Father John Burns, 76, dies; funeral Mass is Friday at St. Mary Church in Moline

Father John Burns

MOLINE — A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 17, at St. Mary Church here for Father John Richard Burns, a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria who served as pastor of seven parishes during his 31 years of active priesthood.

Father Burns died on Saturday, June 11, 2022, at UnityPoint Health, Rock Island. He was 76.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, also at St. Mary Church, 412 10th St., Moline. The rosary will be recited at 3:30 p.m.

Burial will follow the funeral Mass at St. Mary Cemetery, East Moline.


Born Aug. 21, 1945, in Moline to Harold B. and Irene C. (DeJaeger) Burns, his home parish was St. Mary in Moline and he graduated in 1963 from Alleman High School in Rock Island. He earned an associate’s degree from Black Hawk College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

He studied for the priesthood at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, graduating with master of arts and master of divinity degrees.

Father Burns was ordained on May 26, 1990. His first assignment was as parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish, Champaign.

Three years later, he was named pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Walnut, and Immaculate Conception Parish, Ohio. In 1996, he began seven years as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Kewanee, and St. John Parish, Cambridge. After a brief assignment as pastor of St. Mary Parish, East Moline, in 2005 he was named pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Galva, St. John the Apostle Parish, Woodhull, and St. John Vianney Parish, Cambridge. He would serve those faith communities for the next 16 years and was granted senior status in 2021.

Father Burns was an avid runner who participated in the Bix 7 — an annual seven-mile run through downtown Davenport — for 44 years.

In a 2015 interview with The Catholic Post on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination, Father Burns said Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Father Edward Flanagan of Boys Town were among those influencing his vocation, and among his favorite saints were St. John Vianney, Pope St. John Paul II, and St. Francis of Assisi.

“Priests must be true evangelists, which is the great emphasis of recent popes,” he said. “Let people see you and how you live as a priest in the simplicity of life.”

Survivors include siblings Ruth Kelley of Rock Island, Teresa (John) Huyten of Moline, and Cindy (John) Jaster of Moline; sister-in-law Sharon Burns of Rock Island; and numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews and great-great nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Rosemarie Kennedy, Robert Burns, Joseph Burns, and Patricia Jennings.

Memorials may be made to Alleman High School or the Monsignor George A. Carton College Seminarian Scholarship Fund.

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