Friday, March 13, 2020 - Updated: 5:11 pm
Father Tom Burke
1. How did God call you to the priesthood?
I always thought of priesthood growing up. From the early years, my mom and dad laid the foundation of my faith. My parents taught good morals and values to my two older sisters, Lisa and Linda, and me. We went to church every Sunday, prayed before every meal and said our bedtime prayers. I “played priest” at a young age by pretending to pray Mass with grape juice and vanilla wafers. I graduated from Clarion University in 1992, where I majored in broadcasting and communications and worked as a disc jockey and newscaster. After college, I was working in public relations and marketing as a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America, Pittsburgh Council. Through this work, I met Father Dennis Colamarino at a Cub Scout signup night. He invited me to dinner, where he asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. No one had ever asked me that before. After prayer and discernment, I realized that God was calling me to the priesthood.
2. What is the most meaningful aspect of your ministry?
It’s working with the people and bringing Jesus Christ to them. A priest is with the people at the beginning, middle and end of life. He witnesses their baptisms, first reconciliations, first Communions, weddings and funerals. I love people and I love sharing the journey with them through the ups and downs of life. I thrive on that.
3. What is the most challenging part of your ministry?
This is my 19th year as a priest. Being a priest today is very challenging. It requires additional skills that I was not taught in seminary 20 years ago. I was not trained to be a real estate agent, a business manager and a maintenance supervisor, and to handle several properties. All of these roles factor into my work as pastor, in addition to my sacramental duties. With fewer people in the pews and reduced financial gifts, it is difficult to maintain church buildings and make necessary repairs.
4. What do you wish people knew about the priesthood?
The priesthood gets a bad reputation from the media and from some people, but being a priest is so fulfilling. It is a career, because that is what I do for a living, but it is also a way of life. We are human beings. Every priest needs to take a day off during the week to recharge and refresh. (Yes, we do get a day off). But the work I do is a joy. I love what I’m doing. Despite the challenges, I wish people knew how rewarding the priesthood is.
5. What is your hobby, or what do you like to do in your free time?
I love reading newspapers. I still read the paper with a cup of Starbucks coffee each day. As a former newscaster, I consider myself a “news-junkie.” I enjoy hosting my radio program, “Catholic Education Plus,” on KDKA radio 1020AM, which airs every other Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I also love learning about state histories. I would like to have visited all 50 state capitals before my 50th birthday in November. I have visited 49 state capitals over the last 25 years. The only capital I have not visited is Honolulu, Hawaii, which I hope to travel to this year.
This is part of a series, “Take 5 with Father,” spotlighting priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. To learn more about priestly vocations, call 412-456-3123 or go to pghpriest.com.