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Edmund Bourke (1756-1826), Catholic priest, was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1756. He became a professed member of the Dominican Order of Preachers and studied for the priesthood in the convents of Corpo Santo, Lisbon, and St. Maria da Victoria, Batalha, Portugal. Bourke returned to Ireland circa 1782 as an ordained priest and ministered to the congregation of Waterford from 1784 to 1785.
In 1786, Rev. Bourke became the first regularly authorized missionary to come to Newfoundland under the leadership of Rev. James Louis O'Donel, Prefect Apostolic of the island. He was appointed to Placentia, where he served with distinction. His success in spreading Catholicism in the area brought him into conflict with Prince William Henry (later King William IV) when the prince visited that town. He also built a presbytery and a chapel at Placentia.
Michael Francis Howley, Bishop of St. John's, stated in his Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland that Bourke left Newfoundland in 1798, the year of the Irish rebellion, and took up residence in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Howley felt that Bourke left because he was in some way implicated in the Irish rebellion and feared the vengeance of British authorities at Newfoundland. It is thought that he was a brother of Dr. Bourke, the first Bishop of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
While working in Halifax, Rev. Bourke experienced difficulties with the Irish in his congregation and with the trustees of the church. In the autumn of 1801, he returned to Cork, Ireland, where he worked from 1801 to 1816. In 1817, he accepted an appointment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and remained there until he died on 12 January 1826 at the age of 70.
Rev. Bourke was one of the three priests who signed the petition requesting the elevation of Rev. O'Donel to episcopal ranking. His surname appears alternately as Burke or Borke in archdiocesan archival papers.
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Created - May 27, 2013