Monsignor John Bendik is the pastor of St. John Parish Community of Pittston. Bendik, 70, attended West Side Central Catholic High School and graduated from St. Meinrad College in Indiana with a degree in philosophy. He received his master’s in divinity from the St. Meinrad School of Theology. He has a brother, Frank, and sisters, Dorothy, Helenanne and Maryrose. He lives in Pittston.
You recently celebrated the 47th anniversary of your ordination in May. What did that mean to you? “It was and is the proudest moment of my life. All of my last 45 years have been the proudest moments in my life. Every moment of my blessed life has been special.”
Forty-seven years ago you were ordained. What led you into priesthood? “It started within my family. I was very blessed to have such good parents and a loving family. All of my siblings are generous and reach out to serve others. I went into the seminary in 1959 at St. Meinrad with the intention of studying to be a priest. Intention is different than total commitment. I had done undergraduate work in philosophy so that gave me the opportunity to become a priest in eight years as opposed to 10 years. As I continued studying I became more excited about being a priest and it felt as if the grace of God was leading me to a firm commitment.”
Outside of studying, what were you doing during those eight years in Southern Indiana? “I was a chairman for Cooperative Action for Community Development. I would funnel out tasks with other chairmen to seminarians and they would in turn aid me in helping the poor and tending tIt was an opportunity to help people who may not have been paid attention to. Many times it would be individuals who were without a family. We would bring kids to skating rinks and other fun activities. It really sparked my interest even further in becoming a priest.”
Your caring contributions continued once you were ordained. Where was the next stop? “I was ordained in 1967 and was assigned to St. Matthews in East Stroudsburg. I was there from 1967 to 1981. In 1970 I was assigned full time to be the campus minister at East Stroudsburg University for the United Campus Ministry at the college. That kept me involved in the development of several programs while I was there. I worked with others in serving special needs kids and was active in the Big Brother/Sister program. We once mowed a field with kids from the projects so they could have a field to play ball on. There were “adopt a grandparent” programs in which people were assigned to the elderly, some in nursing homes. I fondly remember my time at East Stroudsburg.
I feel I reached many people. I remember the masses being packed at the campus on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Misericordia was next among my many assignments. “I was chaplain at the university for two years before becoming the director of Campus Ministry in 1984. We did many of the same programs that I was involved with at East Stroudsburg. However, there was one that was very unique. We had a program called Luv-a-nun. Kids were assigned to retired nuns and both the women and the students looked forward to each others company. It was time well spent by all involved.
I spent a decade in Clarks Summit at Our Lady of Snows parish. What were some of your key achievements or memories while you were there? “I was involved with the development of religious education there and later, when the congregation grew, I helped create a new Church of St. Benedict on Newton Ransom Boulevard.”
My final stop is where I currently call home. Some fond memories, achievements and proud moments while I have graced the city of Pittston with charitable contributions and hard work? “There are four unique parishes that we combined back in 2006; St. John the Baptist, St. Casimir’s, St. Joseph’s, and St. John the Evangelist. It has been a privilege serving as pastor to this congregation through the years. In 2007 Seton Catholic High School closed its doors but a new opportunity opened up for the underprivileged the years to follow. In November of 2007 we opened a health clinic where people without insurance could get the care they need. We have helped over 2,500 people with medical issues, including 187 children in our pediatric department, get the attention they so desperately need. We have doctors, social workers, dentists and many volunteers and workers that make our efforts successful with over 5,500 office visits to our medical facilities at the building.”
Things outside of work that I enjoy participating in? “I was an avid racquetball player for over 40 years before some medical issues of my own. I enjoy time with family and friends very much.”
Where do you like to go when with friends or family? “I really enjoy the shore with friends and I used to go to a cabin in Michigan. Locally I like to go with friends to the restaurant Agolino’s.”
What is your favorite music? “I enjoy classical music and Johnny Mathis and the ’50s genre.”
What type of books do you enjoy? “I really like any historical novels.”
Do you have a favorite quote or saying you live by? “Be what you is, because if you be what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you is.