Father Gilbert J. Burke, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, died Sunday, June 17, 2012. He was born March 30, 1935 in Central City, Pennsylvania to the late Mark E. and the late Mary A. (Riley) Burke. He is survived by a sister, Mary Barbara D’Alessandro, of California and nieces and nephews. His brothers, Thomas and Mark Burke, are deceased.
He attended St. John the Baptist Parochial School, Central City, and graduated from Saint Vincent Preparatory School in 1953. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Saint Vincent College in 1958, and a Master of Divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1962.
Father Gilbert entered the Saint Vincent Monastic community in 1955 from Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish in Greensburg. He made his simple profession of vows on July 2, 1956 and his solemn profession of vows on July 11, 1959 at Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica. He was ordained a priest at Saint Vincent Basilica by the late Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg on June 2, 1962.
He was appointed to serve in the Saint Vincent Public Relations Office in 1960. He was guest master of the Archabbey (1963-1966), college moderator (1964-1965), and chaplain of Carmel of the Assumption Monastery, Latrobe (1965-1966). Between 1962 and 1966, he served as temporary assistant at Sacred Heart and Ascension Parishes, Jeannette, Pennsylvania and Saint Benedict Parish, Covington, Kentucky. He was assistant pastor at Saint Vincent Parish (1966-1969), director of public relations for Saint Vincent Archabbey, College and Seminary (1969-1974), director of public relations and publicity for Saint Vincent Archabbey (1974-1982), Archabbey foreign mission procurator (1974-1982) and moderator for the Saint Vincent Women’s Auxiliary (1974-1982). Father Gilbert was associate pastor at Saint Bruno Parish, South Greensburg (1976-1982), pastor of Saint Bruno (1982-1987), and concurrent with his pastorate there, planned construction of the Gilbert Straub Plaza, a high-rise residence for the elderly, adjacent to the church. He served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Jeannette (1987-1991), and as pastor of Saint Vincent Parish (1991-1996). He served as a weekend assistant at Our Lady of Joy Parish, Holiday Park. From 1996 to 2001 Father Gilbert was Director of Alumni at Saint Vincent College. In 2001, he was named Assistant to the President. He served as Director of Alumni for Saint Vincent Seminary from 1996 to 2008, and then consultant for Alumni Affairs (2008-2012). He served as pastor of Saint Vincent Basilica Parish (2003-2004) until being named senior priest in 2004. From 2004 to 2006, he was Assistant to the Archabbot at Saint Vincent Archabbey. He was the director of the Saint Vincent Development Club from 2006 to 2012.
He was a member of the Kiwanis Clubs of Latrobe and Jeannette, the South Greensburg and Jeannette Ministerial Association, and of the board of directors of the Westmoreland County Choral Society. He was a member (1984-2012) and past president (1984-2011) of the board of directors of the Gilbert Straub Plaza, the Council of Seniors at Saint Vincent Archabbey (1992-1998), and the board of directors of the Saint Vincent College Corporation (1993-2012).
He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 1222, Jeannette; was a 4th degree Knight of Columbus, Assembly #918 Latrobe/Jeannette; a member of the Ancient Order of Hiberians; the Latrobe Ministerium; and the Latrobe Rotary Board of Directors. He was president of the Rotary Club from 2010-2011.
From his first appointment at Saint Vincent in the Office of Public Relations in 1960, Father Gilbert became the “public face” of Saint Vincent to the local community and beyond. Over the years, Father Gilbert touched the lives of thousands of people. He baptized more infants, witnessed more weddings, presided over more funerals, heard more confessions, and anointed more sick persons than any other Benedictine in recent years.
His gentle manner and friendly smile along with a phenomenal memory for names, including middle initials, endeared him to students, alumni, parishioners, and people from every walk of life. On the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination to the Priesthood in June of 2012, over 700 family members and friends gathered in the Saint Vincent Basilica to celebrate his life, his service to the church, and to society.
On April 29, 2012, Father Gilbert was presented with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, a papal honor, by the Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg.
The body will be received at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Assembly Room of the Basilica Parish Center at Saint Vincent Archabbey. Viewing will be held from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday in the Assembly Room. A Vigil Service will be held at 7:15 p.m. Thursday in the Archabbey Basilica. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 22, in the Archabbey Basilica. Interment will follow in the Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Father Gilbert Alumni Scholarship Fund, c/o Saint Vincent College, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.