Thomas Burke is the son of William Burke and Margaret Dvorsky Burke of Pittsburgh. He received a bachelor of science degree in communications from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Duquesne University. He is a 1988 graduate of Carrick High School. He earned a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2000. He is now a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
By Thomas Burke
Recently, we celebrated National Vocation Awareness Week. We use this occasion to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. During the week, Masses for vocation, school visits, Eucharistic adoration and holy hours were held all over the six-county diocese.Throughout the week, I traveled to Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township, St. Teresa of Avila in Perrysville, St. Agnes in West Mifflin, St. Mary of the Assumption in Glenshaw and Our Lady of Fatima in Hopewell Township. I met so many faithful people who came together to pray.On my visit to Sacred Heart, Jan Vairo, who leads the Vocation Committee, organized a nice reception after Mass where I met with many parishioners. Jan loves to pray for vocations. She said that it is her ministry.
Val Davis of Cranberry Township and Jeanne Presto of Baden came to St. Ferdinand to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Val and Jeanne also brought their husbands to the holy hours to strengthen their marriages and to give thanks for the children God has blessed them with.
Georgiann Schaefer of St. Teresa of Avila attended the holy hour at her parish. She said she loves praying for her priests and loves her Catholic faith. She also likes to bake cookies and always makes a fresh batch for my classmate, Father Bob Vular. I was honored to pray with Father Bob that evening.
At Our Lady of Fatima, another classmate, Father Terry O’Connor, celebrated Eucharistic adoration and holy hour with me. As we sat next to one another and prayed, I reflected on the journey we both have been on, going through St. Paul Seminary in Crafton and St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.
It seemed like only yesterday that Father Terry and I were attending Mass at Epiphany Church in Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh during our lunch hours, when we were in the discernment phase.
We would go to Mass every day, then stand on the front patio of the church talking and sharing our thoughts about the priesthood. Now we are ordained priests of more that two years. How quickly time has gone by.
At St. Agnes, Holy Spirit Sister Cynthia Wessel, school principal, and I sat at the lunch table with first-grade students. After lunch, some students approached Sister Cynthia and said “Maybe Father Tom will write about us in the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper.”
At St. Mary’s in Glenshaw after I celebrated Mass and visited the cafeteria, a student approached me and asked, “Father Tom, can I have your autograph?”
Priests and religious men and women continue to do God’s work. Whether it is teaching in a school, working in a nursing home, soup kitchen or doing social outreach ministry, many dedicated individuals continue to make a difference.
With people praying for vocations every day, our future looks bright.
(Father Burke is parochial vicar at Saint Alphonsus Parish in Wexford.)