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WALPOLE -- Every morning, rain or shine, Ellie Burke makes her way to St. Mary Parish for daily Mass. Immediately afterward, she and a group of parishioners make their way to A Little Something, a local coffee shop close to the East Walpole church.
“It’s great -- you never have to worry about sitting alone there because there’s always someone else who’s coming to pass the time together,” she said with a smile.
“I love it. I really do -- It’s part of my daily routine,” she added.
According to Burke, quite a crowd gathers for daily Mass at St. Mary’s.
“When the weather is nice, there can even be up to 100 people who go every day,” she said. On Sundays, “every single Mass is standing-room only,” she said.
Burke, who is 82, admitted that she is not as active in parish activities as she used to be.
“I’m just too old to get as involved as the young people can,” she said. “But I love my parish.”
In fact, the Walpole native has always been a parishioner at St. Mary’s.
“To me, St. Mary’s is a wonderful church and a wonderful parish and everyone I know is very proud of it,” she said. She added that the parish is teeming with young children and young families.
Burke, credits much of the parish’s vibrancy to her pastor, Father Donald Delay.
“He is such a holy priest,” Burke said. “And he has a great sense of humor, too.”
Father Delay is “very committed to his parish,” Burke said, “always willing to take the time to help a parishioner in need.”
Burke herself experienced this recently when tragedy struck her family not once, but twice, within 21 months. Having lost her husband years before, Burke was very close to her five children. Then suddenly, one of her daughters died unexpectedly. Tragically, less than two years later, one of her sons passed away as well.
“It was unbelievably tough,” she admitted. “You never expect to bury your children. But Father [Delay] came to my assistance to help me through that terrible time.”
Burke believes her faith is what has sustained her through these difficult years.
“I really don’t know what I would have done without my faith, without the knowledge that my children were with God,” she said. “I know I couldn’t have gotten through these past few years without my faith.”
“Even though I was heartbroken,” she added pensively, “I was never mad with God.”
“I know they’re in a better place than I am, and that they’re with their father,” she added.