Brother Matthew Burke passed away peacefully on Friday, November 27, 2020, at Nazareth Home. Brother Matthew served as Principal of St. Mary’s Ryken from 1976 to 1983.
Brother Matthew was born in Brooklyn, New York to Cecilia and John Burke. He is survived by three loving sisters: Deborah May, Jacqueline Clifford, and Patricia Smith. Two sisters pre-deceased Matthew: Virginia Wenz and Carole Poletto. His mother, Cecilia, died when he was a child.
His father remarried. His stepmother was Lucille Connolly Burke. Brother Matthew grew up in Queens.
Upon graduation from William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, Queens, in 1956, Brother Matthew responded to God’s initial call to our way of life. He entered the Congregation at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Fort Monroe, Virginia. In 1958 he pronounced his first vows as a Xaverian Brother. He would continue his formation at Xaverian College in Silver Spring, Maryland, earning his BA in Latin and Greek from Catholic University. He graduated in 1962 with the highest honors.
Over the course of his life, Brother Matthew gradually answered the question ‘What is my gift to others?’
The leadership of the Central Province readily recognized Brother Matt’s gifts. Indeed, he was blessed with many talents that served his pursuit of academic excellence and educational leadership. In 1962, Matt was assigned to Nazareth High School in Brooklyn which had just opened. He was a successful teacher; blessed with a personal ‘charisma’ that endeared him to his students. Many remained in touch with him as adults.
A life-long learner, Brother Matthew did graduate studies at Catholic University and at St. John’s University. He earned an MA in Secondary Education from Michigan University (1967) and an MS in Educational Administration from St. John’s University (1968). In 1967 he was appointed Deputy Principal of Nazareth High School and then from 1969-1975 he served as Nazareth’s Principal. Brother Matt completed his doctoral studies at Fordham University in 1976.
From 1976 to 1983 Brother Matthew served as Principal of SMR where he was responsible for implementing the merger of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’s St. Mary’s Academy with Ryken High School. Brother Cornelius Hubbuch, the outgoing Principal, had arranged for the merger. Indeed, it was an arduous task that benefited from Brother Matt’s gifts, especially his tenacity.
In 1983-84, Brother Matt spent a sabbatical year at the Jesuit Institute for Spirituality and Worship in Berkeley, California.
From 1984 through 2001 he served in congregational leadership. He was the first Director of Xaverian Brothers’ Sponsored Schools (XBSS) having established the program. Then he served as Provincial of the American Central Province from 1988-94 and as General Superior from 1995-2001. He also volunteered for a year in Romania teaching in a seminary.
From 2003 to 2009, Brother Matthew was involved with various ministries in Kenya including serving as Regional Director from 2004-2009.
Upon return to the U.S., Brother Matthew was guest master at one of our houses in Florida and then returned to Baltimore and was involved with Catholic Charities, setting up a center for Hispanic ministries at the Assisi House at Saint Patrick’s where we once ran the elementary school.
May Brother Matthew Rest in Peace.
Thursday, December 3, 2020, 11:00 a.m.
Inside the school chapel at St. Xavier High School Chapel, as part of the Ryken House community celebration of St. Francis Xavier feast day. Attendance is limited to the Ryken House community.