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Westport and islands in shock after death of Fr Patrick Burke

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COMMUNITY MAN Fr Patrick Burke is pictured at the launch of Harry Hughes’ new book, ‘Croagh Patrick: A Place of Pilgrimage. A Place of Beauty’ at Westport House just days before his sudden death. The late Fr Patrick is pictured with, from left: Canon Tony King; Harry Hughes, Chief Executive of Portwest and local historian and Rev Canon Val Rogers. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Edwin McGreal

The late Fr Patrick Burke lived the very words of Pope Francis, according to his parish colleague and friend Fr Charlie McDonnell.
Fr McDonnell was speaking at a Funeral Mass for Fr Patrick on Wednesday last following his sudden death, after taking ill, earlier in the week.
Fr Patrick Burke was aged just 38 and had been a curate in Westport for just shy of two years.
Fr Charlie recalled that not long after his papacy began in 2013, Pope Francis said that priests must have ‘the smell of the sheep off them, that they are humble, that they are among their people and are true fishers of men’.
“Nobody in the world had the smell of sheep, in every sense of the word, more than Patrick Burke. Not just the four legged kind that he would be sheering and getting ready up in Killererin, out in Drummin, over in Kilmeena, God knows whose sheep he was minding. Well he minded no one’s sheep better than he minded the Lord’s sheep,” said Fr Charlie.
In an emotional homily, Fr Charlie McDonnell spoke of the strong faith Fr Patrick had and how he had ‘so many instruments in his ministry’ from  ‘a pair of wellingtons out in the field, a sheep shearers, a paintbrush, and the best of all, porter cake. Patrick got into more homes with the smell of a porter cake. Patrick made the best porter cake’!
“He really was a man of God. When Patrick was coming to Westport a man very close to him said ‘he is faithful and faith-filled’. And he was. He soaked into the community. He was everywhere.
“He was so humble, he was like Christ himself. He was an intelligent man, he was a good man.
“Most of all he had decency, he had humility, he had a goodness, he had a deep sense of love but most of all he understood Christ an awful lot better than some of us. He lived the resurrection because wherever he went he brought hope and he brought joy and he brought life.”
Fr Charlie said ‘we’re heartbroken’ but also, to much laughter, remembered a colleague who was ‘fierce cute’.
“Patrick worked awful hard. He was an awful good man. We’re going to miss him but he was as cute as anything.
“We used to have the Christenings at 2pm and it was grand, you had the break after Mass and it was grand. Next thing Patrick said we should move the Christenings to 1pm and I said ‘sound’. Sure I only copped after, sure it was to get home to Mary Ellen (his mother in Killererin, Galway) for the dinner! Out the gap on a Sunday as quick as the Skoda would carry him!”
Fr Charlie said Fr Patrick had a particular fondness for the islands of Clare Island and Inishturk, where he ministered.
“Of all places where he found life and where he brought life was the islands. To Clare Island and Inishturk, nothing would stop him, a swell or a wind or whatever it was. He loved ye and I know ye loved him.”
Fr Charlie thanked Fr Patrick’s parents Mary Ellen and Paddy, his brothers TJ, Gerard and Peter, his sisters-in-law Sheila and Christina, nephews Conor, Iarla, Tomas and niece Amy, and all the Burke family for ‘allowing us this time with him’ to have a funeral in Westport before a funeral followed in his home parish of Killererin.
A packed St Mary’s Church in Westport saw 36 priests, together with Archbishop Michael Neary, officiate at the Funeral Mass.
The unusual sight of six priests shouldering a coffin down the aisle at the end of the Mass was an emotional sight for many mourners.
Symbols representing the places he had ministered in were brought to the altar before the Mass while a representative of each of these places read a Prayer of the Faithful.

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