Rev. Eugene Burns; Started 'Ports of Call' Program
Priest's Idea Raised Money for Parish Schools, Church

By Lisa Donovan
Chicago Sun-Times
January 21, 2005

The "calling" he received to the priesthood was the voice of his Irish Catholic mother, who knew the badge of honor it was to have a son in the clergy.

The Rev. Eugene Patrick Burns' journey through the priesthood was marked by alcoholism, then recovery; questions about church law and, later, juxtaposing that with the everyday lives of those to whom he ministered.

Somewhere along that journey, he came to realize the priesthood was the right choice -- not just his mother's -- something parishioners and fellow clergy knew long before he did, said fellow priest and longtime friend, the Rev. Len Dubi said.

"He had a profound sense of the people and wanting to do the right thing," Dubi said. "He struggled with church law, but he was able to grow bigger than those mere church laws and he was able to reach to the heart of people, probably because of the profound journey he made."

Mr. Burns died Friday of congestive heart failure at Holy Family Villa in Lemont. He was 76.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Burns was raised in the Marquette Park neighborhood and St. Rita of Cascia parish on the city's Southwest Side.

The police officer's son went on to Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. He was ordained a priest in 1955 and served as an assistant pastor for six years at St. Anne Parish in Hazel Crest.

Dubi, the current pastor of St. Anne's, said his mentor and friend, was an innovator and will go down in Roman Catholic history -- at least in the Chicago area -- as the priest who started the popular "Ports of Call" fund-raiser, turning parish schools into nightclubs.

The events were not only moneymakers for the church and school, they were brought the community together, something a pastor is charged to do.

It was during his tenure at St. Catherine Laboure in Glenview, from 1961 to 1966, that Mr. Burns started the fund-raiser. He also served at St. Nicolas of Torentine, St. Denis, St. Joseph in Homewood, St. Terrence in Alsip, Our Lady of Knock in Calumet City and St. Ann in Lansing.

Mr. Burns is survived by a sister-in-law and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial mass has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Feb. 11 at St. Anne Church, 16802 S. Lincoln St., Hazel Crest. Burial was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip.


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