For sixty years, Fr Joseph Clement Burns served God’s people as a priest. For sixty years, God visited his people through him, and through him Jesus continued his ministry of healing. Over the years, he touched countless lives. For so many people, he was father, uncle, brother, friend. He served as a teacher, campus minister, prior, student master, pastor, novice master—and what was closest to his heart, a preacher of God’s grace.
When talking about his life, it’s hard to know where to begin. Everyone has their favorite Fr Clem stories. He did not take himself too seriously, and it was hard to take yourself too seriously when you were around him. He lacked what is often called a filter.
I remember many years ago talking with a parishioner here at St Gertrude’s. He’d been to confession with Fr Clem, and he was still kind of amazed and puzzled. He told me, “Going to confession with Fr Burns was unlike going to confession with any other priest. While I was confessing my sins, he was saying things like, ‘Yeah, I do that too.’”