Monsignor Raymond Dreiling, vicar general of the Diocese of Fresno, said Rev. Burchfield’s death came as a shock, although he had been ill and was living at the Nazareth House of Fresno, an assisted living facility. He said the cause of his death is not yet known.
A vigil service for Burchfield will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at St. Therese, 1444 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno, and a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at the church at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 29.
Burchfield was the pastor of St. Therese in Fresno’s Tower District since June of 2009, and as judicial vicar — chief canon lawyer for the diocese — since November of 2009.
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Father Michael was a gentle soul.
Monsignor Raymond Dreiling, vicar general of the Diocese of Fresno
He treated people with “sensitivity, compassion and respect,” Dreiling said.
“He was always thinking of others — making sure they were comfortable, that they were taken care of, that they were served,” Dreiling says. “And that was why he was so good at what he did in the canon law office dealing with people whose relationships were shattered through divorce.”
Burchfield was ordained as a priest in 1993. He previously served as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fresno and Our Lady of Mercy/St. Patrick’s in Merced, and formerly assisted St. Paul Catholic Newman Center in Fresno. He graduated from Hoover High School in Fresno before training to become a priest.
A formal announcement of his death was sent to diocesan clergy Monday afternoon.
He’s much beloved.
Jim Grant, director of the Social Justice Ministry of the Diocese of Fresno
“He has been a real gentle soul,” recalled Teresa Dominguez, chancellor of the Diocese of Fresno. “People love him. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Some took to Facebook to share memories. One friend recalled that “his Masses were done with great love and a bit of humor.”
Other priests will be filling in at St. Therese until a replacement is found.