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Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

BURKE Maurice né le 28 juillet 1927
dans le diocèse de Waterford & Lismore, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 29 juin 1948
prêtre le 18 juin 1952
décédé le 15 avril 1998

1952-1955 université de Cork, études
1955-1965 diocèse de Jos, Nigeria
1965-1967 diocèse d’Ibadan, Nigeria
1968-1991 archidiocèse de New York, USA
1992-1998 Dublin, retiré

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 15 avril 1998
à l’âge de 70 ans


Father Maurice BURKE (1927 - 1998)

Maurice Burke was born at 31 Stephen Street, Waterford, in the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, in the parish of St. Patrick’s, on 28 July 1927. He died in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, on 15th April 1998.

Maurice (Mossy) Burke commenced his secondary education in St. Patrick’s College, Waterford in 1940. Two years later, determined to become a missionary priest, he entered the Society’s junior secondary school, the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1942-1943). He completed his secondary studies in St. Joseph’s College Wilton (1943-1945). Maurice entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1946. Two years later he was promoted to the major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He was received as a permanent member of the Society on 11th June 1951. His ordination to priesthood took place on 18th June 1952, in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry. He was one of a group of ten ordained on that day by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore.

During his last year in Wilton Maurice attended First Arts lectures at U.C.C. but did not complete the course because of illness. However after ordination he was sent again to U.C.C. to study for a Science degree. This was a time when the education apostolate was rapidly developing in Nigeria and graduates were in great demand especially those with science degrees. Maurice graduated in the summer of 1955 and in December of the same year went to Jos diocese in Northern Nigeria. He was to serve in this diocese for the next ten years, apart from a three month period on the staff at Ballinafad (September 1957-December 1957). On his arrival in Nigeria, John Reddington, bishop of Jos diocese, appointed Maurice to Mary Immaculate College (C.M.I.) at Kafanchan. This was a training college founded by Mgr. William Lumley in 1949, which supplied capable teachers for the many elementary schools in the jurisdiction. In 1958 Bishop Reddington opened St. Joseph's college, Vom, in Benue-Plateau State (some 20 miles from Jos) to cater for Catholics in the northern part of the diocese. Maurice was appointed founding Principal of this important educational institution. He not only supervised the building work but set up the Science laboratory, remaining on as Principal for a period of five years. He spent the remaining years of his time in Jos on the staff of St. Murumba’s College, a secondary school founded in 1959 to serve Catholics from the southern part of the diocese.

In November 1965 Maurice was transferred to Ibadan diocese, serving there until July 1967. During this period he established a science laboratory (and taught science) in St. Theresa’s Minor Seminary, Oke Are, which provided secondary education for seminarians from several jurisdictions in the south-west. However at this time Maurice’s health began to give cause for concern - among other things he suffered a heart attack - and he spent some time in Oke Offa hospital until he was finally invalided home. After a three month period of recuperation, during which he taught in Ballinafad, he took up pastoral work in New York diocese, where he was to work for remaining twenty-two years of his active ministry. Much of this time was spent in Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Tottenville, Staten Island. In January 1992 Maurice returned to Ireland in ill-health, living in Dublin with his sister, Mrs Pat Troy, in Grace Park Road. Suffering from a severe form of diabetes, he was to be frequently hospitalised for treatment, which in later years included dialysis. In 1997 when his condition sharply deteriorated – his eyesight had greatly weakened and his kidneys were failing - he was admitted to Talbot Lodge nursing home in Kinsealy, Co Dublin.

Maurice had first become conscious of Ireland’s language, literature and culture when he won a Fry’s Cocoa scholarship to the West Cork Gaeltacht in the late 1930’s. Thereafter he took a keen interest in all things Irish. When he went to America he became involved in Irish-American life and with the onset of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement and the events which followed, he gravitated towards those bodies which set themselves up to assist the nationalist community. In particular he wrote numerous books and pamphlets relating to justice and peace issues affecting nationalists – among the titles of which were: A Guide to Robert Kee's Ireland; Britain and Ireland: the facts; Britain's War Machine in Ireland; C.B.S., Claire Sterling and the Provos; From Blanket Protest to Hunger Strike; Injustice is Injustice is Injustice; Ireland, the Religious Dimension; Northern Ireland: Points at Issue; Reed of the Digest; a) Strip Searching; b) Show Trials; The Falkland/Malvinas Islands; The American Connection; The Irish and American Independence; The Irish Mission Church; ‘Ireland: The Religious Dimension’ (Ms); The Year of the Irish Hunger Strike; A Decade of Deceit; The New York Times and the War in Ireland.

These publications, letters to the press, radio interviews and lecture tours, won him a certain notoriety in Irish American circles and he became increasingly seen as a spokesman and publicist for the Republican movement on justice issues. At the time of his retirement the Staten Island Advance newspaper carried a detailed profile, describing him as ‘a visible and important figure in New York’s Irish American community’. It noted too that ‘his support of the nationalist cause in Ireland had set him apart from many of his fellow priests’, and that he ‘openly supported the Irish Republican Army and its methods’. His brother, Daniel (Don), also an S.M.A. priest, when preaching at Maurice’s funeral Mass declared ‘Fr. Mossy was a man of peace and rejected violence, but he shared most Irishmen’s longing for a single political entity on this small island… thus he took up the pen… uncovering the propaganda lies regarding the situation in Northern Ireland’. He added that it was Maurice’s ‘burning passion to bring the truth to as many as possible’ that undermined his health. A distinguished author and journalist, Terry Golway, who was a parishioner in Our Lady Help of Christians, recorded the great impression made on him by ‘Fr. Burke’s love of Ireland and his strong sense of social justice’.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery.