Just after the wonderful Christmas celebrations, we learned on the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, that Father John Burns, pastor of Holy Cross Church, Morris, had passed away.
Father Burns was dean of Otsego County, appointed to that post by Bishop Hubbard to represent the diocese in the western area of the Diocese of Albany.
Father Burns was a friend of ours here at St. Mary’s, Cooperstown. Any time he was invited, he joyfully came to parties, social events, business meetings and liturgies. Recently, he was here for the funeral of Dennis Murray. He came through our Open House on Dec. 19.
He heard confessions here on Dec. 22. Father John often came to assist with our confirmation students, to hear confessions or to lead the once-a-month special mass for our confirmation students.
Many have shared their feelings about this quiet man. Some commented how his faith came out when singing, full voiced and unsparingly.
“He was gentle and kind in confession.” “He loved his vocation and the people he served.”
My own thoughts are: John listened. He was quiet. When he spoke, one should listen.
The week he died, John would have traveled to be with the bishop, priests and seminarians for the annual Christmas social. I confess that I am too Christmas-exhausted to even think of the trip.
Not John. He was always there. And “there” was people. John Burns ever sought to bring people together.
One of the greatest comments I heard about his passing comes from the wonderful person who maintains the rectory and watched John convalesce here after this heart surgery. She observed: “Father Burns was always busy doing the Church’s work very quietly and diligently.”
My fondest thought is how he traveled to be with us on Sunday morning, June 6, at 11 a.m., for the celebration of the Year of Priests. Father Andrew W. Cryans of Durham, N.H., said: “ You can always count on John Burns to be there when it is priesthood.”
May the Eternal Priest embrace Him. “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisdeck.”
Father Rosson is pastor of St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Church,