Friday, January 30, 2009

Fr. Paul Berg (1922-2009)

One of our own priests at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, dearly beloved by the whole community, passed from this life on Monday, following a brief illness. At one time, much earlier in his life, he was the philosophy professor of Thomas Losoncy, whom I had as a professor during my M.A. program at Villanova University in Philadelphia in 1979-1980. Dr. Losoncy has long since retired, but Fr. Berg was still teaching philosophy at Sacred Heart and coaching the Seminary basketball team up into the fall semester of 2008. After games he could be seen surrounded by his students, nursing a bottle of beer in the seminarians' pub, which was affectionately named after him: O'Berg's. He was 87.

Fr. Berg was a taciturn, humble, and deeply compassionate priest. He was born and raised in Detroit, and, as far as I know, has been at the Seminary longer than anyone else now living there. He remembered details from the Civil Rights marches in Selma, Alabama in 1965. He was there. He lived through the Detroit riots of 1967, which began just blocks from the Seminary, and he knew all about the history, demographics, and race-relations of the city. He was all about the hospitality of reaching out to those in the surrounding community. He was also involved in the Irish-Catholic fraternal organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, was a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish, and could be seen occasionally with his golf putter, practicing on the Seminary lawns. At the conclusion of each of his Masses at the Seminary, he would always leave us with a parting thought -- usually an apt word or phrase to help the point of his homily stick. At his funeral today at Sacred Heart, the church was packed with an overflow crowd. He will be missed.

See: Oralandar Brand-Williams, "Priest fought for civil rights" (The Detroit News, January 28, 2009): "Catholic cleric marched in Alabama, recruited students to participate; also taught at seminary."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RIP Father Berg. You were part of my childhood memories at St. Kenneth Parish.