A Blanket of Prayers, Warmth and Much Love ? 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

There is a saying that says “Love warms the heart.”

Recently I received a phone call from Annie. I met her several years ago while I was a seminarian.

She said that her mother, Anna, had been praying for me to become a priest. Realizing that I was now ordained, she wanted to see me soon. I told her that I would be happy to come for a visit. I later reflected on the time we met.

It was the Christmas holiday season several years ago. I was on Christmas break from school at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe helping my brother-in-law Paul. He works in the maintenance department at St. John of God Parish in McKees Rocks. We were in St. Mary Church helping to put up holiday decorations.

Annie Murcko is a parishioner of St. John of God. She also happens to live across the street from St. Mary. She was helping us to decorate.

I met Annie and her mother, Anna. Her mother told me that she would pray for me every day and pray for vocations.

I was honored that a woman with such deep love for her faith and parish would say some prayers as I journeyed on the road toward priesthood. That introduction several years ago brought back so many memories. It seemed like only yesterday.

A few days after the phone call, I traveled from Wexford to McKees Rocks to revisit with both mother and daughter. They greeted me and welcomed me into their home. We talked, prayed and then I gave Anna the holy Eucharist. She was so happy for my visit. We even had a little snack made up of a fruit cup and fresh orange juice.

As I finished the Communion call, Annie said that her mom had a gift for me. On the dining room table laid a maroon hand-knit blanket that Anna had made for me.

Annie said that her mom liked making blankets for priests. She had made one for each of the priests of St. John of God Parish: Fathers Paul Householder, Larry Smith and Regis Ryan. Now she had made one for me. I was truly honored.

Anna’s love and support means so much. Here is a lady I met briefly a few years ago, and she kept her promise to pray for me and pray for vocations. That is true dedication.

A blanket of love goes a long, long way. Let us all give some love to those we say we pray for. It sure warms the heart.

(Father Burke is diocesan co-vocation director and parochial vicar at Saint Alphonsus Parish in Wexford.)