Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, left, with newly ordained Deacon Sheldon Burke, centre, and his parents Desmond (second from left) and Shirley Burke and Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton. Photo: Michelle Tan.
Somascan Brother Sheldon Burke CRS was last month ordained to the diaconate by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.
In celebrating the ordination, Saturday 10 December at Thornlie Parish Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Archbishop Costelloe encouraged Br Sheldon to always retain something of an Advent flavour in his life and ministry as a Deacon and later as a Priest.
Archbishop Costelloe was joined for the ordination by concelebrants Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Thornlie Parish Priest Fr Minh Thuy Nguyen, York Parish Priest and Somascan Fathers Delegate Superior, Fr Joseph Kakumanu CRS, Somascan religious, clergy from across the Archdiocese of Perth and Australia, and assisted by Deacons Nicholas Diedler as MC and Nathan Barrie.
Speaking to Deacon Sheldon during his homily for the occasion, Archbishop Costelloe encouraged him to “like Saint John the Baptist, see yourself as one who is called to prepare the way for the Lord's coming in people's lives.”
“This is, I think, a special gift which deacons, priests and bishops are called to offer in a particular way,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
Somascan Br Sheldon Burke lies prostrate for the Litany of the Saints during his Ordination to the Diaconate, Saturday 11 December at Thornlie Parish Sacred Heart Church. Photo: Michelle Tan.
“If God has created in each person a secret place in his or her heart which only God himself can fill, it is the privilege of those who are called to ordained ministry to be among those whom God sends to his people to awaken in them the realization of this deep longing,” he said.
A former student of Lumen Christi College, 30-year-old Deacon Sheldon is the son of Burmese migrants Desmond and Shirley.
The youngest of three boys, Deacon Sheldon says he recalls being brought up with a firm Catholic upbringing.
After graduating high school in 2009, Deacon Sheldon explained to The Record he went on to study a degree in Biomedical Science at Murdoch University, graduating in 2012.
By this time however, the significant imprint from a trip to World Youth Day Sydney in 2008 aged 16 could not be ignored for much longer.
Deacon Sheldon noted meeting and feeling inspired by the numerous priests and seminarians present during the WYD journey, but not really understanding much about what their vocation meant.
“It was during the meeting with (then) Pope Benedict XVI, where he invited the young people to say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, everyone was holding candles and I knew in my heart God was speaking to me,” Deacon Sheldon said.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB gives the sign of peace and congratulates Br Sheldon Burke during Sheldon’s Ordination to the Diaconate, Saturday 11 December at Thornlie Parish Sacred Heart Church. Photo: Michelle Tan.
Feeling somewhat scared by the experience, Deacon Sheldon says at the time he didn’t want to know more, but the thoughts of a vocation to the priesthood never left him.
Fast forward to March 2012, Deacon Sheldon attended a three-day Vincentian Healing Retreat, where he says he encountered Christ on a new level and saw God was confirming a particular vocation.
In the months that followed, with the assistance of a spiritual director, and in addition to going to Mass daily and the sacraments more regularly, Deacon Sheldon says he could see God was calling him to become closer to Him, allowing Sheldon to explore his faith more.
During this time, Deacon Sheldon had also commenced a Masters of Teaching in Secondary Education at the University of Notre Dame Fremantle, which he completed in 2014.
Contact with Somascan clergy, religious and the youth movement led him to commence discernment to enter postulancy in 2014, the day after graduating from UNDA.
In 2015, Deacon Sheldon was first sent to Somasca to complete his noviciate before moving to Rome, where he spent the next two years studying philosophy, returning to Perth in mid-2018 to undertake the next two years of mission.
During this time, Deacon Sheldon was teaching Science and Religious Education at Clontarf College and Emmanuel Catholic College.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, first from right, newly ordained Deacon Sheldon Burke and his parents Desmond and Shirley Burke cut the cake, Saturday 11 December, following Sheldon’s Ordination to the Diaconate. Photo: Michelle Tan.
Now based in Sydney, he is undertaking his Diaconate ministry at Moorebank and Holsworthy Parishes.
“This time has fulfilled all those years of preparation, entering into the Word of God, it is everything I had hoped for,” Deacon Sheldon told The Record.
“It is a very humbling experience, to be a mouthpiece for Christ,” he said.
“I hope and pray to continue to journey deeper into my relationship with God and continue to prepare for the ministry God gives me, also reflecting on the Gospel and scripture and all He has in store for me,” Deacon Sheldon concluded.