Newly ordained priest ‘fitting right in’ — Thomas Burke


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

Well, it has been more than a month since my priesthood ordination at Saint Paul Cathedral. After six years of studying in the seminary, the time has come to go to work. My five classmates and I were eager to get our assignments after the ordination ceremony.

The ordination and first Masses went well. The turnout was incredible. To look out and see the cathedral packed with people was quite a feeling.

And to see so many friends, family members and parishioners attend my first Masses at Saint Norbert in Overbrook (Pittsburgh), Christ the Light of the World in Duquesne and Saint Ferdinand in Cranberry Township was a blessing.

When I arrived on my first day at Saint Alphonsus in Wexford, Pastor Father Peter Murphy and the parish staff welcomed me and were helpful in moving me into the rectory. The rookie had arrived ready to go to work.

I celebrated my first Mass at the 9 a.m. liturgy then I headed to Kennywood for our parish school picnic. It was a great way to meet people in a very relaxed and informal setting. Not bad for my first day.

My first days were spent just getting acquainted with the church and school grounds and learning which keys go where, and the locations of the proper light switches. That week I also celebrated mass at a personal care home and went to Six Flags of Ohio with the parish youth group. It was great to be able to interact with the old and the young all in the same week.

After unpacking and getting settled into parish life, I feel very calm and at peace finally being a priest. To be able to perform the sacraments and just be with the people is what priesthood is all about. A priest can have such a positive impact on a person’s life: the homily at Mass, listening during a counseling session, visiting someone in a hospital or nursing home, spending time at a baseball game or being on a rollercoaster ride at Kennywood.

Many people have asked me, “So how does it feel ‘Father Tom’ that you’re now a priest?” I say it’s awesome. People are very supportive and very kind.

At the ordination, Bishop donald Wuerl said the priest is never alone. That is so very true. I am very blessed to have so much love and support from my family and friends and parishioners.

It’s an honor to have my parents attend Mass at Saint Alphonsus on Sunday just to spend some time with their son. Friends call or write me notes to just say hi and parishioners send their encouraging words. That sure means a lot to the priest, to know that we are being thought of and someone is keeping us in their prayers.

Yes, I’m still new and have a lot of energy and still flying high after ordination, but being a priest is the goal and dream I have had for a long time and I am blessed to have finally made.

As I crossed the finish line of my seminary career, another journey began and that is the road of priesthood. Yes, there are going to be highs and lows, that is human, but I know that I will not be alone along the journey.

I say to those thinking about the priesthood, go for it. God still calls. With God, all things are possible.

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