January 30, 1917-November 13, 2004

CCC MsgrBourke

Pastor, Corpus Christi Church, 1966-1992

Excerpts from Fr. Rafferty’s homily, Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 21, 2004:

On the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 21, 1964, the decree on ecumenism was proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council.  The ecumenical movement had seen beginnings in the early part of the twentieth century, mainly through Protestant efforts.  Orthodox Christians and Anglicans joined in, but the official Roman Catholic Church stood apart from the ecumenical movement until the decree that was issued forty years ago today.

One person who took that decree very seriously was the man whom we buried from Corpus Christi Church just this past week.  Msgr. Myles Bourke was teaching at St. Joseph’s Seminary then.  Those of us who were his students recall how he took some of us to lectures and discussions at Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary.  In those days, a seminarian rarely left the building.  Msgr. Bourke gave a group of us the opportunity to hear Hans Küng and J. A. T. Robinson at Union, to sit beneath the sukkah at Jewish Theological Seminary, and to have a special tour of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine by one of the deans.

How appropriate that we commemorate the decree on ecumenism on the Solemnity of Christ the King, for this feast points us to the kingdom of God begun in Christ Jesus, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace, where all people would live in peace and in a recognition that we are the children of God. . . .

One evidence of Monsignor’s enduring legacy came clear to me about a month ago.  I had to go to one of the rabbis at Jewish Theological Seminary and request a favor.  His response was that he would always do whatever he could for Corpus Christi Church because Msgr. Bourke had always done so much for Jewish Theological Seminary when he was here.


 The New York Times, Nov. 15, 2004:

BOURKE–Rev. Msgr. Myles. M.  Pastor Emeritus of Corpus Christi Parish in New York City died peacefully on November 13, 2004.  A renowned scripture scholar, Msgr. Bourke held teaching appointments at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie; Fordham University; and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  He was President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (1967-1968) and Chair of its Board of Trustees (1971-1993).  Msgr. Bourke is survived by his beloved sister Gloria and countless students and friends.  Reposing Monday at Corpus Christi Church, 529 W. 121st St. from 2p.m., concluding with Vespers at 8 p.m.    The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 16, at 10 a.m.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Friends of Liturgical Music, Corpus Christi, 529 W. 121st St., NYC 10027.


Catholic New York, Dec. 2004:

Msgr. Bourke

Scripture scholar, seminary professor, and pastor was 87

Msgr. Myles M. Bourke, pastor emeritus pf Corpus Christi parish in Manhattan and a noted Scripture scholar who taught for many years at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, died Nov. 13 at Our Lady of Consolation Residence in the Bronx, where he resided.  He was 87.

Auxiliary Bishop Patrick J. Sheridan, retired as vicar general, celebrated the Funeral Mass Nov. 16 at Corpus Christi Church.  The homilist was Father Peter F. Bannan, who was a student of Msgr. Bourke’s at Dunwoodie and a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi during his pastorate.

“His students at Dunwoodie and parishioners of Corpus Christi parish know this to be true: He taught us the very heart of the New Testament,” he said in his homily.  “He preached the word of God to us with incredible consistency, and he proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to us in a way we will never forget.  He did it with authority and conviction, with patience and with love.”

Father Bannan told Catholic New York that Msgr. Bourke was “a man of enormous influence,” especially on the priests of the archdiocese, so many of whom he educated and guided at the seminary.  He described his teacher as a consummate scholar and a gracious gentleman who related easily to people of all backgrounds.  He also noted Msgr. Bourke’s ability to inspire priests to wholehearted service.

“Whenever you left him,” Father Bannan said, “you always wanted to go back home and go to work.”

Father Bannan also quoted the comment of Father Richard Dillon, a former student of Msgr. Bourke’s who teaches the New Testament at Fordham University and is now teaching for a year at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  Father Dillon said, “Here was a man who lived what he taught.”

Msgr. Bourke was pastor of Corpus Christi for 26 years, from 1966 until his retirement in 1992.  Under his leadership the parish became widely known for its liturgy, spirituality, preaching, and sacred music.

Msgr. Bourke was professor of sacred Scripture at Dunwoodie from 1947 to 1966, and also was dean of students, 1962-1966.  He was an adjunct professor at Fordham University, 1964-1970, 1983-1985, and 1988, and was a visiting professor at the Biblical Institute, 1971; the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., 1972; and Princeton Theological Seminary, 1979.

He was chairman of the editorial board of the New Testament of the New American Bible, published in 1970, and an editor and translator of the Revised New Testament of the same Bible, published in 1986.  He was president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1967-1968, and chairman of its board of trustees, 1971-1993.

He served on the board of directors of Union Theological Seminary, 1971-1983.  In 1964, he was elected to the Columbia University Seminar for the New Testament, and later he swerved as vice president and chairman.  In 1976, he was elected to the international Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.

In 1993, Fordham University awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, and the Father Ford Association on Columbia/Barnard Catholic Campus Ministry presented him with the Father Ford Award of Distinction.

He held a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America and a licentiate in sacred Scripture from the Biblical Institute.

Born on Staten Island, he graduated from Xavier High School in Manhattan and studied for the priesthood at Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary.  He was ordained May 30, 1942, and was sent to Catholic University for studies.  He served summer assignments in Manhattan at Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Andrew’s, and Our Lady of the Rosary, and was a parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for several months, 1946-1947, before being appointed to the seminary faculty.

After retiring, he lived for a short time at Corpus Christi, then moved to the Abbey of St. Gregory the Great in Portsmouth, R.I., where he lived until he entered Our Lady of Consolation about two years ago.

Burial was in St. Peter’s Cemetery on Staten Island.

He is survived by his sister, Gloria Bourke.

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Frank Oveis, National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 17, 2004:

Remembering Fr. Myles Bourke, scholar and pastor

Msgr. Myles M. Bourke, professor of sacred scripture at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, N.Y., from 1947 to 1966 and pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan from 1966 to 1992, died on Nov. 13e at the age of 87.

To sat that he was the most exacting professor that two generations of New York priests ever had would be to miss the limitless devotion he inspired in so many of them.  Sociologist Philip Murnion; theologians David Tracy, Joseph Komonchak, and William Shea; historians Bernard McGinn and Thomas Shelley; and biblical scholars Richard Dillon and John Meier were merely the most notable among the many seminarians who owed Msgr. Bourke an incalculable debt.  They repaid it with enduring affection and by collecting a treasure house of his sayings and stories about him.

Msgr. Bourke was a full-time priest and full-time scholar.  Was he the only priest in America who did not own a single piece of secular apparel?  Did he ever take a vacation that wasn’t a trip to some scholarly meeting?

The heart of his biblical spirituality was the Letter to the Hebrews, and that anomalous book with its doctrine of Christ the High Priest and its vision of the heavenly liturgy informed Msgr. Bourke’s life so thoroughly that what seemed a loss to biblical studies when he became pastor of Corpus Christi Parish was simply a great gain for parish liturgy and parochial preaching.

A man of austere countenance and ascetic deportment, as razor thin and sharply featured as Pope Pius XII, he had a great, convulsive laugh that would engulf anyone who spoke to him for more than five minutes.  Among his closest friends were the biblical scholar Raymond Brown and the liturgical scholar Louis Bouyer.  For many years Msgr. Bourke was the censor deputatus for Fr. Brown’s voluminous books.  Considering the fact that they dined together several nights a week during Fr. Brown’s long tenure at Union Theological Seminary, it was like having your best friend in grammar school grade your homework.

And why did Fr. Bouyer spend Holy Week at Corpus Christi so often when he could have done the same at any of the great monasteries or churches of France?  It was simply because of Msgr. Bourke and the rather sumptuous yet austere liturgies of Corpus Christi.

Born on Staten Island in 1917, Myles Bourke attended Xavier High School in Manhattan, New York’s Cathedral College, and St. Joseph’s Seminary.  Ordained in 1942, he received a doctorate of sacred theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  In addition to St. Joseph’s Seminary, he held teaching appointments at Fordham University in New York and the Pontifical Biblical Institute.  He was president of the Catholic Biblical Association in 1967-68 and chair of its board of trustees from 1971 to 1993.  He spent his last decade sharing the common life of the Benedictine monks of Portsmouth Abbey in Newport, R.I.

(Frank Oveis is a senior editor at Continuum International Publishing Group, N.Y.)

Rev. Robert Norris, bulletin of St. Lucy’s Parish, Bronx, Nov. 21, 2004:

From the Pastor

Monsignor Myles Bourke was a pastor, a seminary professor, a liturgist, and a man of deep faith.  He died last week, and he will long be remembered as inculcating a love of scripture and the liturgy in a generation of priests.  I had the privilege of attending a graduate class at Fordham that Msgr. Bourke taught.  Cardinal Spellman supported him when he was falsely accused by some church officials.  The word of God was powerfully proclaimed in his work and by his life.  He taught like the scriptures say of the Lord,, “with authority.”  Unlike those who invoke their own authority or use the positions to reduce others by fear or threat, his authority was the life that he led.

At a time when many political and church leaders have lost that authentic sense of authority, it is a grace to have had men like Msgr. Bourke.  We need more such leaders who can mentor and guide us.  Let us pray that God will inspire others to act with wisdom and zeal for the love of the church and the proclamation of the Gospel.  May he and all the faithful departed rest in peace!