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‘Faithful to everything in front of me’
Peter Bond is a man with ideas.
When he experienced a crisis of faith in 2001, he started writing prayers and printing them on cards at his family printing business.
One of the things that led to the darkness was his confusion from listening to a Christian radio station where theology changed with every program. So when a group of Catholics bought the station, he stepped in with financial support when they needed it. He took over the station and went into the business of selling honey to keep it on the air.
When financial problems threatened to close a local Catholic school, Bond bought a pecan farm and donated a portion of the profits to help it stay open.
Bond later bought a cigar shop and donates part of the profits to Aid to the Church in Need, a papal foundation that assists war refugees. The shop also is a place for men to share conversations that often focus on philosophy and theology — a perfect opportunity for some quiet evangelization (see sidebar).
“No one is more amazed than I am,” he said about how his businesses became ministries. “I don’t have a master plan, like doing X, Y and Z. I try to live my life according to the Holy Spirit, and when he puts something in front of me, I act on it. I can tell when it’s him and not me. I don’t trust my judgment, but I trust his.”
Abundance of fruits
Bond, 48, and his wife, Cathy, live in Tallahassee, Florida, with their eight children, ages 1 to 20. He didn’t intend to found a handful of diversified businesses to support causes that are dear to his faith. Things just happened when the time was right.
“I come from a very entrepreneurial background and grew up with the idea of having my own business,” he said.
His parents, Chuck and Johanna Bond, raised him in the Faith and with a strong work ethic. Bond started working at the family print shop when he was 12. He was 32 when he had the faith crisis, and printing holy cards helped him through it. He combined his own prayers and traditional prayers with classic Catholic art, and the demand for the cards grew enough for him to start his own company.
Today, Catholic Prayer Cards has seven employees, nearly 700 designs and more than 3 million cards in stock. Millions have circulated on six continents, and the business annually donates 1 million cards to prison and hospital ministries and missions all over the world. They also carry small metal crucifixes, more than 350 patron saint medals and handmade rosaries. Each rosary is unique, and Bond makes some of them himself.
The ventures are ministries. The cards reflect the Catholic faith, and the donated cards are blessings to those who receive them. The other three businesses donate up to 20 percent of the profits to support the Faith in different ways.
A group of Catholics took over the Protestant radio station in 2005 and converted it to WCVC 1330 AM Catholic Radio with EWTN programming.
“They ran out of money in 2009, and Cathy and I prayed over it, and I felt called to step in, fill in the gap and keep it going,” Bond said. “I self-funded it for a long time, but I had no background in running a station, and it was so time-consuming. That’s when I came up with the idea of Bee Holy Honey. I have about 30,000 customers on email for the holy cards, and I thought that I could promote the honey through that community.”
‘An unlikely combination’
He started out by selling other beekeepers’ products, including the unique and aromatic Tupelo honey that’s harvested only in a limited location in northern Florida. Now he’s adding his own line of wildflower honey from hives that someone else manages on his farm.
The 61-acre pecan farm in Cairo, Georgia, supports St. John Paul II High School in Tallahassee.
“They were going through financial problems and were going to shut down,” Bond said. “A lot of parents did a huge fundraising campaign, and we tried to help as well. Then we thought about the successful model of Bee Holy Honey and thought we could do something for the school with pecans.”
Sales of the nuts have helped the school to stay open. In addition to the orchards, the 61-acre site has two ponds, a skeet shooting range, a farmhouse and fire pit. It’s the perfect setting for what he calls “a different kind of ministry” for retreats for youth groups, religious and other groups, at no charge.
“It’s very peaceful, quiet and out in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “There’s an altar set up under magnificent oak trees with limbs that form arches like an outdoor cathedral. It’s a sacred place where guys get on their knees in the dirt to pray.”
Pecans, honey, cigars and holy cards are an unlikely combination for evangelization, but Bond has made them work.
“I just try to be faithful to everything in front of me,” he said.
For information about the holy cards and links to the other businesses, visit CatholicPrayerCards.org.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.
Peter Bond purchased and smoked his first cigar in 1994 at Jerry’s Cigar Shop in Tallahassee, Florida. But it wasn’t just the fine tobacco that appealed to him. It was also the experience of making friends with other men who came to the smoking room — and getting to talk to owner Jerry Harrison.
“It became my favorite hangout. I met people that I would have otherwise not met,” Bond said. “It was one of those old-timey gentlemen’s cigar shops, the traditional kind you would see in an old movie. When I heard that Jerry was going to sell it three and a half years ago, I didn’t want to see someone else buy it and turn it into something else. I felt that the Lord was calling me to buy the shop, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t have the time, and I didn’t have experience in a brick and mortar establishment.”
First, he consulted several priest friends. He didn’t want to be promoting a vice.
“Cigarettes are controversial and are a habit,” he said. “Cigars are more of a hobby and are social.”
So he bought the shop and took to heart what Pope Francis said about going out to evangelize in “the margins.” From what he experienced in those years hanging around at Jerry’s, people of other faiths, or no faith at all, patronize cigar lounges. Bond envisioned the place as a “mission field for the 21st century.”
“Guys in cigar shops sit down and talk to each other for an hour or two,” he said. “They talk about anything from architecture to archeology, sports, literature, music and politics, and sometimes religion pops up. I thought it could be a winner if I could find a way to evangelize in a very subtle way that’s not preachy.”
The visuals of cigar bands was a good place to start.
“When guys go into a walk-in humidor, the more attractive cigars get their attention,” he said. “There’s a tradition of older brands using pictures of beautiful women on the bands, and I thought if I had to compete with those, I would have the image of the most beautiful woman who ever lived. I started my own brand, Regina Cigars, and dedicated them to Our Lady.”
The first five blends from the Dominican Republic have five Marian images: Mater Dei for Mother of God, Virgo for the Virgin, Imaculata for the Immaculate Conception, Assumpcion for the Assumption, and Mediatrix.
The evangelization is working. “I meet them, I greet them, I pray for them and I love them,” Bond said about the patrons. The shop is so successful that in December he opened another one in town with an expanded lounge. Conversations there about faith are so well-received that two priests are coming twice a month to moderate Holy Smokes Night.
“It’s like seeds,” Bond said. “You throw them out and where they grow is up to the Lord.”