Do Something Good: A Madison priest is keeping hope alive

To say that Fr. Mike Burke knows what it means to do something good would be an understatement.

“Fr. Mike” as he’s called by those who know him, was ordained on May 24, 1974. He started at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Watertown. Three years later, he went to Holy Name Seminary in Madison as an administrator for 18 years until he moved seven-and-a-half minutes away to what he’s called home for the past 21 years, St. Maria Goretti Parish.

Fr. Mike grew up on the family farm in Darlington. He was the oldest of eight children. The youngest, Maggie, was born with Down syndrome. In the 1960s, babies with special needs were typically institutionalized, but Claribel and Larry decided their daughter Maggie would not be. They brought her home. The entire Burke family cared for Little Maggie until she died from pneumonia at 11 years old.

Fr. Mike fought off his calling while in college but after a retreat, he could no longer ignore it. He started at

Holy Name Seminary. A year later, he attended St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, “there were tough times — times I wanted to hang it up,” he said. But he had hope and he persevered. Something that he shares with his SMG parishioners, and frankly, anyone who will listen.

“Keep Hope Alive” is the saying Fr. Mike is known for and lives by. It’s that hope that he gives countless people who fall on hard times.

“Just by his very message to keep hope alive shows us that things are going to be okay, and we have to rely on our faith, and we don’t know why things happen, we never do, but we will get through it,” said Dianne Metz, a parishioner and teacher at SMG.

Metz turned to Fr. Mike when she needed someone to talk to.

“He makes you feel like a valued person. He is the epitome of Do Something Good,” she said.

Thank you, Fr. Mike.

Do Something Good: A Madison priest is keeping hope alive