1889 – 1992 (October 7)
Wilbert Raymond Kirk was born on December 14, 1889, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of William Kirk and Regina Carroll, the fourth child in a family of four boys and four girls. Two of his sisters became religious in the Congregation of the Sisters or Saint Joseph. He was baptized on January 1, 1889 in the church of the Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh where he attended the parish grammar school. In 1907 the family moved to Buffalo, New York, where Wilbert completed his grammar school education and graduated in 1913. For two years he worked for a piano company. Impressed by the preaching of the Augustinians who were giving a four week mission at Saint Vincent de Paul, the first and only mission given in Buffalo by the Augustinians, Wilbert applied to and was accepted by the Order as a postulant. In September of 1915 he was accepted as a postulant at Saint Rita's Hall, Villanova. In 1918 he entered the novitiate and professed simple vows on June 25, 1919. Three years later, on June 25, 1922, he was solemnly professed. That same year he was awarded a B.A. degree by Villanova College. After three years of theology, Wilbert was ordained a priest on August 2, 1925, by Thomas J. Walsh, Bishop of Trenton, at Villanova. He completed his theology in Washington, DC while taking education courses at the Catholic University of America, which granted him a master's degree in education in 1926.
Father Kirk was appointed submaster at the new novitiate of Our Mother of Good Counsel on the Hudson River in New York. That same year, he was sent to Saint Matthew's Church in Flint, Michigan, then to Fox Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois, and finally, Saint Rita's High School in Chicago, where he remained for fourteen years teaching English, Latin, and filling many administrative positions. From 1940 to 1960 Father Kirk continued in secondary education as headmaster and prior at Saint Augustine High School in San Diego, California; Colegio San Agustin in Havana, Cuba and Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, California.
In 1960 he was assigned to Saint Laurence Church in Lawrence, Massachusetts, then to Saint James in Carthage, New York, and in 1969 back to Lawrence, at Saint Augustine's in Tower Hill. In these parishes Father Kirk served as prior of the Augustinian communities as well as pastor of Saint James. In his seventies, Father Kirk suffered two strokes; he recovered from both after lengthy periods of hospitalization. This led him to accept retirement from active ministry. He remained at Saint Augustine, Lawrence, and as his strength returned organized the senior citizens of the parish. As the year went by his birthday, December 14, became the occasion for pre-Christmas gatherings of Augustinians in the area.
When Father Kirk first arrived at Saint Rita's Hall to begin his long life as an Augustinian, his fellow classmates gave him the nickname "Duke" due to his dapper appearance. Over the years this name remained with him as a sign of affection and a tribute to a dignified gentleman and a gracious host. By 1987, as his health and his eyesight failed, Father was moved to Our Mother of Good Counsel Monastery on the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, where he could receive adequate nursing care. At the time of his death, at 93 years of age, he could look back 72 years as a religious and 67 years as a priest, a long lifetime in the service of God.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on October 12 at Saint Augustine Church. Father William Wynne, O.S.A., was the homilist. Interment was the following day in the Augustinian section of Saint Mary's Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.