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Beloved Mill Hill Father Terry Burke called to eternal life

File photo: Fr Anthony Chantry (L) mhm superior general, and Fr Terry Burke mhm (R) pose with Bishop Julius Gitom (C) during a courtesy call on the Sandakan bishop at his office on 4 Dec 2010.

KOTA KINABALU – Beloved Mill Hill Missionary (MHM) Father Terry Burke was called to eternal life on Thursday 31 Aug 2017 in Tilehurst England, aged 73.

Terence Laurence Burke was usually known as Terry. He was a Londoner, born in Barnes, South London on 24 March 1944 to Richard Burke and Mary Hogben. He had one brother and one sister. He was educated at St Edward Secondary Modern School, Richmond from 1955 – 57 and Kingston Technical College from 1957 – 64, followed by a year at Campion House, Osterley. Terry studied Philosophy at Roosendaal from 1965 – 67, and Theology at Mill Hill College from 1967 – 71. He took his Perpetual Oath on 1 May 1970 and was ordained to the missionary priesthood on 12 June 1971 by Gerald Mahon who was the Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. Terry had spent a short time as a student in Kuching and in 1971 after his ordination, he was appointed to serve there as a missionary priest. He was very pleased when, many years later after a lifetime of mission work in several countries, he was re-appointed to Kuching in 2007.

Academic work and studies came easily to Terry and this ability was recognised and followed up early in his career. After four years in Kuching he was appointed to Rome to study when he gained an STL Magna cum Laude in Moral Theology, after which he returned to Kuching in 1977 where he continued his pastoral ministry.

In 1980, Peter Chung Hoan Ting, at that time the Archbishop of Kuching, told Terry that he had seven young men who wanted to be priests. He had an old building and he had Terry and he wanted him to start a seminary. And so he did. However,  the main ingredient missing was teaching staff. So after the first year during which he had the help of another Mill Hill priest, Terry went home to try and find teachers. He spoke to the Irish Missionary Union and asked them for help in sourcing priests who could go to Kuching for a few months at a time. Due to a very cold winter night in Ireland, a priest on sabbatical from New Orleans offered to go and so was born a connection which continued for many years.

In 1984 Terry had to leave Kuching because of a Government law that said all expatriate missionaries had to leave after ten years. He was appointed to the British Region for APF work, but first, he went to New Orleans for further study – a Master of Arts in Religious studies where he met the priests who had been supporting Kuching Seminary financially as well as with teaching staff.  From 1986 to 1993 Terry worked in Formation within the Society in Roosendaal and Mill Hill College – Missionary Institute London. In 1995 Terry had a very brief appointment in India, then returned to the British Region where he spent the next ten years back in the academic world as a chaplain in Reading University.

In 2007 Terry was given a joint appointment – dividing his time between the Seminary in Kuching and as chaplain to the expatriate community in Bali, Indonesia, as well as working in the prison there. He was very happy with the contrasting worlds for three years; then a new bishop in Bali didn’t renew his appointment.

Terry was disappointed for his own sake but more so for the people he served in Bali as there were few English speakers among the priests there. But it did mean that he was back in his beloved Kuching.  During his time back in Kuching Terry served the Society in many ways – as Recruitment Coordinator, Group Leader, Society Representative and in 2017 when he no longer had responsibility for the Society Members he was officially appointed to a position which he had already filled unofficially for many years – that of Society Bursar.

He was the writer of ‘Padi Seeds,’ a column where he shared his pastoral reflections in Today’s Catholic (Sarawak) and Catholic Sabah  which was also translated into Bahasa Malaysia, ‘Benih-Benih Padi’ published in both papers for many years.

Towards the end of 2015 Terry became seriously ill with cancer and during the next two years, he exhibited the same courage he had shown at other times in his life when he struggled with personal difficulties. He travelled to Singapore when necessary for treatment and still carried on working.

In June 2017 when the doctors told him they could do no more for him medically he returned to England where he was cared for lovingly by his sister, Margaret in Reading. Terry was admitted to the Duchess of Kent Hospice in nearby Tilehurst on July 21. He died there peacefully on Thursday, August 31, at 3:00 pm.  The funeral has been scheduled for Sept 22 in Reading, followed by cremation.  The ashes will be brought to Kuching for burial at a date yet to be fixed.

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