Tell us about your family.
I’m the son of Robert and Barbara Burton of Valparaiso. I have one older brother, Ryan, who resides in Chesterton with his wife Danielle.
Where are you from, and what is your home parish?
I’m originally from Portage and am a 2002 Portage High School graduate. I graduated from Valparaiso University in 2006 with majors in New Media-Journalism and Political Science. I then moved to Elkhart, Ind., for a year while I began my journalism career. After that, I moved to Valparaiso and for the next five years was a news reporter in the Region.
My home parish is Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hobart-New Chicago. I’ve been a parishioner there my entire life. In fact, my great-grandparents were among the founding families when they came to this country from Poland.
At Assumption, I’ve served in a number of ministries, all of which played an important part in my journey to the seminary.
What seminary do you attend, and what year are you?
I attend the University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary, where I am currently in my third year of Theology. I previously graduated from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit in 2014 with a B.Phil. degree.
What is it that draws you to the possibility of priesthood?
Right now in our world, I think the greatest role of the priest is to bring hope to God’s people.
People are witnessing and experiencing conflict down the street and around the world. People feel devalued and marginalized. There are so many reasons why we’re facing a crisis of hope, but through the sacraments, the priest has a unique ability and really a responsibility to bring hope to God’s people. There is strength and hope flowing from the waters of Baptism, in which the old is washed away and a new life in Christ is begun. There is strength in redemption, mercy and forgiveness that come from reconciliation. There is strength and hope to be found in receiving the sacrifice that is Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. There is peace and strength that come from the bonds of matrimony and the reception of holy orders. There is hope and healing in being anointed, and at each of those moments, the priest is there to help with the infusion of hope, to show that through the sacrifice of Christ and the power of God, we are a hopeful, peaceful and merciful people.
The priest is there for God’s people at every step of their faith journey, as a spiritual father. Just as a father walks alongside his child when he or she is learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, so the priest is there as a father to walk along the path of life as we return to the father who made us and who loves us.
I can think of no better way than to spend the rest of this life in service to God and his people, there through the joys and sorrows of this life, always making known His presence and His light, in good times and bad.
Who are some of your role models?
Certainly the pastors I grew up with. The late Fr. John Murzyn was a warm and wonderful community-building presence who spent the first 20 years of his ministry in the city of Gary and marched in the South with Dr. Martin Luther King. I fell in love with Scripture through the dynamic preaching of Fr. Marty Dobrzynski and really began to see that maybe God was calling me to the priesthood through the servant-leadership of Fr. Jon Plavcan.
My first summer assignment brought me to Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Fr. Tom Mischler who really had a profound effect on me and how I view the priesthood. I remember one of my first days there, we had a Confirmation Mass with the bishop, then he got a call from a family wanting their elderly father anointed at a hospital some 30 minutes away. That it was 10 p.m. and the man wasn’t a parishioner didn’t matter. We drove up to the hospital and Fr. Tom anointed him. He really taught me what it means to be a spiritual father.
In reading, I’ve also developed an appreciation for the lives and ministries of Bishop Ken Untener and Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Both men are really exemplars in being pastoral and truly knowing the sheep of the flock. Both also took his fair share of buffets and spitting while on this earth for positions that questioned the status quo. Their writings have taught me the importance of compassion and really what it means to be the ‘Church of Mercy’ Pope Francis speaks of.
What is your favorite Scripture passage?
Micah 6:8 - “Act justly, love gently and walk humbly with God.”
Where have you served in the diocese?
Summer Intern, Holy Spirit, Winfield – Summer, 2013
Counselor and Spiritual Coordinator, Camp Sharing Meadows, Rolling Prairie - Summer 2014
Summer Intern, St. Andrew the Apostle & Diocesan Tribunal, Merrillville - Summer 2014
In Residence, St. Mary of the Lake, Miller Beach - Christmas 2014 & 2015
Summer Intern, St. Michael the Archangel, Schererville - Spring 2015
Spanish Immersion, Academia Latinoamericana, Quito, Ecuador - Summer 2015
Pastoral Internship, St. Mary, Griffith & St. Ann, Gary - Winter/Spring 2016
Chaplaincy Internship, St. Joseph Mercy Heath System, Ann Arbor, Mich. - Summer 2016
Visit Jeff’s website at comeliveinthelight.com.
Photos reprinted with permission of Northwest Indiana Catholic Newspaper, Debbie Bosak, Editor.