Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Long-time St. Vincent de Paul volunteer retires – again

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 5, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Bruno Kensok with Blessed Mother 
Teresa of CalcuttaRight: Bruno Kensok traveled to India in 1994 to observe first-hand the interaction of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the poor of that country. She agreed to speak a few words into his tape recorder for the people back home in Spokane. Kensok, a long-time volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, retired this year at the age of 82. (IR file photo)

St. Vincent de Paul was born in France about 1580. The organization that bears his name was started in that country in 1833 by Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

The organization formed in the United States in St. Louis, Mo., in 1845. There are now over 350 councils with 107,000 members. In Washington state there is an archdiocesan council in Seattle, and eight district councils, including one in Spokane.

Bruno Kensok has been a member of Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society for 57 years. He retired as an active volunteer the first part of January but that doesn’t mean he has cut his Vincentian ties completely. He takes his wife, Vi, herself a Vincentian of 30 years, to the Trent store once a week for her two-hour volunteer time.

While he is there, Kensok picks up the prayer requests left by St. Vincent’s clients. These he takes home to type up for the prayer chain he started many years ago. “I mail them out to about 50 people,” he said.

Working at St. Vincent de Paul has been a family affair for Kensok from the beginning. “My dad was a volunteer,” Kensok said. “We went out on house visits to take groceries and clothes and I got so I liked it.” He was 16 then. Kensok’s brother became a Vincentian and Kensok’s children and grandchildren have also worked at the organization. “It’s like a four-generation thing,” he said.

Kensok was the conference president from 1981-1987, visiting parish conferences to boost enthusiasm for Vincentian charitable works and “keep things running smoothly.” Several parishes in the Spokane Diocese have their own local conferences, which do many charitable works.

This is the third retirement for Kensok. At 82 years of age, he decided it was time to finally call it quits. His first retirement was from Interlake, where he worked with people who were profoundly developmentally disabled. His second retirement was from the Spokane Parks Department. He worked with the handicapped at the Parks Department, too, developing programs for them in the areas of music and exercise, including a program he started: square dancing for people in wheelchairs.

What will Kensok do with his free time now? “I guess whatever it is retired people do,” he joked. He wants to spend more time with his wife and children. A son lives at Elk and three daughters live elsewhere in Washington state. There are 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. While the couple does not travel a whole lot, Kensok said, he’d like to visit relatives in North Dakota, where he was born.

Helping the poor at St. Vincent involved many different kinds of jobs for Kensok. He filled food boxes; he visited families by delivering food boxes or furniture; he helped collect food; he unloaded trucks; he worked to raise money for the society – “whatever was needed, that’s what I did.”

The Society plans a banquet-luncheon in early March to honor their indefatiguable, now-retired volunteer.

Even though Kensok may not be doing those kinds of jobs now, he knows the work will continue. He knows well the Scripture passage that states, “The poor you will always have with you” but the way to help is that “we are to share and do our part.” That is what Kensok has tried to do all the years of his membership in the society.

Kensok has done “his part” for other ministries, too: visiting residents in nursing homes and jail inmates to name a couple. In 1992 he was named Spokane County Volunteer of the year.

Underlying all of Kensok’s charitable works is a heart for prayer. A couple of years ago, he started the Blessed Mother Teresa Hour of Prayer, held at St. Anthony Church, 2320 N. Cedar in Spokane. It is held the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. and all interested persons are welcome to attend.

Kensok is devoted to Blessed Mother Teresa. He met her on a 1994 trip to India. The St. Vincent Society sponsored his trip, so that he could see first-hand how the future saint helped the poor.

Kensok said his gift now, and that of his wife, is prayer. The St. Vincent de Paul Society will most likely be foremost on their list of intercessions. “St. Vincent means everything to me and I love it,” he said.

(Persons interested in joining the St. Vincent de Paul Society or in starting a conference can call (509) 534-2824 for more information.)

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