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Obituary: Father William Burckhart one time pastor in Medway and Belmont


Father William C. Burkhart Pilot file photo

Father William C. Burkhart, who could rightly be called the "father of the permanent diaconate in the archdiocese" and who served as pastor of parishes in Medway and Belmont died at Regina Cleri in Boston on Feb. 15.

Born in Boston son of the late Nicholas and Agnes (O'Brien) Burckhart he was raised in Quincy at Sacred Heart Parish. After attending local schools, he subsequently enrolled at Boston College High School and graduated in the class of 1945. He continued his Jesuit education at Boston College graduating in the Class of 1949. He entered St. John's Seminary and on Sept. 29, 1953, having completed seminary studies, Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral.

Following ordination he had four assignments as an assistant or associate: St. John the Evangelist, Winthrop (1953-1955); St. Rita, Lowell (1955-1964); St. Theresa of Avila, West Roxbury (1964) and St. Catherine of Siena, Norwood (1964-1972).

With the revival of the permanent diaconate initiated by the Second Vatican Council in the middle '60s, the opening up, once again, of this ministry to both married and single men, became a hallmark of the Council. The program for formation began in the archdiocese in 1972 with Father Burckhart as the first director. He held that position until 1979; during that time, he saw several of the first classes of his students ordained to the permanent diaconate as well as set the foundational program for their formation. In March 1975, he assumed the additional responsibility of Administrator of Holy Trinity (German) parish in Boston's South End.

In June 1979, he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Medway and in February 1991, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Belmont where he served until his retirement in January 2001.

Following his retirement he lived in Westwood first in his own residence and then at St. Denis Rectory. Just a few months ago, health concerns required his move to Regina Cleri. While retired he continued to assist in several parishes.

South Regional Bishop John Dooher was the principal celebrant of Father Burckhart's funeral Mass at St. Margaret Mary Church, Westwood on Feb. 21. Father Edwin Condon served as the homilist; the two priests had worked together at Westwood. Also concelebrating were Boston Auxiliary Bishops Robert Hennessey and Peter Uglietto; Indianapolis Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Coyne (former pastor at St. Margaret Mary); and retired Boston Auxiliary Bishop John Boles.

Some 50 other priest concelebrated the Mass among them Father Stephen Linehan, St. Margaret Mary's present pastor; Father Thomas Foley, archdiocesan vicar for parish life and leadership; and Father James Burke, present pastor of St. Denis, Westwood.

Appropriately, Father Burckhart's coffin was borne by six permanent deacons. Following the Funeral Mass Father Burckhart was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Medway.