Retired Priest, Fr Leo Burke, keeps his hat in the ring

Now in my retirement, I’m doing prison chaplaincy, and I’m a chaplain for the Catholic Women’s League. I’m also looking forward to three months of supply work in Ipswich. This probably sounds like I’m not retired, but I want to keep my hat in the ring. I love it – I’m a people person.

I went straight from Gregory Terrace high school in 1957 to the Seminary at Banyo in ’58. At one stage I was going to be an architect or an electrical engineer. The priesthood wasn’t the only option that I considered. But one day an ex-student who was newly ordained came back to speak with the students about joining the priesthood and I was moved to also follow this path.

Looking back I have enjoyed my time as a parish priest wherever I have been I’ve been at Maryborough, Cooloongatta, Kangaroo Point, Red Hill, Yeronga, Gympie and Daisy Hill. I was actually the first parish priest at Daisy Hill. I lived in a caravan for the first 6 months. We started the process of building John Paul College and I have been a patron of the college for 5 years now.

The highpoints of my life have been administering the sacraments to people because you touch people’s lives at very special times.

I was appointed chaplain to Royal Brisbane Hospital for 14 years. In the hospital you are faced with many difficult circumstances. Sometimes in those final hours of a person’s life, the individual would be by themselves except for me, as they had no family.

Sometimes in an emergency I did not even know the person’s name. The circumstances varied. One American family whose daughter was dying stayed in the hospital for three months. The daughter survived – and I have stayed in touch and even visited the family in the USA.

Now in my retirement, I’m doing prison chaplaincy, and I’m a chaplain for the Catholic Women’s League. I’m also looking forward to three months of supply work in Ipswich. This probably sounds like I’m not retired, but I want to keep my hat in the ring. I love it – I’m a people person.

I’m very happy to live at Camp Hill. I am thoroughly enjoying it – I have a peaceful unit where I can just relax. It’s great to live next door to other priests that I have known for a long time. Being in a parish is like having a big family, so I feel at home in a community.

I am getting a lot of support from everyone that I know in my retirement. Already I have a lot more time to spend with family and friends and it’s nice to have more time to pray.

Read more about Priests Foundation »