The prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Ernest Joseph Turk, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Cleveland, OH, Br. Ernest died in Campinas, SP, Brazil on September 16, 2014. He was in his 67th year as a professed religious in the Congregation.
Ernest Joseph Turk was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 7, 1923. He was the third of the five children of Jacob Turk and Mary Lah Turk, both immigrants from Slovenia. His father, Jacob, was a machinist. Ernest was baptized at St. Vitus Church in Cleveland on December 23, 1923, and was later confirmed there on December 11, 1932. He attended elementary school at the St. Vitus parish school.
After elementary school, Ernest went to Wilson Junior High School in Cleveland and then on to East Tech High School, graduating in 1941. From there, he spent a year at Fenn College in Cleveland before joining the U.S. Army in 1943. Ernie spent his army years in World War II in the Pacific Theater. He received numerous ribbons, medals and awards for his service, and on February 22, 1946, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as Technician Fifth Grade. In one brief reflection of his time in the army, he said that he was fortunate to be with comrades who helped him end his army service with a strong faith. He was most concerned that he and his comrades had been sent out into a society that “seemed more interested in subjugating its members to the pressures of its economy than liberating the spirit to pursue the quest for satisfaction.”
In January of 1947, he went to Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin, where he entered the Congregation of Holy Cross. He was received into St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on August 15, 1947, where he made his first profession of vows on August 16, 1948. Following his first profession, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame in 1951. That same year, he made his perpetual profession of vows on August 16.
Brother Ernest taught for a year at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Connecticut, and then a year at Central Catholic High School in Monroe, Michigan. He then began his long 60 years of ministry in Brazil. He was a teacher of science and mechanical drawing, a district steward, a candidate director, a religious superior, a parish coordinator of pastoral services, a member of the novitiate staff, and a school counselor. He served throughout the District: in the Amazon region, in Campinas, in the northeast. In 2010, he retired at the community residence in Santarém before moving to the residence in Campinas in 2013.
Brother Ernest began experiencing some health issues in 1979. In the 1980’s, he had several medical procedures and began a battle with severe arthritis. In 2001, he started treatment for glaucoma. But for the past ten years, despite his failing physical health, poor eyesight and memory issues, he managed to navigate his life and the world fairly well.
In an article honoring Brother Ernest on his 50th anniversary of profession, Brother Ronald Hein wrote that Brother Ernest was able to do most anything related to maintenance and construction. He also noted that Brother Ernest was very good at reaching out to people in need whether or not they were part of the official work of Holy Cross. He never locked himself in the religious house, but always reached out to his neighbors, especially the most needy.
Brother Ernest had great hope in the spirit of Brazil, and especially in the potential of the Brazilian youth. He hoped for the day when Brazil would be truly transformed into something new on the face of the earth, a new creation in which the dignity of humanity would shine forth in the context of a community of love, justice and respect.
Those who witnessed Brother Ernest in action were amazed at his tenacity and what he would do in support of his mission and vision. He never gave up working to enable the transforming power of the Resurrection in the world. This is what Blessed Basil Moreau called all of us to work for. May our Brother Ernest, transformed by death, now experience the joy of God’s presence face to face.
In accord with Brazilian custom, Brother Ernest was buried in the District of Brazil’s cemetery plot in Campinas, Brazil, on September 17, 2014. His life will be celebrated at a later date, also in accord with Brazilian custom.
Br. Donald Blauvelt, CSC