Everyday Evangelist: Dr. Bob Burger
A strong Catholic faith finds its roots in one of two places — consistent faith formation, or a powerful conversion experience.
For Dr. Bob Burger, his faith stems from the former.
A “Cradle Catholic,” Burger’s life has seen success at every stage, but along with that success he has maintained a deep devotion to Christ through his Catholic faith. An orthopedic surgeon at Beacon Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Burger credits his parents and his wife, Felicia, for helping him to live the faith daily.
“I’ve been very, very blessed throughout my life from the standpoint of parents and my spouse,” Burger said. “I grew up in a family where both my mother and father’s side of the family grew up in a very strong Catholic tradition.”
Burger’s parents made sure he had a Catholic education, sending him to St. Ignatius of Loyola School in Monfort Heights, and later to LaSalle High School. After high school, Burger followed his dream, earning an academic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame, Burger said, was the site of a great deal of his personal growth and faith formation. As a freshman in 1977, Burger made the football team as a walk-on. That year, quarterback Joe Montana led the Fighting Irish to a national championship. Burger would later earn an athletic scholarship, and by his senior year, he was a starting offensive guard.
The blending of faith and football at Notre Dame proved a formative influence. The team would stay the night at a nearby seminary before home games. There were always priests present and Mass was said for the team regularly. The experience taught Burger the importance of using one’s gifts, given by God, to honor Him by using those gifts to the best of one’s abilities.
“After Mass (on game days) the priest always led the team in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin,” Burger said. “He always gave each player a religious medal. I have in a drawer every religious medal I got for every game that I was privileged to suit up for the University of Notre Dame.”
Burger was a chemical engineering major at Notre Dame, but went on to medical school. In his career, he has remained involved in athletics, serving as the team physician to LaSalle, Xavier University and the College of Mount St. Joseph. As an orthopedic surgeon, he specializes in sports medicine.
“When (athletes) come to see me, they’re coming at a time they’re often injured and vulnerable,” Burger said. “My hope and my prayer is that I can provide a meaningful service to help them physically and to let them know that as an adult, I care about them more as a person and not just about how many points they scored last night.”
Outside of his work, Burger is also on the executive board of Right To Life of Greater Cincinnati. He has spoken publicly about the importance of being pro-life and defending the life of not only the unborn, but also the elderly, sick and disabled. Fortunately, Burger said that position hasn’t run him into much trouble.
“I try to as best I can be an advocate for life first of all as a Catholic, and also as a physician,” he said. “What is a little bit unique about Cincinnati, is that Cincinnati is a very Catholic community, especially the west side of Cincinnati. One of the things that is a real blessing to this area is that it’s not unique that a physician is a strong pro-life advocate.”
A parishioner at St. Ignatius, Burger is a member the parish’s Father’s Group that meets on Friday’s at 6 a.m. He credits that group for helping him in continuing faith formation.
“Probably one of the most beneficial things I’ve done from a standpoint of spirituality and from a standpoint of personal and professional balance and trying to keep priorities in line, is I have been a member of the St. Ignatius Father’s Group,” Burger said.
Burger has four sons, Bobby, Chris, John and Joe.
Burger said that one of the most important roles of a Catholic in their daily life is that of evangelist. The role doesn’t require a great deal of catechesis or expertise, but just a living example of faith.
He cited Pope John Paul II. Late in life, the pontiff was unable to speak but still he led the Church with the example he set.
“Its important we talk about evangelization,” Burger said. “We can evangelize more by what we do than by what we say. It’s how we act, and how we treat others. Lord knows I’m far from perfect at it but that’s something I try to do in my work, in my family and with my community relationships.”