Father Ronald E. Bonneau, advocate for justice and family man

Father Ronald E. Bonneau, C.Ss.R., of the St. Mary’s community, Annapolis, Maryland, died on November 9, 2021, following extended struggles with bladder cancer.  In early September, Father Bonneau celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood in Annapolis at St. John Neumann, St. Mary’s Parish, with confreres from several Redemptorist communities and parishioners from St. Mary’s. Family members and friends also joined him to mark the occasion. It was a joyful celebration that touched his heart and brought him great happiness and peace. 

He loved his family and friends, near and far, and will be remembered for his booming voice, his penchant for bursting into song for no reason other than to sing, for his love of learning and his deep faith, for his interest in travel to familiar and unfamiliar places, and for his loyalty to all those he loved. 

Father Bonneau is survived by his sisters, Sister Claire Bonneau, SSND, Baltimore, MD; Jeanne Kennedy, Williston, VT; Mary Bonneau, South Burlington VT; Martha Bonneau and Mary Ladabouche, Fairfield, VT; and Helen-Anne Cafferty, Essex VT. He is also survived by nieces and nephews Michael and Patrick Kennedy; Lisa McKenney and daughter Madison; Michelle and Paul Tesori and daughter Alexis, son Isaiah; Mary-Beth and Aaron Rose and daughter Arabella; Colleen Robie and daughters Naleen and Selena; Elizabeth and Richard Rodriguez and daughter Sophia; Eddie and Allie Cafferty and daughters Kendall and Abigail; and Susan and Josh Couture and daughters Avery, Harper, and Cora. 

Father Bonneau is also survived by his many Redemptorist confreres, including Father James Gilmour, C.Ss.R., Brooklyn, NY; Father Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R.; Pastor of St. Mary’s,   Annapolis where Father Bonneau was stationed at the time of his death; and his seminary classmates Father Francis Gargani, C.Ss.R.; Father Norman Bennett, C.Ss.R.; Father Charles MacDonald, C.Ss.R.; and Father Manuel Rodriguez

Father Bonneau was predeceased by his Bonneau and Jette grandparents; his parents, Edward, and Helen Bonneau; his nephew, Matthew Kennedy; and numerous Jette and Bonneau aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

Born on December 12, 1944, Lebanon, New Hampshire, he was the only son of Edward and Helen (Jette) Bonneau, though he grew up with five sisters. In 1945, his family moved to Bradford, Vermont, where he attended public schools in Bradford and graduated from Bradford Academy before entering St. Mary’s Minor Seminary, North East, Pennsylvania in 1962. Father Bonneau’s further seminarian studies included time at St. Mary’s, Ilchester, Maryland; St. Alphonsus College, Suffield Connecticut, and Mt. St. Alphonsus Seminary, Esopus, New York where he was ordained in 1971.

In 1972, Father Bonneau began his missionary life in Asuncion, Paraguay, where he served until 1996. During those years, he served in communities throughout the country and was assigned to many positions including rector; founder of a novitiate program; head of an institute for formation of religious; seminary director and teacher of music and theology; pastor; vice-provincial consultor; member of the diocesan priests’ senate; and executive secretary of the Office for Ecumenical Affairs for the Paraguayan Bishops Conference. During this period, in the aftermath of the nation’s dictatorship, the churches banded together to influence the writing of a new national constitution. Father Bonneau made a significant contribution to this work, in part because he had been a vocal advocate for justice in the years during the dictatorship.

In 1996, he returned to the United States to be closer to his family. His assignments included pastor at Most Holy Redeemer, New York City followed by pastor at Immaculate Conception, Bronx. In 2009, Father Bonneau, with Father James Gilmour, began a specialized ministry serving the Spanish-speaking communities of the Diocese of Metuchen as co-directors of the Office for Hispanic Ministry which continued until 2012. He was then sent to Toronto, Canada to work as Novice Master and Assistant Novice Master for the North American Conference. In September of 2017, Father Bonneau assumed parochial duties at St. Mary’s Parish, Annapolis, Maryland.

The family of Father Bonneau extends sincere thanks and deep gratitude to Father Pat Woods and the entire community of St. Mary’s Parish; to Father Jim Gilmour; and to family and friends who offered support, kindness, and prayers during the past several weeks. The outpouring of your caring gave our family comfort and respite, and Father Bonneau said he felt surrounded by love.

For those wishing to honor Father Bonneau’s memory, contributions may be made to C.Ss.R., St. Mary’s Rectory, 109 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD, 21401-2599 or School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Mary Lennon, SSND Prov. Treasurer, 6401 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21212. 

Arrangements are provided with care and compassion by John M. Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. 

Submitted by:

Jeanne Kennedy
[email protected]