After being ordained a priest in 1983, Msgr. Thorburn served as parochial vicar at St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln and St. Cecilia in Hastings before becoming pastor of St. Mary in Davey. In 1999, he was appointed vicar general of the diocese, an extensive position.
“Basically, the vicar general is the one who assists the bishop in the coordination of the activities of the administrative offices of the diocese,” Msgr. Thorburn said.
As vicar general Msgr. Thorburn is a member of the Diocesan Consulters, the Presbyteral Council and the Finance Council. Not only that, but he is also the head of the department of insurance, health and property for the diocese.
Msgr. Thorburn also serves as a member of the Liturgical Commission and the Continuing Education Committee for priests of the diocese.
“[I] generally just assist the bishop with the day-to-day operations of the offices at the chancery,” Msgr. Thorburn said. He is also available to provide canonical advice or service.
During his priesthood Msgr. Thorburn has worked directly with the past three bishops of the Lincoln Diocese.
“All three [bishops] have or had their own unique personalities and gifts. All three have been incredibly patient with me and my many faults!” Msgr. Thorburn said. “All have been loyal and effective servants of Christ and His Church from whom I have learned much and been greatly blessed.”
In fact, it was as a result of the actions of Bishop Bruskewitz that Msgr. Thorburn first interacted with the Carmelite sisters.
In 1999, Bishop Bruskewitz invited the Carmelite nuns to the Diocese of Lincoln where they settled in Valparaiso.
Msgr. Thorburn said, “Eleven sisters arrived at that time and now we are blessed to have 40 of these holy women, at various stages of formation, silently at the service of us all by their prayers and sacrifices.”
As vicar general Msgr. Thorburn was involved in helping the community transfer to the diocese.
“[I] worked closely with them as they looked for a temporary monastery, and as they built their permanent home,” Msgr. Thorburn said. “When the monastery was completed in 2001,
I was named by Bishop Bruskewitz as their resident chaplain.”
As chaplain for the Carmelite sisters, Msgr. Thorburn celebrates daily Mass for the community and assists with any spiritual or temporal needs that the sisters may have.
Since arriving in the Diocese of Lincoln, the contemplative community of nuns has been a holy presence, praying on behalf of all of the members of the diocese.
It is not only the living in the diocese who need prayers, however. As the director of the Dicoese of Lincoln’s Calvary Cemetery, Msgr. Thorburn noted that our deceased loved ones need prayers as well.
As Msgr. Thorburn put it, it is an apostolate of the corporal work of mercy to bury the dead. At Calvary Cemetery, Catholics have the opportunity to bury their loved ones in the cemetery’s consecrated ground as they await the resurrection at the end of time.
Msgr. Thorburn said, “The cemetery will be an active place on that day, but for now the wonderful efforts of our staff are to provide a beautiful, prayerful place where people can affordably leave the bodies of their loved ones until their rising on the last day.
“No doubt many uncanonized saints are laid to rest there,” he continued. “We pray for them and ask their prayers for us.”
“It may sound like a strange subject, but people, especially in times of trouble or grief, often ask, or at least wonder about that,” Msgr. Thorburn said. “The answer is, of course, ‘Yes, indeed he does!’”
Unfortunately, he said, the devil would like those who are troubled or grieved to believe otherwise.
“I think especially those who pass the faith on to others need to have a clear understanding of the personal care our Lord has for each of us,” Msgr. Thorburn said. “Indeed, if we have that knowledge clearly planted in our hearts and our souls, no troubles in this life, nor the evil one himself can overcome us.”
As it is the Year of Mercy, Msgr. Thorburn said he believes it to be especially important for everyone to renew their awareness of the personal love that Jesus has for each and every person. He stressed that this love does not only apply when we are good, but also when we sin.
“[Jesus] came principally to save us, and did so in the most personal way possible, by sacrificing his life for our souls,” Msgr. Thorburn said.
Father Gary Coulter, director of the retreat house said, “We want to encourage teachers and catechists as they are the first instructors of our children.” But he noted that everyone should go on a retreat if they can, in order to make time for God in prayer.
“We all have lots of good intentions when we make that commitment for time with God in prayer,” Father Coulter said. “A retreat is a good way to jumpstart that.” Cassie Otte, a catechist at St. Michael Parish in Lincoln, has attended the retreat in the past.
“This retreat helped me to clear my mind of all the clutter that gets in the way of hearing the Lord guide me to His will,” she said. “Retreats, to me, are a treasure of intimacy with the Lord that help me to refocus and fill up with the graces needed to live out my vocation.”
So whether Msgr. Thorburn is serving the diocese through his position as vicar general or leading retreats at Our Lady of Good Council Retreat House in Waverly, he is happy to be doing God’s will.
Msgr. Thorburn said, “Just being in the service of Christ and His Church in any capacity is a rewarding joy.”