Lawrence Burke, OFM
1920 – 2013
Fr. Lawrence Burke, OFM, was born Oct. 27, 1920 in Philadelphia. He attended St. Rose of Lima parochial school and West Catholic High School, graduating in 1938. Toward the end of high school, he became interested in religious life, and so, following his graduation, entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., where he studied for two years.
He was received into the Order in 1940 at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., and professed temporary vows one year later. Fr. Larry made his solemn profession in 1944. His artistic ability had been noticed by his superiors during his formation, and so he was given permission to attend the school of art at The Catholic University of America in Washington part-time from 1944 to 1946. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1947.
After completing theological studies in 1948, Fr. Larry and four of his classmates were sent to Buffalo, N.Y., to join the faculty of Bishop Timon High School. While there, he was put in charge of the art club and had the opportunity to take classes at the Art Institute of Buffalo from 1950 to 1955.
In 1955, Fr. Larry was asked to join the art staff of the new Friar magazine in Paterson, N.J. In preparation for this work, he took classes at the New York School of Printing and the Art Students League of New York. Through another student, Fr. Larry got to meet one of the editors of The New Yorker, who suggested he submit some drawings to the magazine. He was gratified when several were accepted for publication.
During his initial years on the magazine staff, he resided at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson from 1954 to 1961. When he took over as art editor, he moved to St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., where he lived for the next 24 years.
While in Paterson, Fr. Larry teamed up with Fr. Hubert Woods, OFM, and Fr. Felician Foy, OFM, to form a singing group called “The Three Friars,” who performed for quite a few years, mainly at New Jersey parishes. Throughout his years in Paterson and Butler, Fr. Larry assisted regularly in parishes in the Paterson Diocese, where his genuine personality and congeniality won him many friends.
In 1976, he was appointed guardian of St. Anthony Friary in Butler. Friar magazine was nearing the end of its circulation, so he also preached weekend retreats at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson. His tenure as guardian was marked by compassion and understanding toward the retired friars.
At the end of his term in 1985, he was given time for a sabbatical, with the understanding that he would become director of the planned provincial infirmary. He was a member of the committee that worked closely with the architect designing Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J. Following his sabbatical, he moved to St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., to arrange the transfer of the friars in the infirmary there to a temporary location with the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Warwick, N.Y., where he served as director.
In 1987, Fr. Larry was named chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of Ringwood, adjacent to the new Holy Name Friary, where he would serve for the next 23 years. This enabled him to maintain a relation with the retired friars, to whom he brought his joyful presence. He also continued his work as an artist, writing in calligraphy for official Provincial documents, such as decrees of affiliation.
Fr. Larry enjoyed good health all of his life and into his late 80s he enjoyed air gliding, cross country skiing and serving as a chaplain on cruise ships. He retired in June 2010 to St. Anthony Friary, Butler, and transferred to Holy Name Friary later that year.
He died there on Sept. 18, 2013. Fr. Larry was 92 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 72 years and a priest for 66 years.