February 26, 2018 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Jerome F. Durack, who died on February 12, 2018, in Patna, India. He was 88 years old. May he rest in peace.
Fr. Durack was born in 1929, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. in an ordinary middle class family of Jeremiah Durack and Lillian Durack. Having completed his high school from St. Ignatius High School, Chicago, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1947. On completion of his novitiate and juniorate studies in USA, he decided to be a missionary in India. He reached India in 1951. He completed his priestly studies from Pune, Shembaganur, Jaipur, and Kerseong and was ordained a priest at St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral, Patna in 1960. He pronounced his final vows at St. Xavier's College (XXTI) in Patna on 2 February, 1965.
He dedicated the first 12 years of his ministry from 1962 to 1974 to the formation of Jesuits as a teacher in St. Joseph’s Mission Home, Palai, Kerala, as the dean of Junior Jesuits at XTTI, and as the director of Candidates at XTTI and Xavier Hall (Patna). He was called upon to serve the Christian Community as a pastor in 1976 and the rest of his life till his death – four decades and three years- he spent serving as a ‘good shepherd’ who cycled and walked into Christian families; administered the Sacraments without fail; preached the Word of God with passion; taught catechism with urgency; guided the laity (families, young and old), bishops, clergy, and religious with clarity in Christian faith and Christian living. During this long period of pastoral ministry, he served as Parish Priest of Bettiah (1974-76 & 1999-2007), Latonah (1992-94), and Kurji, (1994-98); as secretary to the Bishop of Muzaffarpur (1982- 92) and then as secretary to the Bishop of Bettiah (2007 – 14); as the Vicar General of the diocese of Bettiah (1999-08). He also served as the spiritual director of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Bettiah from 1974 to 1976.
A great missionary and preacher, his day would typically begin at 4.30 am. Celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the offering of his daily prayers constituted the central activity of his daily routine. The rest of his time he spent in maintaining Sanjivan Jesuit Community accounts; teaching catechism to those recommended to him by the Kurji Parish Priest; offering spiritual guidance to religious, laity, and youth who visited him through the day; and visiting the families of Christians in the evenings. Along with these daily activities, he wrote, translated, and edited Christian literature and prayers entrusted to him by Prabhat Prakashan, or by the Archbishop, or by others. Sunday was the most important and joyful day for Fr. Durack. He spent the Sundays doing what had been central to his pastoral work - visiting Christian families, sharing their joys and sorrows, and above all guiding the young ones in matters of faith. He ate with them, rested in their homes, reached Holy Communion to the elders, and prayed with them. He returned home tired, dragging his bandaged feet only in the evening with his missionary cloth bag on his shoulders.