Father Jack Burns died peacefully on 5 April at René Goupil House. He was in his 74th year of life and had been a Jesuit for 58 years. Jack was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 22 February 1947. He knew of the Society of Jesus growing up: his mother’s uncle was a Jesuit, and Jack attended St. Paul’s High School. He entered the novitiate at Guelph on 14 August 1963. Jack studied philosophy at Mount St. Michael’s in Spokane, and was a regent for two years at St. Paul’s High School, Winnipeg. Theology followed at Regis College, Willowdale and he was ordained 7 June 1975 in Toronto.
For six years (1980 – 86), Jack was assistant pastor at St. Andrew’s Church in Thunder Bay. Then he moved to Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island and served four years there as assistant pastor of Holy Cross Mission. In 1991 he moved to St. Ignatius Parish in Winnipeg and then a year later in 1992 he went back east to Toronto to serve on the staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. He also spent two years in Bangalore, India, with Fr. Henry Nunn at Fr Nunn’s schizophrenia clinic for young people. The need for monitored medication caused him to be assigned to the Jesuit Infirmary in Pickering in 1998.
Jack bore his own epilepsy and schizophrenia bravely and pursued his pastoral ministry as well as he could under trying circumstances. He regularly went with Fr. Bert Foliot to visit family in Winnipeg. On any given day one could find him in the infirmary lounge or out on the patio, quietly reading but always willing to exchange greetings with visitors. Jack was a man of prayer and possessed wisdom and kindness. Though his life might have seemed lonely, he was present every day to his community no matter how he felt. He made a short final visit to the chapel on Good Friday.