to forget his great friendship with Fra Tomislav Šagi-Bunić. An outstanding fruit of his efforts for renewal is his work on the new Croatian translation of the Holy Scriptures. It can be said that he was the spiritus movens of that translation. The two rooms on the third floor of our monastery, where Fra Bonaventura and Fra Jerko Fućak used to live, were also the center of our monastery life. If Fra Bonaventura had not been a man with a receptive attitude, a man of dialogue and a man whose heart was open to all, it would be difficult to imagine the collaborations among this most diverse group of people—biblical scholars, librarians, writers and linguists—whose worldviews differed significantly. During the ferment of the post-Conciliar period, although Fra Bonaventura was averse to conflict, he knew how to support what he thought was important, even if he had to suffer for it. When the opportunity arose, he did not hesitate to appear on radio and television, spreading the good news, especially with his big smile. During the Homeland War, together with Fra Zvjezdan and other brothers from this monastery, he made this church an oasis of prayer and would interpret afflictions in the light of the gospel.
"For us, he was always an authority, not only on the Holy Scriptures, although we often consulted him about them, but also on Franciscan and spiritual life. He was the spiritual advisor to many, especially juniors. We loved asking his advice concerning our doubts. All of us particularly respected him as brothers and his opinion was important to us. We also learned from him in our everyday life. When two brothers would express conflicting opinions, Fra Bonaventura would say: 'You are right and you are also right.' He attempted to take the opinions and arguments of each into account but then would add: 'But I'll put it this way…' What he said was always based on reality and practical, as well as enriched by great experience. When he wanted something from a superior, especially from the guardian, and he was usually doing so on behalf of someone else rather than for himself, he always concluded his request with the words: 'Be at peace.' Although he clearly cared, he did not want the other to feel pressured. He treated others with sensitivity, including his brothers. If it sometimes happened that he had inadvertently hurt one of the brothers, when he became aware of it he would return to that brother with tears in his eyes in order to apologize, and would also kiss the brother's hand.
"Fra Bonaventura loved the brothers. Whenever one of us went somewhere to preach, hold a lecture or conduct a retreat, upon his return we joked that he first had to go through an interview. Fra Bonaventura always wanted to know how it was and everything that happened. He sincerely rejoiced in the success of each brother and in recent years his joy brought him to tears. He rejoiced at every new undertaking in the province and every book that a brother published, each of which he read and praised. He also liked our fraternal celebrations, particularly our name days, and was happy to sit at the piano in our dining room and accompany our singing. Then there were real musical fireworks. He particularly loved Christmas, as a true son of St. Francis. We felt this in church, at Masses and in the monastery. During the Christmas season, when we would begin our meals with a Christmas song, Fra Bonaventura never wanted us to stop at just one or two verses. He would always sing some more. And who could forget his explanations of Croatian Christmas songs?
"However, if I have to say how best to imagine Fra Bonaventura, then it would be at this ambo. Many older priests remember how at the faculty he would interpret pericopes, excerpts from the Old Testament used in the liturgy. We, who lived with him in this monastery, and many of us were here as juniors, had the opportunity to listen to him interpret the Word of God in person and learn from him. His interpretation was stimulating, never judgmental, always inspiring enthusiasm for Christ. As seminarians, we observed the many people who came to Mass at eleven o'clock. There were often those who were on the margins of faith, perhaps even atheists, but they found encouragement in his words. Some of them even learned to love Christ.
"Fra Bonaventura knew that the pulpit was not only in the church and was happy to meet with people. After Mass, in the religious education auditorium he liked to call 'our little room,' there were such encounters. He wanted the faithful to remain and would offer them tea and coffee. Then we would help him pour the beverages into plastic cups. Today, we throw out the cups in 'our little room' but Fra Bonaventura would wash them on Sunday afternoons, spreading a towel between his books, and then drying the plastic cups on it. In general, he lived very modestly. His pulpit always extended to pilgrimages. He would go with the faithful to Sljeme and visit various shrines but such pilgrimages always had cultural and historical dimensions. He often preached at Marian shrines, especially Marija Bistrica and Trsat, which he loved very much. The brothers also liked to invite him to preach in our other churches.
"It can be said that in everything he was a true friar minor (little brother), and yet a father to us all. He adored St. Francis and was his true disciple. As St. Francis authorized St. Anthony to teach theology, provided that he did not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, thus Fra Bonaventura, besides his work at the faculty, was always ardent in prayer and piety. He loved Franciscan saints and Franciscan feast days, so it is not surprising that the Lord allowed him to celebrate the feast of St. Mary of the Angels of the Portiuncula one final time in this world. There was much that connected him with this little church in Assisi, which St. Francis loved and venerated. How many times did we hear from Fra Bonaventura the words to the song Will I, Too, Be Going to Heaven? When St. Francis prayed for the famous Portiuncula Indulgence in the church of St. Mary of the Angels, he announced to the citizens of Assisi: 'I want to send all of you to heaven!' I hope that on the day after Portiuncula, that St. Francis also did the same for Fra Bonaventura. After all, on the back wall of the church in Portiuncula is a fresco depicting Christ's death on the cross, with St. Francis embracing the feet of the crucified, not those of Christ, but of the thief on his right side who was being crucified together with Him, the one to whom Christ on the cross had promised: 'Today you will be with me in paradise!'
"Have I already canonized Fra Bonaventura? I am not authorized to do so but that was his style. When he would celebrate a funeral Mass for someone whom he had known, he always spoke so glowingly about the deceased that we brothers would say among ourselves: 'Well, he's canonizing again!' He loved people and could recognize the good in them. Is that not for heaven?" concluded Dr. Tepert.
Speaking about the merits of the distinguished Croatian Franciscan, theologian and biblical scholar, the president of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Academician Zvonko Kusić, said that Fra Bonaventura Duda was a giant of Croatian spirit: "He was a charismatic person, a preacher without peer. Later, as a charismatic person, his mere presence conveyed a message without his saying anything. He combined scientific height, theological depth and Franciscan simplicity and was able to speak in a manner that everyone understood. His simplicity attracted people. He became an icon, an important symbol and message of the Church, both in the former regime that was unfavorably disposed toward the Church and in the period of the independent Republic of Croatia. In all these difficult times, he knew how to approach people and convey his goodness and love to others. Franciscans can be proud of such a great man. He was a man of faith and the Church, who contributed much to the Church, the society as a whole, Croatian culture, Croatian science and the Croatian Academy, for which he merits eternal glory and gratitude," said Academician Kusić.
Academician Josip Bratulić said that Fra Bonaventura was a prophet of gentle words: "He was a fortunate man who was understood by the learned, the less learned and the unsophisticated, in faith, hope and love. He was a man to whom God gave goodness, wisdom, prudence, understanding in dialogue with others, and patience that his voice would not remain a cry in the wilderness but that it would knock on the door of the mind and penetrate to the depths of human nature," added Academician Bratulić. Dean Kuzmič spoke about Fra Bonaventura's ecumenical spirit, and Dr. Sr. Finka Tomas of the order of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross spoke about his connection with this religious community since his childhood.
Members of the Collegium Pro Musica Sacra bid farewell to their ecclesiastical assistant by singing the Lord's Prayer. At the conclusion of the memorial, the Choir of Franciscan Seminarians from Kaptol sang the Canticle of the Creatures.
A letter of condolence sent by Archbishop Josip Cardinal Bozanić of Zagreb to the Provincial of the Croatian Franciscan Province of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Fra Ilija Vrdoljak, contained, among things, the following: "Fra Bonaventura Duda enthralled those with whom he spoke and those who heard him speak with his profound love of God and complete devotion to the Church … As a priest, religious, lecturer, theologian, biblical scholar, professor emeritus of the University of Zagreb, translator, polyglot, writer and poet, catechist and pedagogue, composer, corresponding member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and an ardent preacher of the Word of God, he made an immeasurable contribution to the mission of the Church in Croatia and the world ... Father Bonaventura Duda left many beholden to him, especially his Franciscan Province of SS. Cyril and Methodius and the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb, in which, among other offices, he served as dean. Despite his successes in this world, recognitions and awards, among which the decoration Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, presented to him in 2010 on the occasion of his diamond jubilee as a priest by Pope Benedict XVI, must certainly have been the most precious to him, Fra Bonaventura was distinguished by his Christian simplicity, owing to which the results of his devoted work shall live and bring forth fruit, and it is our task to collect them, preserve them and transmit them as a heritage of commitment."
Fra Bonaventura Duda was buried on August 8 in the Franciscan tomb at the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb.

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