Maintenance director forms bonds with seminarians, priests
By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
DUBUQUE — In his role as the director of maintenance for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Dubuque, Bob Runde has found that one of the most meaningful aspects of his work is the opportunity he has to form friendships with the seminarians who live at the adjoining Vianney House facility.
“I’m constantly walking through that building, and I get to see them, get to say hi to them, and over time, you build that relationship with them,” he said. “It’s nice to get to know who they really are, get to know their interests, what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, and form that connection.”
Runde has been the director of maintenance at the Archdiocese of Dubuque since May 2000. He and his crew — which is comprised of just two other men — are responsible for all the maintenance needs of the Pastoral Center, from the building’s heating and plumbing systems, to lawn care and snow removal, and many other items in between.
As maintenance director, Runde is also responsible for the Vianney House, which is connected to the Pastoral Center site and serves as the residence for the men studying for the priesthood through the St. Pius X Seminary program.
In his daily walk through the Vianney House, Runde checks over the site to make sure everything there appears to be running properly. He also responds to any email requests he has received from the seminarian residents, asking him to fix something that is broken or address another maintenance issue. Runde has even been known to catch and release bats for the seminarians at the Vianney House, since the winged creatures have a tendency to want to make the old building their home too.
With all that time spent at the Vianney House, friendships form. Martin Coolidge, a seminarian from Ames who today is studying at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, is one of the many young men who through the years have become friends with Runde while living at the Vianney House. Coolidge was a resident there from 2015 to 2017.
“The first time I met Bob was during my first semester living at the Vianney House. I had just finished running and Bob was working outside where I stopped to cool off. We introduced ourselves and from then on whenever we saw each other outside or in the Vianney House we would say hello or talk,” Coolidge remembered. “Bob always had a project he was working hard on, but he always had time for me.”
Coolidge said the two shared many conversations while he lived at the Vianney House, often times discussing their families or seminary or projects Runde was working on at the residence or their mutual interest in sports. “We got along well even though Bob is an Iowa Hawkeye and Cubs fan!” joked Coolidge, who prefers other sports teams.
The seminarian said he appreciates that during his time at the Vianney House Runde would sometimes give him the chance to help with projects around the residence. He said Runde showed him “how important it is to take care of people with total dependence on God and a lot of hard work.” Coolidge added, “He is one of the people God has given me to help form me to be a good priest.”
Whenever he is back in town, Coolidge tries to visit Runde at the Pastoral Center. Other former residents of the Vianney House do the same.
But it is not only the seminarians Runde gets to know through his role as the director of maintenance. He also gets the chance to form friendships with many of the retired priests who live at Villa Raphael, the retirement facility for priests of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which is just down the hill from the Pastoral Center and for which Runde is also in charge of maintenance.
“I get to know them on both ends of things,” Runde said, referring to the men studying for the priesthood at the Vianney House and the retired priests living at Villa Raphael after decades of ministry. Runde said it’s given him a great respect for the priesthood and an admiration for the men who dedicate their lives to serving the church. “I see what they sacrifice and how they treat people and everything they do for the parishes in the archdiocese,” he reflected. “They amaze me.”
Runde, who is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Peosta, said religion has always been important to him. One of six children, Runde, whose father passed away when he was 8 years old, said his mother and step-father instilled in him and his siblings the importance of attending Mass and practicing their faith. But he said the friendships he’s formed with the seminarians at the Vianney House — and also with the retired priests at the Villa — have helped his faith to grow even more.
“I’ve always been a strong believer,” he said. “But it’s definitely strengthened my faith being here.”
Bob Runde, director of maintenance for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, examines pipes in the Pastoral Center sub-basement. (Photo by Jill Kruse-Domeyer/The Witness)