By Msgr. Francis Henricksen
On arrival for the funeral celebration of Father William Dawson last Friday, we were confronted with the news of Father Theodore Borger’s death. Fr. Ted was only 56 years old.
For one so young, his travel through life was broad and filled with the experiences of a priest much older. It all began in the southwest corner of our diocese, his family finally settling in Ottumwa. It was there he was received as a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Davenport. This was after his try at religious life with an Ohio group of Franciscan Brothers and his being received into the Catholic Church.
From St. Ambrose University to St. Paul Seminary, he was ordained in 1983. Of his 28 years as a priest, his first four years were in pastoral ministry to parishioners of southeastern Iowa. His career change then was one of taking on the travels provided by the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corp.
From Camp Pendleton in California to Operation Desert Shield/Storm of the first Gulf War and back to San Diego filled in the space of 1987 to 1991. His time in San Diego also gave him the experience of parish work again, receiving the faculties of Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church as well.
A single car accident in 1995 left him a paraplegic and confined to a wheel- chair and added to the permanently disabled list of the Navy in 1997. In 2006, his travel through life brought him to Verona, Wis., where he volunteered for pastoral ministry for surrounding parishes. His death was sudden, unexpected, but we pray not unprepared.
There is no way one can count the number of lives he touched in service to his God and country. We can only feel the loss of more by his early death. The commendations and promotions given him by the Navy are testimony of a successful career, but only the welcome of “well done good and faithful servant” by his Divine Master is the award that matters.
Obituary for Fr. Borger
Father Theodore Borger, 56, a retired Navy chaplain, died Dec. 16 at Veterans Hospital in Milwaukee.
A native of Ottumwa, he entered the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis in Fayetteville, Ohio, and attended Chatfield College for Religious at Brown County Ursuline in St. Martin’s, Ohio. He left the friary in 1976, moved back to Ottumwa and entered studies for the Diocese of Davenport. He graduated from St. Ambrose College in Davenport and completed theological studies at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
He was ordained to the priesthood June 18, 1983, by Bishop Gerald O’Keefe at St. Patrick Church in Ottumwa. Fr. Borger served as an associate pastor at All Saints in Keokuk from 1983-85, and administrator of St. Mary in Nichols, St. Joseph in Columbus Junction and St. Malachy in Arden from 1985-87.
Fr. Borger was commissioned a lieutenant (junior grade) in the chaplain corps of the U.S. Naval Reserve in Iowa City in 1985 and assigned as chaplain for the 4th Medical Battalion at the Naval Reserve Center on the Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. He was promoted to lieutenant.
He was called to active duty in 1986 and assigned to the Naval Support Facility and Marine Barracks in the British Indian Ocean Territories. From 1987-91 he served at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was deployed during the first Gulf War.
Fr. Borger served at three parishes in San Diego and held faculties in the Carpatho-Ruthenian Rite and the Ukrainian Rite of the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church.
In April 1991 he was assigned as chaplain to the Support Battalion Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, and promoted to lieutenant commander. He also served as assistant regimental chaplain and deputy depot chaplain. In April 1994 he was assigned as senior Catholic chaplain and division officer at the Naval Station 32nd Street, San Diego.
Fr. Borger was involved in a car accident Sept. 10, 1995, and paralyzed from the waist down by complications associated with his injuries. He was honorably discharged by the Navy. In 1997 he began serving as Catholic chaplain for the Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, Calif., until 2006. He also served as chaplain at a home for orphan girls in Mexico.
In 2006 he moved to Verona, Wis., serving in various parishes including St. Victor in Monroe.
Fr. Borger’s funeral was to be held Dec. 22 at St. Victor Church in Monroe, Wis. Burial is set for Dec. 23 at Shrine Memorial Cemetery in Ottumwa.
Memorials can be made to St. Victor School, 1416 20th Avenue, Monroe, WI 53566.