Mass celebrates priest's life
DANVILLE – The ceremony was a fitting sendoff for a man instrumental in the founding of Schlarman High School and St. Paul Grade School, not to mention one who served for 26 years as pastor at St. Paul and many more years as a chaplain and caregiver.
About 75 priests from across the Peoria Diocese joined people in the church and more in the St. Paul gymnasium via closed-circuit television for the funeral Mass for Monsignor Charles Bourke Motsett.
In his homily, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky asked, "Have you ever wondered what heaven is like? If so, then look closely at someone who knows the Lord and loves his fellow man. It's all about love. Love adds special flavor to good times ... (and) gets us through the bad times.
"Heaven is love and the absence of love is hell," he added. "Bourke had an extraordinary strength of spirit, a deep conviction in his faith and most of all, he loved his fellow man."
Jenky said Monsignor Motsett was the oldest and most respected cleric of the diocese. He was always respectful of the bishops, but challenged his fellow priests and always spoke his mind, "trying to build up and not tear down."
"He was what you call very direct," Jenky said. "He stood for Sunday Mass, Catholic education, marriage and family life and wasn't afraid to go where there was a challenge. He lived for his flock and they trusted him and usually listened.
"There was no greater supporter of Schlarman High School, and we won't mention his love of dogs and horses, penchant for crying at funerals, dancing a jig or two and appreciation of a good Manhattan," Jenky said with a laugh.
Near the end of the service, the choir sang "Notre Dame, Our Mother," referring to Monsignor Motsett's alma mater, which was followed by a softly played fight song.
Jenky related that on his most recent visit to the 98-year-old priest, he and fellow priests sang the alma mater for Monsignor Motsett.
"That's the only time he came awake and before I left, he asked me to please light a candle for him in the grotto," Jenky said.
Terese Motsett Barous, Monsignor Motsett's niece, spoke for the family, saying she and her six siblings called him Uncle Bourke.
"He always came, no matter how far it was, for holidays and all the special events in our family," Barous said. "He would make a flying trip to Peoria, bringing comic books and candy bars, and he would tuck us into bed, giving us a 'Dutch rub,' and a hug and a kiss."
Barous said nieces and nephews would spend two weeks' vacation at whatever rectory Monsignor Motsett was serving as they became old enough.
"He'd come pick us up and first we would pray the rosary, which was probably a good thing, because then he would let us help steer the car for the rest of the trip," Barous said with a chuckle. "The time was full of horseback riding and fishing and swimming and on Sunday we got to help count the collection. He married most of us and never forgot a birthday and when he called he always asked, 'Are you going to Mass, girl?'"
"He was larger than life and life without him is hard to grasp," Barous said.
Privately, Jenky said that Monsignor Motsett was probably one of the greatest priests the diocese ever had.
"Seventy-two years a priest. He'd seen so much in his lifetime," Jenky said. "He was the patriarch of Danville and the pope of Vermilion County."
As the pallbearers carried the casket to the waiting hearse, his brother priests filled Walnut Street and chanted a farewell prayer in Latin. More than 50 cars followed in a funeral procession, with Danville police officers and Vermilion County Sheriff's deputies directing traffic.
Monsignor Motsett was laid to rest at the foot of the outdoor altar at Resurrection Cemetery.