SILVER SPRING, Md. – The Leadership Conference of Women Religious appointed Sister Jane Burke, a School Sister of Notre Dame, as its new executive director, effective in August.
Most recently, she was the national manager for the Justice for Immigrants campaign sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a 2007 interview with Catholic News Service, Sister Burke said many church-related immigration efforts involve “getting to the people in the pews” and helping them understand to apply the principles of Catholic social teaching to the treatment of immigrants.
“We don’t have to debate the issue to talk to one another,” she said. “But we do need to talk to one another.”
Last May, she asked people across the country to join a “Million Prayers Initiative” for the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill. The bill got deadlocked in Congress.
A member of the Atlantic-Midwest province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Burke served for eight years as the provincial leader of her community’s Baltimore province.
In 1999, after the Vatican barred Sister Jeannine Gramick, a School Sister of Notre Dame who subsequently joined the Sisters of Loretto, from further participation in a controversial ministry to gays and lesbians, Sister Burke as provincial leader announced the establishment of a fund to support “an individual in pastoral ministry to those who are gay and lesbian, standing firm in our commitment as women of the church.”
Also that year, the province prepared for the jubilee year 2000 by forgiving interest payments totaling between $5,000 and $6,000 on loans it made to nonprofit groups. It also forgave interest of about $6,000 on a mortgage it had sold to an immigrant family; the house was bequeathed to the province by the mother of one of the sisters.
At the time Sister Burke said that, by doing its own “small share,” the community wanted to “set an example which we hope can be followed by the major international financial institutions to which the poorest nations of the world are bound by huge, unpayable debts.”
In 1997, her community was one of nine in the Baltimore-Washington area to establish Sisters United in the News to raise media awareness of the “good news” about the work they do.
“If you’re only looking at who we are on the outside, you don’t get the full picture,” Sister Burke said, adding that despite their diminishing membership congregations of women religious “do have a future.”
“It’s not going to look like today’s reality, and if it does we will die,” she added. “But I don’t believe that we are dying.”
Sister Burke also was executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Venice, Fla., and co-founder and executive director of the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee, Fla., where she ministered to migrant workers. She also taught in schools in Washington, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
She was chairwoman of the board of directors of the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore, a corporate board member of Sisters Academy in Baltimore, and a board member of Habitat for Humanity in Immokalee.
As executive director, Sister Burke will administer the 1,600-member LCWR, a canonically established organization for leaders of U.S. religious communities of women, representing about 67,000 Catholic sisters.