Freshmen Theology students were treated to a familiar guest speaker on Friday, November 3rd. Father Burke Masters, Vocations Director from the Diocese of Joliet, visited the classrooms to tell his own story of his call to the priesthood, and how it relates to everyone's search for meaning in their lives. Father Burke also celebrates Mass with Montini students throughout the school year and was visiting the classrooms in anticipation of National Vocation Awareness Week (November 5-11, 2017).
In addition to being Vocations Director at the Joliet Diocese, Father Burke also serves as the Chaplain of the Chicago Cubs.
It was at the ripe age of seven that he realized his dream to be a major league baseball player, but it was a very perceptive sister (Sister Margaret Ann) at Providence Catholic High School
(New Lenox), who first noticed that he was searching for more in his life. She gave him his first Bible. "After reading the Gospel of Matthew, I had a sense of peace and joy that I'd never felt before," Father Burke told the students. He was compelled to keep reading, and it was after learning about the crucifixion of Jesus that he was inspired to follow Jesus.
Father Burke converted to Catholicism during his senior year in high school, while he also enjoyed a very successful baseball season, setting records, with a baseball career in his sights. He accepted a baseball scholarship from Mississippi State (1986-1990) and went on to play in the College World Series where he was named Most Valuable Player.
Despite his athletic successes, he was not drafted and began his search for a new career. "Do something you enjoy, is what my mom advised me," said Father Burke. "God has given each and every one of us gifts and talents for a specific purpose," he continued. "Most people use these gifts for selfish purposes - I was trying to figure out how to pursue a career in baseball."
Burke was invited (by girlfriend, Stephanie) to attend Eucharistic Adoration, and it was during this time that the idea of priesthood first came to him. "We encounter Jesus in silence," he explained. "We are surrounded by so much noise that most of the time we cannot hear Him, but if we grow silent, we will hear Him." Father Burke began hearing affirmations for the priesthood in his friends and people he encountered, telling him that he should consider priesthood. "That was God speaking through others," he said.
"If this is your call from God, you have to answer it," said girlfriend, Stephanie, who Burke had had plans to marry. "I cannot compete with God." Father Burke was ordained in 2002. (It would be four years later when he would perform his second marriage as a priest, marrying Stephanie to his best friend.)
"My message to you is to trust God. Follow Him and your life will be awesome," said Father Burke.
In 2012 that Father Burke became Chaplain of the Chicago Cubs, celebrating private Mass with team members and families prior to the games. "It was during spring training with the Cubs last year, I was invited to suit up, I was on the field with the players, Rizzo, Russell and Hendricks, when it hit me and I was overcome with emotions - my dream of being involved in baseball had come full circle, but in God's way, not mine."
"Following God leads to true happiness," he said. "We may not know what or how, but God will show us - holiness does truly lead to happiness." Father Burke has been greatly influenced by a simple quote from St. Augustine - "My heart is restless until it rests in thee."
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. Last year,after extensive consultation, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort. This will be the first year it will be held in November.