Tributes paid following death of 'oldest serving' priest

Tributes paid following death of 'oldest serving' priest

ONE of the oldest serving catholic priests in Britain has passed away at the age of 96.

Father Timothy ‘Tim’ Burke, who died on April 5, was a Tipperary native, dedicated GAA fan and much-loved figure in the West Midlands - where he served as a priest in various cities throughout his lengthy career.

Ordained in 1948, after studying for the priesthood at St Patrick’s seminary in Thurles and at Oscott College in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Fr Tim served in Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Old Hill before becoming parish priest at the Holy Cross Church in West Bromwich in 1968.

He remained at this parish until his retirement in 2017, aged 93, prior to which The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) confirmed that he was the oldest church member still in ministry across England and Wales.

A super fan of the Tipperary hurling team, Fr Tim also attended the most consecutive All-Ireland Football Finals of any GAA fan, having attended every year in Croke Park since 1940 until 2017.

Upon his retirement he moved to the Robert Harvey House nursing home in Birmingham, where he passed away last week, having contracted pneumonia after developing a chest infection.

“It’s very sad and it’s very sad for everyone here, who would see Father Tim every day,” Anthea Reid, Manager at Robert Harvey House, told The Irish Post this week.

“Everybody loved him here, he was a gentle soul and a huge part of the community.”

In 2018 Fr Tim celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination at the nursing home, which brought friends, family and fellow clergymen to Birmingham for the occasion.

“We had a lovely mass here for his 70 years celebration of his ordination,” Ms Reid confirmed.

“It’s a really horrible time for anyone to pass away,” she added, “in the [lockdown] conditions we are in.”

“But we were able to keep Fr Tim in contact with his family in Ireland over Skype in recent weeks and we also managed to have a priest give him the prayer of the sick via Skype a week ago.

“We were very conscious of his religion and how important it was to him, so we had someone sit in and say the rosary with Fr Tim every night. He was a lovely man and we will all miss him.”

Born on the family farm in Coolboy in the village of Emly, Co Tipperary, Fr Tim was one of seven children.

He is pre-deceased by all of his siblings – David, James, Rita, Joan, Daniel and Pat – but survived by two nieces and extended family in Ireland.