Father Burkhalter To Remember Parishes For Their Generosity

Six years of memories and fun mixed with hard work and some difficult decisions have been boxed up, hauled to Columbus and now await the arrival of their owner, Fr. Ross Burkhalter.
Earlier this year, Fr. Ross was notified that he was being moved to St. Anthony Catholic Church in Columbus. Fr. Ross visited Tuesday morning with The Elgin Review, looking back on his years serving the communities of Elgin and Raeville.
“I didn’t really know much about Elgin,” Burkhalter said of when he first came to town. He did know ‘of’ Elgin which, being a self-professed ‘city boy’ he considers an accomplishment he said as he laughed.
According to Burkhalter, the combined parishes of St. Boniface and St. Bonaventure “probably tie for the smallest parish I have served.” St. Anthony’s will be bigger and is one of the two older parishes, made up predominantly of people of Polish descent. “We have a Polka Mass,” he explained. “I do know some polish – not a lot but enough to get by.”  He also mentioned that the priest from Schuyler travels to Columbus to do the Spanish Mass.
Did the size of Elgin present any particular challenges?
“The challenges were typical,” he said. He then went on to point out what he considered the more difficult projects he had to address.
“We had the moving of the two schools into one building, the demolition of the St. Boniface school building and, of course, the asbestos challenge with the gym,” he said.
Those challenges pale though when he compared them to the positives he found in the two small communities.
“The memories… I have been amazed by the generosity of the people,” Fr. Burkhalter said. “The general friendliness of the people in Elgin and Raeville. Once they (people) know you like them, they warm up to you.”
He noted that the Elgin Q125 celebration will long be remembered by him. “It’s a big deal for a community, the pride that went into that celebration.”
He also has been impressed by the determination that he has found in the small communities. “In Raeville, I was so impressed-the way they banded together to do the work on the interior of the church. It’s amazing, the generosity it took to be able to get the money, to do the window work… it looks like it did when it was built.”
Fr. Ross revisited a statement he made at his farewell gathering several weeks ago as he tried to sum up his years in the community, “This doesn’t happen everywhere,” he said.
“I’ve been blown away by how good people were – to me, to the churches, to the schools. Their faithfulness is amazing. They have a good sense of community. They are so supportive of the schools, of their teams.”
It’s been said that each priest and person in ministry brings a specific talent to the people they serve.
“Probably my ‘talent’ was being able to listen – what is our need? How do we do this? I would say that I like people to have as much ownership as possible in their churches,” he said. “I’m just there to guide them.”
Fr. Ross’s last masses will be this weekend in the two parishes.
As he prepares to head southward out of Elgin for one last time, he wants to thank the people.
“Thanks for a wonderful six years and all the memories I take with me,” he said. “Thanks for all the kindness.”