Sister Maureen Burke
In the "habit" of leading young women
Maureen Burke was born on September 30, 1955 in Cleveland's Booth Memorial Hospital.
Her parents were both born in Ireland. Her mother, Julia Kerrigan was from County Mayo and her father, Joe, came from County Offaly.
Maureen is one of 8 children. Her brothers are Father Sean Burke, a Maryknoll priest in Hong Kong; Jim, married to Linda; Tom the manager of the Golden Coins; Michael, a South Euclid fireman with four children and three grandchildren, Kevin who is married with five children and lives in Chicago and; Joe, a construction worker in San Francisco.
She has one sister, Judy who is married and has three sons.
Maureen's parents were married in England before coming to the United States in 1949. The first nine months of their married life they lived in East Cleveland with Maureen's Aunt Bea (Coyne) and her family. They lived in St. Philomena Parish.
They then moved to St. Agatha's parish and in 1957 they moved to Christ the King. It was a time when you answered the question "Where are you from?" by listing your parish or your neighborhood, not your city or even your street.
People answered that they came from St. Phil's or St. Thomas or Collinwood or Kinsman and everybody knew exactly what was meant.
Maureen went to Regina High School where she graduated in 1973. Upon graduation she entered the Notre Dame convent. "I felt I was blessed and wanted to be able to return some of the blessings."
Sister Maureen and other women
who all entered the convent at the same time
Choosing the Notre Dame Order came easily for Maureen. She knew she wanted to teach and she had been taught by the Notre Dame Sisters most of her life and knew them to be good people. They had a reputation for being somewhat stricter than the other orders, but that did not scare this young woman off.
Her family was surprised by her decision. Entering the order meant limited family visits. Although that has since changed and she is now virtually free to come and go there are still many restrictions placed on those with this special calling. She can have no car of her own and no personal money. She was to take a vow of poverty. Her primary focus is her ministry and the needs of the order.
Sister Maureen Burke with mother Julia
She received her Bachelors in Education from Notre Dame College in 1978. From there she went on to teach Social Studies and Theology at Elyria Catholic. In 1980 she was transferred to Regina High School, her alma mater, where she also taught Social Studies and Theology. It was her choice to teach Social Studies, she has always had a penchant for history, government and politics.
She received a Masters Degree in Political Science from Kent State, and a Masters Degree in Education Administration from Baldwin Wallace. She just received her doctorate in Education and is now officially "Sr. Dr. Maureen Burke."
Maureen spent three years as a novitiate. After five years she took her temporary vows and in 1981 Maureen Burke became Sr. Mary Sean Patrick and eventually Sr. Maureen Burke.
After teaching at Regina for four years Sr. Maureen became Assistant Principal and still continued to teach. This went on for 8 years until 1992 when she became Principal, a job she holds to this day.
She enjoyed her time in the classroom where she got to know most of the students quite well. In addition to teaching, she was involved in the school newspaper, student council and the drama club. Now her tasks are more administrative. "Even though this is a Catholic School there are a lot of forms and paperwork to keep current and finance is a major part of my job."
She misses the classroom and returns to it as time allows. Last year she taught a senior Theology Class and three years ago a World History Class. But obviously, her days as a classroom teacher are few and far between.
Her school, Regina High School, is not only a Catholic school, but it is a single gender school. Although not every student in the school is Catholic, religious and faith-based education is an important distinction to Sr. Maureen.
"We are able to approach subjects, like Science, from not only a factual basis but also an ethical basis and find that the two need not be in conflict."
As for being an all-girls school, Sr. Maureen feels this is of great benefit to the students. "We find young girls begin to decrease their interest in math and science about age 14. Many young girls who have the potential to be great leaders also start to become followers around the same age. So the High School years are very important - very formative. By taking away some of the pressures of a mixed gender school the girls are able to focus on studies as well as their own personal skills, such as leadership."
For Sr. Maureen their grades and the futures so many of them have gone on to realize is proof that the system is a good one.
"We don't deal with "Equal Opportunity" here. We deal with "Every Opportunity."
Students at Regina are also eligible to take college courses at Notre Dame, their neighbor to the South. This year, for example, many of the seniors have anywhere from 3 to 15 college credits. Regina also allows 8th graders from St. Gregory the Great, their neighbor to the North, to take High School Spanish and Algebra Classes there, preparing them for High School.
Sister's message to incoming students is often the same. "You've been gifted with a lot of talents. Use them to make our world a better place. Become an independent and critical thinker; analyze your thoughts and actions. Make the world a better place for you, your family, your community and the next generation."
Sr. Maureen has never regretted her decision to enter the convent. She is very happy with what she views as a "wonderful opportunity." "I have been blessed more than anything I could give back to people."
Make no mistake, there is more to Sr. Maureen Burke than teaching and administering Regina. She is a fierce competitor and an avid card player. Pinochle and the Irish card game 25 are family favorites and she is very good at both. She also reads; especially mysteries, historical fiction and Irish fiction.
Needless to say, growing up with 6 brothers she also has a great love of sports, and especially Cleveland teams. Win or loose she is a die-hard Browns, Indians and Cavs fan. She usually sees 2-3 Indians games a year.
Of course her own Regina sports teams are a great pleasure for her. They are often champions and always competitors in a number of sports.
Regina Golf Glassic - September 2004
"Sports gives the girls the opportunity to learn team work, think critically and possibly get help with their college tuition"
Their basketball team has won 4 state championships and a number of students received college scholarships as a result. The same is true of their Volley Ball and Track program. Both programs have done very well and resulted in students receiving scholarships.
As her job allows, Sr. Maureen also enjoys traveling. She has family in Chicago, so she goes there often.
With family and friends in Hong Kong
She still has aunts and uncles in Ireland and has been there four times, mainly for weddings and funerals. Her father's family is in New York, but she doesn't get there very often.
Sr. Maureen is also a member of the Pioneers, an Irish organization dedicated to self-discipline. Pioneers make a commitment not to drink alcohol in any form to show their appreciation for self discipline.
Pioneers are devoted to the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart and pray for people who are tempted by the disease of alcoholism. She was inspired by her godmother, Marge Walsh and friends such as Maureen Maguire to become a Pioneer.
Tom, mother Julia, Jim, Judy,
Sean and Sister Maureen Burke
She is a member of the Irish American Club, East Side, The West Side Irish American Club, The National Catholic Educators Association and Notre Dame Educational Association.
Dancing with brother Tom
Most people see Sr. Maureen as upbeat and positive and never being stressed. The fact is, she receives her positive attitude from her faith but says "Let's be honest, being in charge of a school and making things better for kids has its own set of worries and I am not immune to them." She takes her students with their individual cares, needs and concerns, very personally.
Father Sean Burke and Sister Maureen Burke
She has no way of knowing if Regina will someday merge with another school, as did St. Joe's and Villa Angela or Notre Dame and Cathedral Latin. "We need to maintain Catholic education and be open to exploration and advancement. But we must never loose sight of our mission and who we are."
It is part of the job of Sr. Maureen Burke to maintain a high standard in her life, as she is an example to so many young women. It is a job she does well, with confidence and conviction.
As young women look to their future and feel the confusion and fear that comes with the teen years, they are lucky indeed to have her as a role model. If they proceed through life with her faith and principles they will be assured a peaceful future in this life and the next.
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