Trinitarian Father Kenneth Borgesen
Trinitarian Father Kenneth Borgesen
There were many memories warmly shared by those who gathered for the April 20 funeral Mass celebrated for Trinitarian Father Kenneth Borgesen. But the one that stood out the most was his being a priest and a man with a “passion for life.”

“He will always be remembered for his strong commitment to Catholic education as well as his dedication to religious life and priestly ministry,” Trinitarian Father Stan DeBoe, pastor of Incarnation-St. James Parish, said in his homily during the Mass in Incarnation Church, Ewing. Father Borgesen – who spent 18 of his almost 35 years of priesthood in the Diocese of Trenton, serving first in St. James Parish, Trenton, then Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing – died April 16 in Morris Hall, Lawrenceville, at age 81.

Father DeBoe, who was joined at the altar by several concelebrants, including Father Jacek Labinski, pastor of nearby St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, read a letter on behalf of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who was not able to be in attendance.

“I write, as Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, to express my prayerful sympathies at the news of his death. I am grateful to the Trinitarian Order for his ministry and for his pastoral love for the parishioners here. I will offer Holy Mass for Father Ken and will pray along with all of you present today for his eternal rest.”

In his homily, Father DeBoe reflected on how “for much of his life, Father Ken was a seeker” having had a successful career as an educator who loved reading and learning, Father DeBoe said.

“He had a passion for the sciences and found great joy in passing that on to his students,” Father DeBoe said, referring to the time Father Borgesen spent teaching at DeMatha Catholic High School, Hyattsville, Md.

“As a teacher, he shared with his students the knowledge and wisdom that would allow them to transform the world with great love and humble service,” Father DeBoe said. “As a Trinitarian, he identified with the captive, the poor and marginalized, and entered into their lives to offer them hope and strength and courage. As a priest, he nourished all people with the very life of Christ. And in his offering of the Sacraments that are the living works of Jesus, whom he not only followed but sought to emulate in his priesthood, he nourished the world with God’s graces.

“Perhaps that is why Father Ken’s last days coincided with our walking the last days of Jesus and our celebration of his new life so powerfully draws us here on this Easter week,” Father DeBoe said. “In Father Ken’s life, he never divided the world into the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly.’ Instead, he saw everyone he met, all people, as beloved children of God. Each one was a brother or sister whom he could accompany along this journey.”

Father Borgesen was born in 1940 in Detroit, Mich. He made Solemn Vows in the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives on Oct. 5, 1985, in Washington, D.C., and was ordained a priest on Sept. 27, 1987 in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Asbury Park.

Along with teaching in DeMatha Catholic High School, he served in parishes in Texas, Louisiana and Illinois. Prior to his retirement in 2006, he served in parish ministry in St. James Parish, Trenton, including as an administrator, and then Incarnation-St. James Parish.

“As I was recalling his assignments, they could not have been easy since most of them he was shepherding parishes through significant transitions – parish closings, the withdrawing of the Trinitarians as the reality of fewer vocations and aging religious impacted us,” Father DeBoe said.

Referring to Father Borgesen’s numerous assignments, Father DeBoe first quipped when he said, that “some people might say he had a difficult time keeping a job.

“The reality is,” Father DeBoe said, “he was following the Lord and like the wine stewards at the wedding at Cana, he heard Mary saying, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

“It’s in times like these when people going through those transitions needed someone like Father Ken, who was ever the optimist, the jokester, the calm smiling presence, to guide them,” said Father DeBoe. “For any of us when transitions shake our worlds, we might find ourselves feeling alone, frightened, wondering what is going to happen. It was Father Ken who helped people see that as something comes to an end, something new is just on the horizon.”

Having dealt with illness and lived in Morris Hall, Lawrenceville, for the past nine years, Father DeBoe elaborated on how Father Borgesen “witnessed for us the joys and struggles of suffering, sickness and aging.

“And [he] did it so well with that same devotion to do whatever God tells us,” Father DeBoe said.

Others in attendance at the funeral Mass echoed similar sentiments about the man they came to know and love as “Father Ken.”

“He was a priest for the people,” said Deacon James Alessi, who assisted at the Mass. Deacon Alessi shared how Father Borgesen became a close family friend, having holiday meals at their home and when his family were vacationing Father Borgensen would keep an eye on their house and care for their cats.

“He loved being a priest,” said Robert Ryan, a member of Incarnation-St. James Parish for 40 years. “For him, being a priest was not a job. It was his vocation. He loved what he was doing.”

Father Borgesen is survived by his brothers Kim and Carl of Michigan; and the priests and brothers of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives.

Burial was to take place April 21 in New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore, Md. Memorial donations may be made to the Trinitarians, P.O. Box 1828, Sykesville, Md. 21784.