Sr Maureen Burke ibvm has been a Loreto Sister for over 54 years. Her ministry experience is extensive. Over the past few years, Maureen has spent significant time in South Sudan working as a maths teacher at Loreto Rumbek, alongside Sr Orla Treacy ibvm. Below, she reflects on her new home and ministry appointment in Western Australia.
Since moving to Western Australia, my life has become unexpectedly full and challenging. When I left Sydney in 2015, I envisioned my life teaching English to refugees, frequenting South Sudan, and engaging with members of our wider Loreto community. However, the pandemic abruptly ended my teaching endeavours after 55 years and subsequently led to my departure from South Sudan.
What might seem to be a series of endings has become a wonderful, essential, and stimulating ministry with Cana Communities – an organisation providing support, short to middle term accommodation, and respite for those in need or at-risk. Following in the footsteps of Srs Marg Finlay and Margie O’Sullivan, Sr Francine Roberts and I commenced volunteering at Emmaus House in Fremantle at the Wednesday lunches for the homeless and those with the least options.
This has since blossomed into a diverse number of engagements, such as baking biscuits for Thursday morning activities and enjoying the fruit of Francine’s labours as she works the Cana Food Truck at Fremantle on Wednesdays. I attend court with women as they progress through the judicial system, go fishing with a self-proclaimed ‘fishaholic’, write weekly reflections for Cana volunteers and community members, and help to prepare ceremonies for special celebrations or after the death of a community member. I have regular meetings with the WA Cana Executive and companion community members in my own time, chatting, always chatting with fascinating people.
Cana was founded over forty years ago in Sydney and expanded to WA in 2017. It is funded by generous donors, accepts no government funding, and is run by volunteers. It exists to support those who are disadvantaged. A house in Mosman Park exists for up to four women looking to change the direction of their lives, and, together with the Presentation Sisters and Iona College, a house near the school accommodates Indigenous families when visiting their daughters.
All of this seems to call on what I have learned in my teaching years – in Youth Ministry and Adult Education in the Ballarat Diocese, at St Marys College, during my short time in Djarindjin / Lombadina, as chaplain at Melbourne University, and briefly on the Hospital Chaplaincy Team at Sunshine Hospital. I believe each of these involvements has led and prepared me for my work in Western Australia. I learn so much about relationships, forgiveness, pain and joy. We are a team, and in this, I find my support and inspiration. It is a graced time for me.
The below reflection I wrote paints an image of Cana.
Walking Each Other Home
Going somewhere? So am I. Can I come along? Good. Do we need anything? Just myself? I can do that. Are all these people coming too?
I guess we all are going. We’ll find out where, Along the way. It’ll take a while, I think, Or not. A lifetime maybe? We are walking each other home.