In retirement, Bula dedicates time to parish community

PAWLEYS ISLAND — Simon “Si” Bula describes himself as a cradle Catholic. His story begins with a strong family that was grounded in faith and prayer. He was born in Perth Amboy, N.J., in 1939, the only son of Simon and Elizabeth Bula. His father worked in management, and his mother was a homemaker. His only sibling, a sister, was born four years later.

Bula grew up in New Jersey’s Gateway Region. He graduated from Metuchen High School at age 17. He wanted to go to college — and had already been accepted at West Virginia Wesleyan College — but he enlisted in the Marine Corps instead. He remembers the exact date: July 13, 1956. He says the Marines “squared me away,” and he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him discipline.

Bula married Anna Marie Fig in November of 1958 and began working at DuPont as a chemical operator manufacturing formaldehyde. He eventually left DuPont to strike out on his own. In 1967, he purchased his first commercial truck, a “20-foot straight job.” By 1969, he and a partner had six trucks on the road on a daily basis and 33,000 square feet of retail space. His trucking firm, Con-Brook Transportation, and two affiliate businesses have evolved into a major third-party logistics company serving the Northeast and New England.

It was a dark time, however, that formed Bula into the man he is today.

“In 1980, everything was crumbling around me, and I got on my knees and asked the good Lord for help,” he said.

In time, things got better.

Bula’s home parish in Metuchen, St. Francis Cathedral, introduced tithing to the congregation in 1986. The Bulas began tithing — “giving back” — and he soon learned about stewardship. From that point forward, stewardship became part of his life.

The Bulas were scouting for a place to retire about the same time, and purchased a condominium in Pawleys Island. For the next 10 years, they maintained their home in New Jersey and spent one to two months a year in Pawleys Island, where Bula worked out of a home office.

The couple began worshipping at Precious Blood of Christ in 1986, when the church building was a converted four-car garage.

In 1996, the Bulas retired and moved to Pawleys Island permanently. The couple has three adult children and seven grandchildren. Their son Geoffrey, 44, lives in Raleigh and is the vice president of engineering at a software company. Their daughter, Donna, 41, and is a homemaker in Spotswood, N.J. Their son Simon, 36, lives in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., and is the manager of technology at the family public warehouse business.

Father Charles Snopek, pastor of Precious Blood when the couple moved to Pawleys Island, asked Bula to serve on the parish council, and he has been serving the parish ever since.

Bula and fellow parishioner Roy Elmendorf, a former deputy director for the CIA, have teamed up. They co-chair ministries at Precious Blood, mentor others to take over, and then step down.

Linda Favata, business manager at St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach, says of the two, “Their philosophy is that after three years, you go to a different ministry.” Favata worked with Bula and Elmendorf on the diocesan stewardship committee, and they were part of a team that developed “Building up the Kingdom Today: A Guide to Parish Stewardship.”

Precious Blood is a tithing parish, and all tithes support social outreach endeavors. The two men first co-chaired the parish’s outreach committee in 1997. Outreach at Precious Blood is very comprehensive and includes education, food, housing, home repairs, assistance with utility bills, and other aid to the poor and needy of Georgetown County. The committee also supports the St. Cyprian Outreach Center in Georgetown and the St. Ann Outreach Center in Kingstree.

In the fall of 2000, Bula and Elmendorf started the stewardship committee at Precious Blood. Bula praises Father Patrick Stenson as a “great man, leader, and priest .… When it comes to stewardship, it starts with the parish priest.”

Bula and Elmendorf are now co-chairing the parish capital campaign for a parish life center, a $2 million project. So far, $1.2 million has been raised. Bula says of the capital campaign committee, “It’s one of the greatest committees I ever worked on . … We have people serving on the committee from all walks of life.”

At the parish level, Bula is an usher, an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, and a sacristan. He is past grand knight for Knights of Columbus Council 11028 and past faithful navigator for Assembly 2107. He is a member of the diocesan pastoral council. He also serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity and chairs the church relations committee.

Bula is very proud that Precious Blood will be building a Habitat for Humanity home. He says of his fellow parishioners, “There are so many people that do wonderful work. This is a loving parish.”

Bula credits his wife for his involvement with the parish. “She supports me in all that I do. Without her support, I couldn’t do the things that I do. We’re paying back God for everything he’s given us,” he said.