by Joe Bollig
ATCHISON —We all know someone like Father Jude Burbach, OSB. They’re the quiet, steady ones. They don’t get a lot of attention — they just get the job done.
Father Jude, 85, died in his sleep Aug. 22 at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison. The Mass of Christian burial was offered on Aug. 27, followed by burial in the monastery cemetery.
“He was a very quiet person,” said retired Abbot Owen Purcell, OSB, of the abbey. “He had that reputation all his life. His parishioners loved him, because he was kind and solicitous toward them.”
But he was a simple guy, continued the abbot. Sensational was not in his vocabulary. He was uniquely himself, with no apologies.
Father Jude’s life, said Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, in his funeral homily, incorporated some essential Christian and Benedictine values.
“St. Benedict wanted monks to be humble,” said Abbot Barnabas. “Father Jude was humble. He served where he was asked to serve. He shared his need for community by living well and honestly. He chose to be concerned about others more than about himself. He was a celebrant of the sacraments, a celebrant of life and a celebrant of contentment. May each of us join him in such celebration.”
Elwin John Burbach was born on Feb. 9, 1927, in Hartington Neb., the son of Henry and Anna (McFadden) Burbach. He had four brothers and five sisters.
The future monk attended Holy Trinity Elementary School and graduated from Hartington Cedar Catholic High School in 1945.
“My uncle, Father Lucien Senecal, a monk of St. Benedict’s Abbey, gave a senior high school retreat in Hartington in 1945, and made a summer recruitment trip to the community,” said Abbot Barnabas. “Father Jude said these contacts influenced him to make the choice to go to our college in the fall of 1945 rather than to Creighton where he thought he was going.”
Perhaps the young man’s vocational inspiration also came from three men in his extended family who became Benedictine monks at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo.
After one year of college studies, the young man entered the abbey novitiate in July 1946 and received the name Jude. He professed vows on July 11, 1947. Then, as Brother Jude, he graduated from St. Benedict’s College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1950. Following his theological studies, the monk was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler on May 30, 1953, at St. Benedict’s Church, Atchison.
Following ordination, Father Jude was first dorm prefect and Latin instructor at St. Benedict’s College.
He was then named assistant pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish in Atchison from 1958 to 1961, then of St. Patrick Parish in rural Atchison County, and next, a parish in Burlington, Iowa.
From 1968 to 1970, he was chaplain for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago while studying at Rosary College in River Forest, Ill. Father Jude graduated from Rosary College with a master’s in library science in 1970, and then worked in the college library for five years.
But Father Jude’s quiet career took somewhat of a dramatic turn when he responded to an invitation by Abbot Brendan to serve at St. Benedict Abbey’s foundation in Mineiros, in the state of Goias, in Brazil. One of four monks who responded to that invitation, Father Jude, at age 58, learned a new language and culture as he undertook his new ministry to the priory and parishes in Brazil from 1975 to 1983.
Upon his return to St. Benedict’s Abbey in 1984, Father Jude worked as the head librarian until 1986, when he became weekend celebrant at St. John Parish in Doniphan from 1990 to 1995. He was then named pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wathena and St. Charles Parish in Troy, followed by assignments as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Onaga, St. Columbkille in Blaine, and St. Joseph Parish in Lillis, from 1995 until his retirement in 2003.
“They didn’t sense him as a powerful preacher, but a man of wisdom and advice,” Abbot Barnabas continued. “They didn’t sense him to be a man who sought to correct them, but one who would love them in their strength and in their weakness.”
Father Jude was an avid reader, who frequently loaned books to other monks, said Abbot Owen and Abbot Barnabas. His family meant a lot to him, and he frequently visited them in Nebraska.
“He was a very dedicated priest,” said retired Abbot Ralph Koehler, OSB, “and certainly a committed monk.”
“He did whatever he was supposed to do,” he concluded.
Father Jude was preceded in death by his parents, four brothers, and four sisters. He is survived by his sister Ann Janssen, of Bellevue, Neb., and by numerous nieces and nephews.
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St. Benedict’s Abbey