Glenview priest has led a wonderful life

  • The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview.

      The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview.

      The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview.

      The Rev. Robert Borré, 85, served as a priest at churches in the Northwest Suburbs and at Naval Air Station Glenview. Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@ dailyherald.com

 
 
Updated 10/29/2020 6:18 AM

Everyone has a story.

It's a simple truth Glenview's the Rev. Robert Borré has learned since he was ordained 60 years ago -- May 28, 1960, to be exact -- at St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, Wisconsin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He's undoubtedly heard compelling stories from among the thousands of people he has served, and at 85 years old continues to serve in places like Chicago's Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, where he celebrated Mass on Oct. 11.

But at times, Father Borré's own story sounds nearly cinematic.

"It was quite an adventure, to say the least," he said.

Born at Evanston Hospital and raised in Glenview, he spent much of his time either overseas or in Wisconsin. Though he didn't retire from the Diocese of Madison until 2005, a story in the Madison Catholic Herald noted he returned to Glenview in 1987, initially assisting The Rev. Myles McDonnell with early Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Borré's early schooling came at OLPH under pastor John Dussman. He attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette, but after graduating in 1952 had little idea of his path.

That changed while he was working at an A & P grocery store. A nun, his sixth-grade teacher at OLPH, introduced Borré to a visiting priest who drove him to Milwaukee's St. Francis Seminary. Borré initially wasn't interested in studying scripture, but a few weeks later the priest reached him with the news that another student had drowned. For better or worse, a spot at the seminary had opened up.

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"It almost seemed like a divine calling, like I had no choice," Borré said.

He studied at St. Francis eight years and later earned degrees from Edgewood College in Madison for counseling; and from University of Wisconsin-Platteville in educational psychology and secondary education. Borré taught at three different places, the Madison Catholic Herald noted.

Dussman had warned there were "too many priests around Chicago, you'll never get a parish." Borré listened, and took a number of assignments as pastor and associate pastor within the Diocese of Madison before he returned to Illinois.

His combination of faith, counseling and psychology, however, suited him wonderfully for military service. He even served as the final contract chaplain from 1993-95 at Glenview Naval Air Base, whose Schram Memorial Chapel still remains in The Glen Town Center.

Borré began his military service in 1966 as an Air Force chaplain. Before assignment, he visited the New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa. A monk gave him some advice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The one thing he said that stays with me still, and which I used continually with my clients: 'Think about good things,'" Borré said.

It came in handy in the Air Force and later as an Army reservist and member of Wisconsin's National Guard.

At the northernmost U.S. base, in Thule, Greenland, he remembered a day when the temperature was minus-93 degrees. In Thule he went up in a plane and circled the North Pole 13 times at 5,000 feet, seeing nothing but horizon as the console dials spun aimlessly at magnetic north.

He visited Korea twice and was head father of 73,000 people at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, his favorite tour. "Those were wonderful people," he said.

In the Army a helicopter crash in Costa Rica crushed a hip. He crossed "Checkpoint Charlie many times" at the border of East and West Germany, he said.

Borré toured Panama twice, once during the 1989 coup attempt to dislodge Manuel Noriega.

"We really appreciate you being here, but don't come back," a general told him. "Every time you come back we have another coup."

Having served in the Persian Gulf with Operation Desert Storm, he retired as a major in 1994, was named an honorary brigadier general in 2019. Previously, Borré had been nominated as Air Force "chaplain of the year" for his work in the Pacific Theater.

He loved the work despite its drawbacks.

"I took care of a lot of casualties without going to Vietnam," he said.

Nowadays, Borré keeps active at home during these "long days," weeding flower beds and cutting the grass.

Crucially, he continues to serve at places such as the Jesse Brown and Edward Hines Jr. VA hospitals, at St. Colette Catholic Church in Rolling Meadows and St. Edna Catholic Church in Arlington Heights.

He boils down his lifelong adventures like so:

"We are one," he said. "We are not alone, and we need this today. We are not alone."

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