Right Rev. Monsignor Walter Burke
U. S. Missionary
Walter Burke was born in Westport, Co. Mayo, on March 4th 1902. Following his studies at St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, he entered All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin (now part of DCU Campus) where he was ordained a priest on June 16th 1929, by Bishop Morrisroe of Achonry.
Fr. Burke began his ministry in the diocese of Monterey where he served for thirty years. He served as assistant at Hanford and Watsonville before being promoted in 1935 to his first pastorate in Clovis. From 1938 to 1945, he was pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, Tres Pinos. During 1945 he entered on his last assignment as pastor of St. Columba’s Church, Chowchilla, California. He became Vicar Forane of the Merced deanery during 1951
He was honoured by Pope Pius V1 on March 5th 1956, when he became a domestic prelate.
Monsignor Walter Burke’s demise was on July 18th 1959 when he suffered a heart attack while on his way to Church. The obsequies were conducted on July 22nd in St. Columba’s Church, Chowchilla where Bishop Willinger presided with Auxiliary Bishop Harry A. Clinch. The solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Thomas Morahan of Los Banos, assisted by a choir of the diocesan clergy. A very large gathering of clergy attended not only from the Monterey diocese, but also from surrounding areas.
Father Hall in his touching eulogy, referred to the gentle, unassuming and hospitable nature of Msgr. Burke. According to Fr. Hall ‘No one ever heard Msgr. Burke raise his voice, except in song.’ He also stated that Monsignor Burke offered that baritone voice in praise of God, or for the recreation of his fellow priests. He was equally at home singing a lamentation of Jeremias, an Irish ballad, or the beautiful preface of the Requiem Mass. His favourite piece was the beautiful Justorum Animae.
A Parish Hall commemorates his work for his parishioners at St. Columba’s Church, Chowchilla, California.