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Sister Patricia Burke

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 10/03/2019

SMSM Sisters

Sister Patricia Burke, smsm

(Formerly known as Sr. Mary Aaron, smsm)

November 9th, 1930 – March 10th, 2019

 

Patricia Burke was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 9th, 1930, the only daughter of Lawrence Francis Burke, born in Galway, Ireland, and Katherine McDevitt Burke, born in Londonderry, Ireland.  She had one brother, Lawrence, who predeceased her, and many nieces and nephews and their families, with whom she kept in contact and who came to her funeral to share memories with the Sisters and to celebrate her life.

After completing high school, Patricia went to study nursing at St Margaret’s School of Nursing in Dorchester, MA and became a Registered Nurse in 1951.  She later did further studies at Boston College, earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1955.  At some stage she served as a Visiting Nurse to people in their homes in the Boston area. 

On September 8th, 1960, Patricia entered the postulancy of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, which was then located in Lowell, MA. Six months later, she entered the novitiate in Bedford, taking the religious name “Sister Mary Aaron” and on March 9th, 1963, she made her first vows in Waltham.

Soon after profession, Sister was named Assistant to the Postulant Directress, who was then Sr. Mary John Cantius (Sr Mary Hager).  In the following year, 1964, she was sent to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she earned her master’s degree in psychology in 1966.

On July 6th, 1966, Patricia left the USA for her first “mission destination”: Peru.  After a few months studying Spanish in Lima, she was sent north to Chulucanas, where she worked in a clinic for the next three years.  In 1969 she was sent to do pastoral ministry in Ayabaca and in 1970 to Chalaco, where she was also involved in pastoral ministry and was the coordinator of the local SMSM community.

In 1971, Sr. Patricia, while still in a remote area of Peru, suddenly received a message that changed her life dramatically.  There was a General Council going on in Rome and Sr Marie Ancilla had been elected superior general.  As the voting proceeded to elect her Council, Sr Patricia received the startling news that she had been elected.

Sister Marie Ancilla, now living in New Caledonia, recently shared her memory of this event:

Sr. Patricia was elected General Councilor by the 1971 Chapter where she was not present. She generously agreed to answer this unexpected call and come to Rome immediately.

She was a loyal, generous and creative advisor. I really appreciated her gifts and also her friendship, that continued later, despite the distance.

In those days the term of office for the Superior General and Council was nine years.  Sr Patricia would have spent much of that time in Rome, but she also accompanied Sr Marie Ancilla on visitations of the Sisters – especially in the English-speaking areas.  Many Sisters in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands, who met Patricia during those years have written to share their own fond memories of her, especially her keen interest in everyone and everything.

When Pat returned to the USA after her years on the General Council, at first her administrative skills were again put to use here as she became the Regional Assistant and Secretary.  However, a few years later she found the type of ministry that she grew to love best: pastoral ministry in a parish! She wrote a short article in 2005 that started with the words, “When people ask me what I do, my reply is, “Parish ministry and I love it!”

She first served at St Mary’s in Winchester from 1985 to 1995, training Parish Visitors to bring Communion to the homebound and writing a weekly newsletter for those unable to come to Church. Years later she returned there, working part time for as long as she was able.

In 1996 Pat volunteered to go to a priestless parish in Huntington, West Virginia. This proved to be a very challenging mission for Patricia.  St. Peter Claver was a small, predominantly African-American parish.  Patricia later admitted that she was completely unprepared to work within this culture.  She made mistakes and had to learn to change some of her ways of speaking and to accept corrections.  Through her own humility and perseverance, she gradually had a very positive effect, not only on the parish, but in helping to improve relationships among Catholics in the wider area as well as outreach to the local Protestant churches.

Four years later, in 2000, Patricia was appointed to the Provincial Council and returned to Massachusetts.  That same year she underwent a triple bypass heart surgery at Lahey Clinic.  In 2002, she set out for another mission – this time in a multi-cultural parish with our Sisters in San Leandro, California. In 2004 she participated in a Marist Renewal program in Rome, and later in the year returned to Massachusetts and to her beloved parish ministry in Winchester, MA.

As her health declined, Patricia moved first to “62 Newton St” (2006-2013) and later to the Marillac residence in Wellesley Hills (2013-2019).  She remained an active member in each community, welcoming and befriending everyone to the extent that her health permitted.  She died at the Elizabeth Seton Residence on Sunday, March 10th, 2019.

We are grateful for the many gifts that Patricia brought to her mission, ministry, friendships, family and community throughout her life in joyfully living in the spirit of Mary.  In this life, Patricia was an artist – both in painting and photography. Now, beyond time, may she enjoy the fulness of God’s beauty.

Gratefully in Mary,

Sister Mary Jane Kenney, smsm         (Regional Leader)                                                                                                          

Sister Virginia Fornasa, smsm            (Communications Secretary)