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
As a priest, it is a constant challenge every week to deliver an effective homily to the people. We try to relate the Word of God to what is going on in the community that day, that week. For me, delivering the homily is one of the favorite parts of the Mass.
Recently, I received a phone call from Rheda, a parishioner of St. Alphonsus in Wexford. She called to give me an update on her grandson. We have been praying for her grandson, Joey, for many months.
Joey is 1. Ever since his birth he has had heart problems. Joey’s partents, Steven and Stephanie, belong to St. Cyril of Alexandria Parish in Brighton Heights. With the various trips to the hospital and the doctor’s office, Steve, Stephanie, Rheda and her husband Charles, always have a positive attitude and keep the faith in their hearts.
Rheda said to me that I delivered a homily last fall that she still remembers. It was about fully relying on God in good times — and in bad.
I have a little plastic frog that sits on my desk in my office. The frog is holding a Bible in one hand and a cross in the other. A friend gave it to me for an ordination gift last year. It has “FROG” painted on it, which stands for Fully Rely on God.
And ever since that homily, Rheda has bought clothes and socks and a little stuffed animal frog for Joey. It has become his “trademark.” Other friends and family members have frogs too.
Recently, when Joey was getting evaluated at the hospital, the doctor walked into the room and, ironically, she was wearing frog socks. Rheda thinks that this is providential.
Though Joey remains under a doctor’s care and recently underwnet open-heart surgery, the family still has hope.
I never thought one particular homily could have such an impact on a person or a family, but it has. When people open up their faith and listen to Scripture and the homily, the power of the Holy Spirit can work to make such an important moment.
Faith can move any mountain, any obstacle or any fear that we may encounter. We are all on the journey of life together. When we “fully rely on God,” anything is possible.
(Father Burke is parochial vicar at Saint Alphonsus Parish in Wexford.)