Father Bernard Joseph Bush, SJ, noted spiritual director and counselor, died December 7, 2020, at the age of 86, in a hospital in San Jose, California. He had been diagnosed with Covid-19. He was a Jesuit for 69 years and a priest for 55 years.
Fr. Bush was born in Garberville, California, on September 13, 1934, the oldest of three sons of Bernard Bush, the lone pharmacist in a hundred mile stretch of Humboldt County redwoods, and Anne Kelley Bush. From their rural home, Fr. Bush and his brothers attended Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose as boarding students. Upon graduation, Fr. Bush entered the Jesuit novitiate in Los Gatos, California, on August 14, 1951, to study for the priesthood.
His studies took him to Gonzaga University for an MA in philosophy and Regis College in Toronto for his theology degree. He was ordained a priest June 4, 1965, in San Francisco and later earned a doctorate from the Saybrook Institute in San Francisco.
During his studies, he taught at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco (1958-1960), and on occasion would accompany Fr. James Tupy, SJ, on his rounds as chaplain at Alcatraz Federal Prison. As an unofficial chaplain’s assistant, Fr. Bush would stroll through the yard, chatting with some of the more notorious prisoners and maintained in contact with some of them. In later years, Fr. Bush would be one of the speakers at the Alcatraz reunions; as one of the last survivors of that era, he would give a talk on his experiences and offer Mass in the prison chapel.
Fr. Bush’s ministry was one of spiritual direction and counseling. He worked in campus ministry at the University of San Francisco (1967-1969), as a teacher of spirituality and spiritual director at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (1969-1971) and as an outpatient counselor at the House of Affirmation in Boston (1974-1977) and Montara, California, where he also served as director (1977-1987).
He served as director of Clergy Development in the diocese of Norwich, Connecticut (1988-1993), and retreat director at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, California, beginning in 1993. For many years, he directed a program to train religious women, laywomen and others as retreat and spiritual directors. He resided at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos for the last 10 years, continuing his spiritual direction until the Covid-19 crisis prevented it.
Fr. Bush was a gregarious man and a wise and generous spiritual guide, who will be missed in his community and by those whose lives he touched. He is survived by his sisters-in-law, Jean Bush, of Mill Valley, and Joan Bush of Rancho Cordova.
Funeral Masses at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center are currently not open to the public because of Covid-19 restrictions. To view Fr. Bush’s livestreamed funeral Mass, click here.