Living God’s Word through Italian Catholic order

Sheldon Burke will spend a year with the Somascans in northern Italy
as part of his journey of Catholic formation.

28 July 2015

Communicating and teaching the fatherly love of God to His people were the motivations for Sheldon Burke, an alumnus of The University of Notre Dame Australia, to commence his formation journey with a 600-year-old Catholic order in northern Italy.

Mr Burke, a Master of Teaching (Secondary) graduate of the University’s Fremantle Campus, will travel to the Italian town of Somasca, two hours north-east of Milan, in August 2015, to begin his 12-month Novitiate with the Somascan Fathers. Novitiate is the period of training and preparation that a prospective member of a religious institute undergoes prior to taking vows to religious life.

Founded in 1534 by St Jerome Emiliani, the Patron Saint of the Orphans and the Needy Youth, the Somascan Fathers dedicate themselves to the care, assistance and promotion of the poor, orphans and abandoned youth.

Members of the order are called to continue St Jerome’s legacy through performing different ministries in the Church, such as: the care of orphans, disadvantaged and the poor; providing treatment and support to at-risk-youth; education; pastoral care and spiritual guidance; and youth formation.

He will be one of only two Australians to have been granted permission by the province leader to join the order. The other, Br Chris De Sousa, is also a Notre Dame graduate.

For the past eight months, Mr Burke has been preparing mentally, physically and spiritually for his new vocational path – to help others grow closer to God.

“When you’re a postulant, you are called to live in the community and take your role in discerning God’s will in the community more seriously. The decision to join the Somascan Fathers came through my belief that fatherly love of God is absent in so many ways,” Mr Burke said.

“Through my teaching background, I feel that I am able to not only realise the Somascan Fathers’ mission but also make a difference to the lives of those who are in most need. To be able to educate others about our faith and God’s love for them is really important.

“I wanted to be a teacher who could teach the Catholic faith and I’m so grateful to have been able to realise this goal through my studies at Notre Dame. As a Catholic, studying at a University with similar values made me feel at home.”

Tom Gourlay, Campus Minister on Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus, congratulated Mr Burke on his admission to the Somascan Fathers.

“I’m very excited that Sheldon has been courageous enough to take this bold step, to go where he feels that the Lord is calling him,” Mr Gourlay said.

“Sheldon has enriched the faith community here at Notre Dame and his is one of many good Catholic vocations which have come been formed here at the University – not just to religious life and eventually priesthood, as in the case of Sheldon, but also to marriage and family life.”

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;