Favorite color? What makes you happy? What are you good at? What is your greatest fear… “Twenty Questions” is a regular feature in which SCJs and those with whom they minister and collaborate share a bit about themselves in an informal Q&A. Participants are given the same list of questions and are invited to answer as many as they would like.
Fr. Chuck Wonch, SCJ, is a member of the Sacred Heart Community at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake; he assists in the Province Vocation Office.
Q: Where were you born and raised? Describe your family.
FR. CHUCK: I call the mountains around Colville, WA, my home. It is a small town in the northeast corner of Washington and has always been centered around the logging, farming and ranching industries. There are five children in our family and I am the middle child with an older sister and brother, and a younger sister and brother. Mother was a housewife and father was a logger but also worked in the saw mills and did some road construction work. Mom and Dad worked very hard to make sure we always had the necessities of life – food, clothing, and shelter – but especially made sure that there was a lot of love in our home and lives. It was Mother’s joy to make sure that we always attended church and read from the Bible and said our prayers.
Q: What is your favorite book or movie?
FR. CHUCK: Around the World in 80 Days – both the book and the movie.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world post-pandemic – without concern about the expense – where would you go and why?
FR. CHUCK: I would love to go to Indonesia; I have been in contact with so many people from Indonesia through Facebook and through the SCJs whom I have met through meetings or through their studying here. I would like to go there and get to know each of them, gather them all together and have a wonderful meal together.
Q: What are you good at?
FR. CHUCK: I love to study, read and work on the computer; there is never an end to what one can learn if we just keep looking for more information. I love to grow plants of any and all kinds; a room seems lifeless without plants in every corner.
Q: What is your favorite color?
FR. CHUCK: Green – love to have living plants around. Green is the color of living things for me.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? If so, what are they and how did you get interested in them?
FR. CHUCK: I love to read and study; I have been an avid reader and collector of books since I was very young. I love to grow plants all year round, always have fun seeing a seed that I have gotten from the dining room grow into a beautiful plant.
Q: What is your favorite food?
FR. CHUCK: Pot roast with lots of vegetables cooked in the juices with carrot cake as a dessert.
Q: What is your least favorite chore?
FR. CHUCK: Washing and cleaning the car.
Q: Who — living or deceased — do you most admire and why?
FR. CHUCK: Bishop Fulton Sheen. As a child and young adult I listened to his radio and TV shows and he made faith truly come to life. He did not drive a wedge between denominations but drew all people closer to God with his clear and lively presentations. I have read many of his books published by Paulist Press; these books are always something that keeps leading you deeper into your own faith journey.
Q: What would surprise people to learn about you?
FR. CHUCK: That I am a “second career” priest with two grown children and five grandchildren, and that I graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering focusing on production and labor efficacy from Jackson State University. Also, I worked for 15 years in the Electric Transformer industry and 15 years at a nuclear power plant.
Q: What skill or talent would you like to have that you do not? Why?
FR. CHUCK: I would love to be able to play the piano and sing – I love both but not accomplished in either.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
FR. CHUCK: A worker in the business world – from the third grade on. I focused on business courses as much as possible even taking as many extra courses as possible. Those efforts paid off at every stage of my later life including college, military, work, and being able to accomplish studies for religious life.
Q: What makes you happy?
FR. CHUCK: To be able to help someone when help is needed. To make myself available at any time as much as possible.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
FR. CHUCK: That I will soon not be able to continue being an active priest serving God’s people in some way.
Q: How did you come to know of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) and what interested you about them?
FR. CHUCK: I found the Priests of the Sacred Heart when I was trying to discern what was next in my religious life. For about 12 years, I had been looking at joining the Subiaco Benedictine Abbey in Western Arkansas, but the closer I came to making the final decision to leave everything and go there [with much discussion with the monks there who I often stayed with at the Abbey], I felt more and more that I was being called to external ministry. However, the idea of being a diocesan priest living and ministering alone did not appeal to me. I discussed this with Fr. Frank Corcoran, my parish priest and spiritual director. He simply told me “That if God wanted me to be a priest, I would become a priest.” Later I found a very small three-line classified ad in the back of the Our Sunday Visitor paper that said “Is God calling you to serve His people? If so, contact the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Something hit directly into my heart and I went to ask Fr. Frank if he knew anything about this group. He said sure, some of them were right there in northern Mississippi near Memphis. I wrote to the vocation office and sent them my address and phone number. Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, responded immediately and sent a questionnaire. I had found the proper combination of community and ministry that I was looking for with the SCJs.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Dehonian? If so, what does that mean to you?
FR. CHUCK: To learn about the hopes and dreams and efforts of Fr. Dehon means to open myself to the people of God while also being available to the community. To be a Dehonian is not only to hope for change in this world but to be there to work, live and travel with people to that future. To be a Dehonian is to have learned from my own life journey and to realize that each and every person – rich or poor, dependent or powerful, of whatever background or social standing – these are the people of God and His creation. It is not enough to say I understand if I have never been there and lived through what all those people are facing each day.
Q: What changes, adaptations or insights do you expect to stay with you from the pandemic? In other words, how do you expect to be changed by COVID-19?
FR. CHUCK: Through this time of being shut in by the coronavirus, I have found how important it is to be able to celebrate Mass for the people and to make the sacraments available. Nothing has made me feel more cut off from the world than not being able to do this. I miss being able to teach classes with God’s people – to just sit and talk to them and to hear confessions; to be available to the people.