Once his life on earth was complete, the Reverend Joseph Linck returned home to the God he loved so much. After a lengthy battle with liver cancer, Father Linck entered into eternal life on August 29, 2008 at the age of 43. Throughout his life, Father Linck, a 1986 graduate of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, always carried a passion for the Catholic Church – a passion that was obvious to everyone with whom he came in contact.
“He had a great love for the Church and a love for prayer,” said Reverend Jeremy Paulin, OMV, a fellow student with Father Linck at Thomas More Colllege. “I think he always knew he was called to be a teacher as well. He was dedicated to the truth of Christ and his Church and wanting to see that spread.”
“In class, he always spoke for the truth,” recalled Father Paulin. Yet, Father Paulin continued, he was always willing to engage in fruitful dialogue with his other classmates, even those whose opinions were different than his.
Father Linck was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania on December 9, 1964, the only child of Charles and Mary (Babkowski) Linck. When he first came to visit Thomas More College in the early 1980’s, he already knew he wanted to be a priest, and so was looking for a college that would give him a solid Catholic liberal arts education to nurture that vocation. Once he visited the campus, he knew Thomas More was where he had to be.
“He was bold,” recalled founding Dean and Professor of Literature Dr. Mary Mumbach. “When he enrolled, the names of cows were still over the stalls in the barn that would house classrooms, dining room, and chapel. The men’s dormitory was a renovated attic. But he saw the College for what it was. He was not seeking prestige. He was looking for genuine wisdom, for a life of dedication. He was looking for a serious Catholic liberal arts education.”
At the end of his sophomore year, his next major decision was choosing his major. He knew what he wanted – or so he thought. Father Linck chose philosophy for a practical reason, in order to have all the required courses for entering the seminary right after graduation. Yet, he knew something was missing.
“I see the political science majors carrying their texts, and I think how I’d love to be reading them,” he told Mumbach. She countered with some practical advice of her own. “I told him he should choose the discipline that gave him the most insight.” He majored in political science, saying he could take extra prerequisite courses in the summer.
Father Linck graduated from Thomas More College in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and later went on to become ordained, the first TMC alumnus to do so. He was ordained on September 17, 1994 in Pittsburgh, Pa. as a member of the Congregation of the Oratory.
His other pursuits prior to, and after ordination, reflected his love of political science and history. He produced his senior thesis on Thomas More’s Utopia. After graduation from TMC, he received his Masters of Arts from the University of Dallas in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Church history from Catholic University of America in 1995. His major field was American Catholic history and his minor field was the Renaissance and Reformation Catholic Church in England. While at CU, he produced his dissertation on Catholic sermons in Anglo-colonial America. From there, he moved on to share his love of the Church and its history with a wide variety of audiences.
From 1995-1999, he served as a lecturer in Church history at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. During that time, he also taught in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Permanent Deaconate Training Program and the Novitiate Training Program of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, also in Pittsburgh, and was a Catholic university chaplain. In 2001, he taught theology and history at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. After that, he became parochial vicar at St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull, Conn. He also held various instructor positions within the Diocese of Bridgeport – in the Permanent Deaconate Formation Program and the Saint Cyril of Jerusalem School for Catechists. Then, he taught at the Saint John Fisher Seminary Residence for the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Stamford. Most recently, he served as rector there, having been appointed in 2006.
As much as Father Linck had a great enthusiasm for theology and history, he enjoyed other interests as well. “He had a great sense of humor,” Father Paulin said. “He wasn’t all studies and seriousness. He’d poke fun at different ideas,”
Father Paulin remembers his classmate’s love of dry British humor – the two men would dramatically recite comedic routines from Monty Python. “We’d regale each other with these passages sometimes,” Father Paulin said.
Father Paulin also recalled his classmate’s love of German culture. In fact, as a student, Father Linck owned a Volkswagen station wagon named Frederick. As the owner of an automobile, he came to the rescue of fellow students when the times demanded it.
“We were both picky eaters, and he had one of the only cars on campus, which he would often generously use to get us to our traditional Burger King supper when we couldn’t face what was being served that night,” said Devra (Prever) Torres, Class of 1986.
Yet, his willingness to assist others stretched far beyond chauffeuring peers to local restaurants when they wanted alternative menu choices. Torres fondly remembers Father Linck helping her and classmate Sheila (Ward) Borse plan a European backpacking trip.
“…(We) had a very vague idea of where the countries were. We wanted to hit Spain but couldn’t find it on the map,” Torres said. “Fr. Linck helped us make up an itinerary, even including the arrival and departure times of trains in five or six different countries. It didn’t even occur to us then, but it’s not at all obvious that we would have either enjoyed or lived to tell about it without Fr. Linck’s help.”
No matter what he was doing, be it teaching or preaching, or driving or planning, Father Linck was unyielding in using his God-given talents to serve others, all while pursuing the truth.