COLUMBUS — College was a time of exploration for the Rev. Ross Burkhalter.
During his four years of undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he entertained the idea of joining the armed forces or taking other government work.
But as the saying goes: we plan, God laughs.
“I always had a sense that God was calling me to the seminary,” Burkhalter said. “The sense got stronger and stronger. I just couldn’t ignore it.”
After graduating from UNO with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he followed God’s heavy encouragement. The next two years saw Burkhalter studying pre-theology before further exploring his options at Conception Abbey in Missouri.
“I was able to spend time with the monks at the abbey,” he said. “I thought about becoming one for a time, as there were some aspects of their daily life I liked. That was the time they took for prayer every day and the time they took for God. After some time, I decided to take a different path.”
Burkhalter kept this love of prayer with him as he completed seminary at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He was ordained on April 4, 1994.
He then joined the Omaha Archdiocese, which has sent him to a number of parishes.
“I have spent almost 24 years serving lots of spots in Nebraska,” he explained. “I went from Omaha to South Sioux City, northern Cedar County, Elgin and Raeville. I’ve served at each place as a diocesan priest only.”
He came to St. Anthony Catholic Church in Columbus a year and a-half ago, replacing Del Lape.
“The diocese always sends us where they feel we can serve best,” Burkhalter said. “There was a period of adjustment, but I have found that the people here have been very good. I’m thankful for that.”
His time away from the parish is filled with sports and exercise.
“I am very sports-minded,” Burkhalter said. “As a spectator, I like football, baseball and basketball. As for me, I enjoy a round of golf and have played tennis a little bit in the past. I even played in a softball game against the Lincoln Diocese.”
That game, called the I-80 Collar Series, was played between the Archdiocese of Omaha and Catholic Diocese of Lincoln in 2015 at Werner Park in Papillion.
“I also like to listen to music and read literature on theology and history,” Burkhalter said. “Classical sacred is my favorite genre of music. This is the various masses of Mozart and other classical composers who have written Mass music. Aside from that, I am all over the board with the oldies. I love a good Moody Blues tune, too.”
When it comes to his congregation, Burkhalter hopes to impart lessons he took from Conception Abbey.
“One of the most important things about faith is prayer,” Burkhalter said. “I am appreciative of how St. Anthony has opened up times for perpetual adoration for those to come in and pray as they need. I find that it is easy to talk about God, but can we listen to God? I want my parishioners to realize that talking to God is where it’s at.”
He wants his congregation to “know God, love faith and share joy” while spreading the gospel.
“The gospel means 'good news,'" he said. “Do we believe that to be so? Can we share that news with others so we can all know God? I want to spend the time I have at St. Anthony to do just that. I wish to continue to be a faithful priest and in some way use my duties to lead others to Jesus.”