Magazine
Fr. Bill Burke, SJ
The Society has given me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and to be of service to others at the same time – to work, fish, pray, and write poetry.
What Could Be Better?

By Amy Korpi

Often, we think of Jesuits working in the heart of cities, not enjoying nature’s wonders in the middle of a wilderness. Yet we know Saint Ignatius designed Jesuit formation – and the spirituality that takes his name – with an emphasis on all creation being a gift from God, worthy of our reverence and stewardship.

Similarly, we tend to think of Jesuits as givers, not receivers. But as they live out the Ignatian ideal of finding God in all things, it is clear that Jesuits derive great joy from their vocations.

Father Bill Burke, SJ, has embodied these Jesuit characteristics for more than 50 years – perhaps most markedly during his ministry in Alaska and Montana.

This particular aspect of Fr. Burke’s journey began when he was working as the development director for what was then the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus. A fellow Jesuit told him about the great fishing in Alaska.

“I’ve loved fishing since childhood,” Fr. Burke recalls. “So from that point on, I knew I wanted to go there.”

Father Burke did far more than go there; he spent 20 years in ministry in Alaska, followed by nine in a location with comparable natural beauty: Montana. He worked mostly as a hospital chaplain.

“I loved my work,” he says, “and I loved Alaska and Montana, especially the opportunities they afforded me to fish. I caught a 52-pound king salmon in Alaska’s Kenai River, and I did lots of fly fishing for trout in Missoula and Billings, Montana.”

  I BREATHE WHITE
I breathe white. 
So do spruce 
And Moose 
And the Alaskan Highway.
We’re all a prayer, 
A white prayer, 
Cool communion with each other, 
And white mountains, 
And white lynx cat-dancing
Silent and swift 
On a white evening, 
Chasing Halley’s Comet’s tail.
— Fr. Bill Burke, SJ

  Visit www.jesuitsmidwest.org/reflections/journey
for more “A Jesuit’s Journey” stories.


Father Burke’s message to all is that anyone can do what they love while also following God’s will. Ignatian spirituality teaches that the two are intertwined.

As Fr. Burke puts it, “The Society has given me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and to be of service to others at the same time – to work, fish, pray, and write poetry.”

Today, living at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Mich., Fr. Burke continues to feel gratitude for his Jesuit life.

“An essential part of my vocation is friendship with my fellow Jesuits in community,” he explains. “Living at Colombiere is fun. I came here five years ago, and I enjoy it. My fellow Jesuits are wonderful. They are a real source of inspiration and strength. I say Mass here and at Lourdes Senior Community, so I am still serving others. I also continue to write a little poetry, and I fish as often as I can. What could be better?”

When asked to give advice to someone considering a vocation with the Jesuits, Fr. Burke’s answer is simple:

“Run, don’t walk. This is the best adventure you will ever have.”


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Recent News

April 18, 2018 — We as a Church commemorate the moment Jesus went into the wilderness of the desert because the Spirit was leading him (Mk 1:12). I find the image of the Spirit leading Jesus powerful and true for all of us. My vocation in the Society has been where I am able to see the Spirit leading me beyond my awareness in the moment.

April 17, 2018 — Vanessa Solis, who has worked tirelessly to grow the elementary school of Nativity Jesuit Academy, will assume the position of principal on July 1, 2018.

April 16, 2018 — Young adults interested in a year of intentional community and service can now apply for the 2018-19 Ignatius House cohort in Cincinnati, Ohio.

April 10, 2018 — Creighton University is now the steward of the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible.

April 5, 2018 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. James E. Chambers, SJ, who died on April 3, 2018, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 93 years old. May he rest in peace.

April 4, 2018 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Richard J. Hauser, SJ, who died on April 3, 2018, at the Creighton University Jesuit Community in Omaha, Nebraska. He was 80 years old. May he rest in peace.

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