By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Bishop Edward J. Burns’ heart for encouraging and nurturing vocations shines forth in his joyful disposition, his love of pastoral ministry and his allegiance to a prayerful life, said officials of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, in which the new Dallas bishop grew up and served in many ministries.
“He can connect with every aspect of society and every generation,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, who ordained Bishop Burns as a bishop and grew to know him well when both lived on the campus of St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh. “In addition to his pastoral skills, he’s got great administrative skills. He’s a man of great hope, joy and integrity.”
Bishop Burns, who was installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Dallas on Feb. 9, brings extensive service in vocations to his new position, having served as a seminary rector, vocations director and on the national level as director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ vocations office.
Father Joseph Mele, who served as vice rector of St. Paul Seminary when Bishop Burns was the rector there in 2008, said that the spirit of collaboration made the seminary a splendid, faith-filled place to study and to serve.
“Bishop Burns got to know each seminarian well,” said Father Mele, who now is the episcopal vicar of Leadership Development and Evangelization for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “But he also really gave his staff room to flourish. I always appreciated how he accepted all the talents of all the staff. He was clear about the direction. He had a great sense of the formation of priests. He wanted them to become the best they could be, and he wanted them to participate in that process.
“He would say that when there’s a balance between the wisdom of the young and that of the more experienced priests, that’s how the Presbyterate prospers.”
Bishop Burns, a former USCCB executive director of the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, assisted the bishops with all facets of promoting priestly vocations and formation program details.
“When he worked with the future priests, he always spoke of the priesthood as even more than a fraternity,” Father Mele said. “He said that what unites us is spirituality, and when we’re rooted in that, we’re always looking after one another’s personal growth.”
Bishop Burns, who served from 1999-2008 at the USCCB, co-chaired the Third Continental Congress on Vocations to Ordained Ministry and Consecrated Life in North America in 2002 and served as staff to the Apostolic Seminary Visitations.
Bishop Zubik praised Bishop Burns’ USCCB work on the Priestly Life and Vocations Summit: Fishers of Men project.
“It was well-received for its powerful impact,” Bishop Zubik said. “Bishop Burns also is very generous in response to the church’s needs.
“I admire his work and his enthusiasm.”
Father Mele said that Bishop Burns’ friends and colleagues wondered how he would adjust to the distant diocese when he was appointed the Bishop of Juneau. Alaska, in 2009.
“It was an exciting time,” Father Mele said. “He was self-effacing, with his great sense of humor. We all said, ‘He is truly a man of solidarity with all people.’ Not every bishop could serve there, with some of the parts of the Juneau diocese such remote outposts. He loves people. He definitely is a people person. But when he came back to visit, he was the same happy person. He could adapt.”
Bishop Zubik said that Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop Burns to shepherd the much larger Diocese of Dallas reflects the Holy Father’s trust in Bishop Burns.
Father Mele said that the Diocese of Dallas has gained a great new friend whose cheerfulness will cause all to feel blessed.
“Once Bishop Burns becomes your friend, you have a lifelong friend,” Father Mele said. “He is a happy priest and a happy man. I think that’s rooted in his love for Christ and the church.”