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Fr Sheldon Burke CRS ordained to share the mercy of God

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Then-Deacon Sheldon Burke CRS with his mother, Shirley and father, Desmond at his ordination to the priesthood at St Mary's Cathedral, Perth, on 17 June. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth
Then-Deacon Sheldon Burke CRS with his mother, Shirley and father, Desmond at his ordination to the priesthood at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth, on 17 June. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth

“You will know that you are succeeding if you can see in the faces of those you encounter that spark of joy, hope and that sense of peace which comes from an encounter with the merciful Christ.”

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB’s words rang true at Perth’s St Mary’s Cathedral on 17 June, as more than 50 priests and religious and hundreds of joyful faithful came together for the priestly ordination of Somascan Fr Sheldon Nicholus Maria Burke CRS.

Friends and family made the journey to Perth from as far away as Sydney, Tasmania and Melbourne, numbering well into the hundreds.

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They poured into Western Australia in the days leading up to the ordination of their brother in Christ who has shown them Christ through his humble service over many years.

Archbishop Costelloe, who has accompanied Fr Sheldon along his journey of discernment since 2013, celebrated the ordination on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, alongside members of the Somascan Order who came from India and Italy.

Fr Sheldon was glad to be ordained on a Marian feast, not only as a Catholic and a religious of a Marian order, but as a spiritual child who felt Our Blessed Mother carefully journeying with him, guiding him and interceding for him.

In his homily, Archbishop Costelloe SDB reflected on Jesus Christ as the face of the Father’s mercy.

The theme was central to Fr Sheldon’s journey to priesthood, his personal devotion to divine mercy and his calling as a Somascan to walk in the footsteps of their founder, St Jerome Emiliani.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB lays his hands over Fr Sheldon Burke CRS during his ordination to the priesthood at St Mary's Cathedral, Perth, on 17 June. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB lays his hands over Fr Sheldon Burke CRS during his ordination to the priesthood at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth, on 17 June. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth

“You’re called to imitate his great love and his practical care, especially for the poor and for the young, and to do so in imitation of Christ following in the footsteps of your founder, because St Jerome himself became the face of the father’s mercy to so many people,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“As his son, you are called to do the same because you are being ordained as a priest at this precise moment in the church’s long history.

“I believe that the Lord is calling you to commit yourself to ensuring that the living out of your priesthood is marked by this particular quality of divine mercy.

“The Lord is calling you as a living icon of the Good Shepherd, to be always in Jesus the face of the father’s mercy.”

Archbishop Costelloe SDB told Fr Sheldon that if he speaks of mercy and always acts with compassion, then he will know that he is becoming the priest the Lord has called him to be.

“You will come to know that you are succeeding when in your moments of prayer you can recognise in yourself the features of the face of the merciful Christ,” he said.

As recalled by his closest friends and family, Fr Sheldon’s Catholic faith was always the biggest part of his life, nurtured by the exemplary model of faith shown by his mother, Shirley and father, Desmond.

Deacon Jason Yeap, Desmond Burke, Fr Sheldon Burke CRS, Shirley Burke, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Fr Joseph kakumanu CRS and Bishop Donald Sproxton. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth
Deacon Jason Yeap, Desmond Burke, Fr Sheldon Burke CRS, Shirley Burke, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Fr Joseph kakumanu CRS and Bishop Donald Sproxton. Photo: Ron Tan/Archdiocese of Perth

Fr Sheldon expressed his deep gratitude to his parents for being the first to teach him how to foster a profound love for Christ.

“Mum and dad, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you,” he said during his thanksgiving, through tears of joy.

“I wouldn’t have known Jesus and I wouldn’t know how to love him.”

Brought up with the spiritual care and catechesis of the Vincentian Fathers at Holy Family Parish in Maddington, Western Australia,  Fr Sheldon came to eventually know the Somascan Fathers, through the friendship and guidance of a future Fr Chris de Sousa CRS.

Fr Sheldon joined the Somascan Fathers in 2014 and carried out his first period of formation at the two Somascan parishes in Perth, Western Australia, before flying to Italy for his year of novitiate and a further two years of study in philosophy at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Following his solemn profession in November 2020, Fr Sheldon relocated to the Somascan community in NSW, where he served the parishes of St Joseph’ Moorebank and St Christopher’s Holsworthy, as a brother and later a deacon, while completing his studies at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Fr Sheldon celebrated his Mass of thanksgiving at his home parish of Holy Family, Maddington, over the weekend and will be celebrating other first Masses at St Jerome’s Lake Coogee, Western Australia, at 6pm on 25 June and at St Joseph’s Moorebank, NSW, at 10am on 9 July.

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