A Deacon in Transition — Thomas Burke

2000 News

By Thomas Burke

This final year in the seminary has been very exciting. I am anxiously preparing to be ordained a priest, with five of my classmates on May 26, 2001 at St. Paul Cathedral inPittsburgh. This final year, of a six year program, is called a “transitional year.” My classmates and I are at St. Vincent Seminary during the week taking classes, and on the weekends we return to our parish assignments where we have been doing a pastoralinternship for the past three years. It is an opportunity to get great hands on trainingoutside of the classroom.

As an ordained Transitional Deacon, our life is in “Transition.” We spend a lot of time driving in our cars back and forth from Latrobe to our parishes. I am stationed at St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township, Butler County, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 3. It is a large and very active parish. I assist at several masses on the weekend, delivering the gospel and also giving the homily, and help prepare the altar. I also perform baptisms, go to the hospital and homes for communion calls, and teach eighth grade CCD. It is quite a weekend and very rewarding. It is a good learning lesson preparing a transition from seminary to priesthood.

The weekend assignment is a very good learning lesson for us in our final year. We have to balance the seminary life and parish life. Come time for ordination we will make that final step to be in the parish life full time. This pastoral experience teaches us people skills and ministry. Whether it is interacting with the elderly, middle aged, or youth, we encounter people every day. Also counseling skills are put to the test.

I have met so many wonderful people these last three years in the parish. The people are very supportive and are walking the journey with me. It is an awesome experience. It is great hands on training for the future. There are just some things that you can’t learn in the classroom. We are Deacons in “transition.” We are moving on towards the future!

(Father Burke is parochial vicar at Saint Alphonsus Parish in Wexford.)