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From our archives: Salute to a visionary churchman

What we thought: 75 years ago

Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorial appeared in the Gazette on July 8, 1938.

Msgr. A.J. Burns;

A Tribute

The Catholic church will, on Sunday, pay tribute to one of her outstanding members. The occasion will be the investiture of the Right Reverend Andrew J. Burns, V.G., S.T.L., as Protonotary Apostolic ad instar to his Holiness, Pope Pius XI.

The Right Reverend Edward F. Hoban, bishop of Rockford, will officiate, assisted by the clergy of the diocese and outstanding churchmen from other cities in the Middle West.

The honor is not confined to St. Mary’s parish alone, but rather to the city as a whole.

Since the formation of these United States, only nine other churchmen have been similarly elevated. There are but three living men in the United States who have been honored as has Msgr. Burns.

As Protonotary Apostolic ad instar to his Holiness, the Pope, Msgr. Burns assumes all the powers of the bishop except the ordination of a priest. During the absence of Bishop Hoban, he, who had already been named vicar general, now assumes the power given the bishop. His is the privilege of saying pontifical Mass; his vestments are those of a bishop.

The Catholic church owes much of her greatness to the far-sightedness and wisdom of her leaders. There are no idle titles in Catholicism. Day after day, year after year, the church searches out her outstanding leaders and places them in positions of authority. Only one who has actually given evidence of high qualities and unqualified ability is placed in a position of power.

In over a quarter of a century in Sterling, Father Burns – to give him the title by which he is most familiarly known – has demonstrated these qualities. His sincerity of purpose has never been questioned. He is a tireless worker.

Twenty-nine years ago, he took a weak, mediocre parish and converted it into one of the leading church groups, not only of Rockford diocese, but of the state.

He has welded his people together as no other priest – and Sterling has known many outstanding churchmen – has been able to do in the 104 years of the city’s existence.

He has given Sterling the Community high school, which brings to Sterling pupils from many miles around.

He has given Sterling St. Mary’s School and St. Mary’s Auditorium; a modern convent housing 19 Sisters of Loretto and capable of housing even more, if necessary; a caretaker’s home; and school equipment second to none anywhere.

All in all, the church owns property in Sterling worth easily from $250,000 to $500,000. In membership, the parish has shown phenomenal growth.

Had Msgr. Burns elected to go into any other line of endeavor, he would have been outstanding. He is an organizer. As a churchman, he possesses the militant spirit of the Crusaders and the tender heart of a little child. He would fight to the death for a principle, yet when the heat of conflict ceased, he would bind up his adversary’s wounds and send him away with a prayer.

His charities have not been confined to the members of his parish alone. In time of need, his good deeds have known no boundaries. He has shared with Protestants and Catholics alike. His outstanding work during the World War is still remembered by hundreds of men of all creeds.

And so, the celebration of Msgr. Burns’ investiture Sunday should not be confined to Catholicism alone. The honor comes to Sterling as a whole, not merely to the members of St. Mary’s parish.

At a time like this, we should lay aside our petty selfishness and our bickerings over creed and become a united city in paying tribute to the man who has brought this honor to the community.

Clear as mud

Mme. Frances Perkins, America’s exuberant secretary of Labor, has decided to spend a week in London “helping President Roosevelt’s commission to find out how Britain manages to adjust labor disputes amicably.” And as a starter, she says benignly that it “is unlikely” the findings of the body will be used as a basis for changes in the National Labor Relations Act. “For,” she adds, “you don’t need law to settle labor disputes. They do it here by habit and custom.”

The lady does get the strangest notions. Listening to her, you would almost think she never had heard of the British Labor Relations Act which it is the chief business of Mr. Roosevelt’s commission to study, and which is very far from being a matter of “habit and custom.”

It is a piece of legislation that aims to provide in highest measure the thing the makers of the Wagner act carefully managed to avoid providing, an even-handed justice. The British act works largely because it is fair to labor and fair to the employer and fair to the public all at once. It undertakes to protect the legitimate interests of all three and to prevent the abuse of any one of the; and it succeeds in doing so.

Perhaps that is the very reason Miss Perkins declines to recognize its existence. Perhaps with the Wagner law and its creature, the NLRB, an incarnation of her ideals, she isn’t able to believe a statute which is just to all and gives special discriminatory privileges to none can be genuine legislation.

Even so we don’t get what Mme. Frances means when she says that “you don’t need law to settle labor disputes,” unless she is expressing admiration for the strong arm methods of her longshoremen pals on the West Coast.

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