GAA-loving Irish priest is the oldest serving in Britain
Life & Style

GAA-loving Irish priest is the oldest serving in Britain

AN Irish GAA-loving priest is the oldest serving member of the Catholic Church in Britain.

Fr Tim Burke turned 93 on January 3.

Originally from Tipperary he has served as parish priest at the Holy Cross Church in West Bromwich for the Archdiocese of Birmingham since 1968.

He was ordained in 1948 and served in Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Old Hill before Holy Cross.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) confirmed to The Irish Post that as far as they are aware, Fr Burke is the oldest church member still in ministry across England and Wales.

And the record-setting priest may also have attended the most consecutive All-Ireland Football Finals of any GAA fan, having attended every year in Croke Park since 1940.

When appointed to his position, the Archbishop at the time George Patrick Dwyer told him that he would stay there until he was 100 years old - and Fr Burke might just prove him right.

The sprightly priest does not use a walking stick and he has been teetotal all his life.

He grew up on a farm in Tipperary where he helped his father and brothers bring in the harvest.

He studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s seminary Thurles and at Oscott College in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

And although he did not continue the farming tradition, he fervently maintained his love of GAA and brings Irish news to his ministeries.

He greets his Birmingham parishioners with the Gaelic term céad míle fáilte – or 100,000 welcomes – at most sermons.

Michael Doyle travels from neighbouring Walsall to hear Fr Burke’s minsteries.

“I like hearing Gaelic and he brings news and a spirituality from Ireland.

"He often focuses on blessing and caring for others which tends not to be such a focus in British sermons,” Mr Doyle said.

And the Black Country where Fr Burke is based was also home to another distinguished cleric - Ignacious Spencer - who is in line to become a Venerable according to the Catholic Church, which is only a few short steps from sainthood.

Spencer, who was related to the late Princess Diana, converted to Catholicism and ministered in the area in the 1830s.

Fr Burke supported local efforts to have him recognised as a Venerable.