It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden death on Monday 25 June of our colleague Patrick Burke, priest of Tuam Archdiocese and curate in Westport Parish and Pastoral Co-ordinator of Clare Island and Inishturk.
It is just a matter of a few weeks ago that Patrick was featured on our website with the article he wrote of his unique ministry.
Patrick (38) was ordained in 2006 and served as hospital chaplain in Castlebar and then as curate in Knock before moving to Westport.
In recent weeks Patrick had been appointed as Parish Priest of An Cheathrú Rua and was due to take up appointment in July.
We extend our sincerest sympathy to all his family, especially his parents Paddy and Mary Ellen and three brothers.
We pray God to give him eternal rest and to comfort and console his heartbroken family and many friends.
Tribute by Brendan Hoban
When I heard it first, I found it hard to believe that Fr Patrick Burke was dead. And if I found it hard to believe what about his parents, Paddy and Mary Ellen, his brothers Gerry, T.J. and Peter, his extended family and his many friends?
What about the people of Westport where he had served as a curate for the last two years or the people of Knock parish where he had served so happily for 4 years and so effectively for so many years or the people of An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe) where he was to take up an appointment this month as parish priest?
Or indeed what about the people of the islands – Clare Island and Inishturk – where he had served as Pastoral Co-ordinator – and where he had found such an enjoyable niche and where he was so much appreciated.
In an article he wrote recently for this web-site, Patrick described his island ministry as ‘a real blessing.’
Based in a fairly large town like Westport – getting to know people (he wrote) – is a slow process. ‘The small population of the island is the complete opposite.’
It was, I think, a telling comment because Patrick loved the ordinary and the everyday and had no interest in or ambition for standing on a larger stage. He was at his happiest and his best when he brought his warm and gentle presence to visiting those who had were bereaved or in difficulty; or sitting by a fire-side listening to parishioners sharing their joys and their struggles; or sharing pictures of sheep and new born lambs at home or chatting with farmers about their work – forever bringing his sensitive and listening ear to the ups and downs of the lives of his parishioners.
It’s called ‘pastoral care’. Experts have written books about it. Bishops and priests have talked endlessly about it. Nearly everyone can explain it well in theory. Patrick just did it. It was a natural gift, part of the very weather of his life, a great blessing from God.
My memory of him is on his bicycle, pulling up for a chat. Or getting a note of support from him when the storms raged; or seeing him greet a parishioner with his distinctive smile playing on his face; or chatting to a teenager about how the Leaving Cert went; or, in a busy room full of the ambitious and the self important, making his quiet way to someone who needed a quiet word.
A priest-colleague of his said to me of Patrick’s death: ‘Is this God’s way of playing a joke on us?’ What he meant was that as priests are now so few and so elderly, Patrick (at 38) was a strong and willing pair of hands we so badly needed in our Church at this time, particularly his gentle, gracious, respectful, open-minded and supportive presence. What, was the suggestion, what could God have been thinking?
God’s ways, Scripture tells us, are not our ways.
Patrick will be greatly missed: missed by the parishioners in Westport and Knock, so many of whom became his great friends; missed by his priest-colleagues among whom he was a gentle and benign presence; missed too (though they can’t know what they’ve missed) by the parishioners of Carraroe among whom he was about to serve; but most of all, of course, he will be missed by his parents, Paddy and Mary Ellen, his brothers Gerry, T.J. and Peter and his extended family and friends in his native Killererin.
We offer our sympathy to all who loved him as well as the support of our prayers in their grief.
May his gentle soul rest forever in God’s peace.
Tribute to Patrick Burke on Mid West Radio’s Faith Alive Programme by Monica Morley and Brendan Hoban