Encouraged by his Roman Catholic faith and a love for English literature and history, the Rev. Joseph Linck combined these passions on a trip to Europe in 2000 with a fellow priest who was also a close friend.
After touring the Tower of London, the two men slipped into the basement of St. Peter's Parish to pray at the crypts of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two Catholic martyrs who were beheaded after refusing to recognize King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. St. Peter's, a parish for Beefeater guards and their families who live nearby, is usually off limits to tourists, but a nodding and winking tour guide told the priests that the chapel door might be open.
As they left, the Rev. Joseph E. Sioli recalled, "We were being chased across the lawn by a Beefeater," the red uniformed guards who lead tours at the Tower of London.
The two friends laughed about the encounter over tea at Brown's Hotel, an English tradition relished by Father Linck, an avowed Anglophile who loved watching the BBC on television.
Father Linck, a Roman Catholic priest for 14 years, died of liver cancer on Friday at The Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, N.Y. He was 43 and had been ill for the past 1 1/2 years.
Since 2006, he had served as rector of St. John Fisher Seminary Residence in Stamford, Conn. Described by colleagues as compassionate, kind and encouraging, he also was well known as a Catholic Church historian.
An enthusiastic teacher whose talent for mimicking "Star Wars" characters such as Yoda and Darth Vader endeared him to students, Father Linck delighted in discussions of American church politics and history.
"It was history that led him to love England," said Father Sioli, who is parochial vicar at St. Frances Cabrini in Aliquippa, Beaver County. His friend's vocation was nurtured by the Redemptorist fathers in Ephrata, the Lancaster County community where Father Linck grew up and attended Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Born in Bristol, Pa., Father Linck graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School. In 1986, he earned a bachelor's degree in political science at St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H. In 1988, he earned a master's in theology at the University of Dallas.
In September 1990, he moved to Pittsburgh and began his formation at the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Oakland.
In 1994, he earned his master's in divinity at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe. That same year, he was ordained a priest for the Oratory.
For the next five years, he served as the Catholic chaplain for students attending the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University. He also taught church history at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe. In 1995, he earned his doctorate in church history from Catholic University of America.
"Father Joe had a real sensitivity for people who were suffering, whether it was a physical cause or some psychological or spiritual devastation," said the Very Rev. Drew Morgan, provost of the Oratory.
Father Mark Gruber, a Benedictine and professor at St. Vincent's for 20 years, served as Father Linck's spiritual adviser.
"The moral impulse of his life was education -- how to draw people to greater understanding, enlightenment and wisdom. Working with young people who were coming of age, intellectually and spiritually, was his passion," he said.
In 2001, Father Linck left Pittsburgh and became parochial vicar at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Conn., where he served until 2006.
A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Conn. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Church at Shady Avenue and Walnut Street in Shadyside at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29.
Marylynne Pitz can be reached at 412-263-1648 or email@example.com .