The Rev. James J. Burdess, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Summit Hill, celebrated the silver anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at a Mass of Thanksgiving and dinner program held Sunday, June 2.

Rev. Burdess, who has served the Catholic community of Summit Hill since 2005, was the principal celebrant at the Mass, where over 200 persons attended. Other concelebrants were Rev. Msgr. Edward Domin and the Rev. James Bechtel, while the sermon was delivered by the Most Rev. William Skurla, D.D., Ruthenian Archeparchy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Silver Jubilee celebration continued at a dinner held at Capriotti's in Tresckow.

During the sermon, Rev. Skurla, a former classmate of Father Burdess at Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, pointed out the Summit Hill pastor, like other priests, "is the focus of the life of the church." Noting the anniversary was being celebrated on the feast of Corpus Christi, he said, "Father Burdess is the one who helps the people here celebrate the sacraments, the one responsible for the celebration of the continuation of the body and blood of Christ. He and his colleagues are the people who make it possible for us to celebrate the sacred Mass."

The Archbishop called Father Burdess "a king for the day."

Numerous priests from the Diocese of Allentown and the Carbon County Deanery joined the pastor in celebration of the Mass, as did the parish's deacon, George LaPolice, who was the "Deacon of the Word," while Deacon Henry G. Gordon Jr. fulfilled the role of "Deacon of the Eucharist."

Diocesan deacon candidate James Warnagiris was the lector and St. Joseph Choir, under the direction of Robert Ames, provided a medley of songs before and during the Mass.

Parishioners who formed the committee that oversaw the celebration included Joseph O'Gurek Jr., Margaret Pribila, Nathan Halenar, Stephanie Alexander, Ames and Stephen and Linda Figura.

About the pastor

Father Burdess was born in Pottsville in 1958. He lived in Pottsville and attended St. Patrick School until after seventh grade, when his family moved to St. Clair. Father attended eighth grade at St. Mary School, St. Clair, graduated from Nativity B.V.M. High School, Pottsville, and obtained a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Penn State University.

He prepared for the priesthood at Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, where he earned master's degrees in divinity and theology. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Welsh, then the Bishop of Allentown, ordained Father Burdess to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown, on June 4, 1988.

Father Burdess' first assignment as a new priest was as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church, Allentown. He was later an assistant at St. Peter Church, Coplay, and St. Joseph the Worker Church, Orefield.

He was first appointed pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church, Tower City, and later pastored Immaculate Conception Church, Tremont, and St. Nicholas Church, Weatherly.

Since June 14, 2005, he has been assigned to Summit Hill. He was pastor of both St. Joseph and St. Stanislaus churches until St. Stanislaus was consolidated into St. Joseph Church in 2008.

Father Burdess has also served as an advocate at the Diocesan Tribunal and as a member of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission and the Marian Catholic High School Advisory Board.