William Butler Yeats once said: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Br. Chris Burns has spent the past fifty years of his life as a Catholic school teacher lighting the fire in the hearts of his students, reminding them of the words of Jesus that they are to be “light for the world”.
Br. Chris grew up in New Jersey, was deeply inspired by the Christian Brothers that taught him at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, NJ, and at the young age of 17 joined the Congregation, and began the ride of a lifetime. He is currently teaching Speech at Tampa Catholic HS in Florida, as well as ministering to his students as Director of Campus Ministry.
Br. Chris claims that the Christian Brothers were responsible for bringing to light the gifts and talents that he never knew resided in him. He was asked to assist in a province wide program known as “Action”, which he joyfully did for 25 years. The goal of that program is to train student leaders to return to their schools and help their individual school community put into action the gospel teachings of Jesus, particularly by serving the marginalized. Another program that he became involved in is named “Called and Gifted”, which he has been part of for the past thirty years. The program helps the lay teachers of the Christian Brothers’ schools understand and appreciate their God given talents, and reflect on the special vocation that they have been called to as they minister as educators in their catholic school community.
Looking back on his 50 years of ministry, working with students and teachers in the Brothers’ schools, he is immensely grateful to God for gifting him with his religious vocation. Whenever he visits the brothers’ cemetery in West Park, New York, he realizes he is literally standing on the shoulders of the Brothers who have gone before him, and is deeply aware of his responsibility to pass on to the Brothers and lay teachers that follow him the charism of our founder, Blessed Edmund Rice. As Br. Chris stands proudly on this sacred ground, these words of the singer and song writer Neil Diamond resound in his heart; “and each one here, has one thing shared…they have sweated beneath the same sun, looked up at wonder at the same moon, and wept when it was all done, for being done too soon, for being done too soon.” Br. Chris is still enjoying the ride of a lifetime, has no regrets, and hopes for him it won’t end too soon.