It was standing room only as hundreds of friends, relatives, parishioners, clergy and students gathered at Christ the King Parish, North Rocks for the Funeral Mass of Fr Eric Burton on Tuesday 18 September.
Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, was the principal celebrant for the Requiem Mass for the Repose of the Soul of Fr Eric Burton.
“We were all privileged to have met and known a man of humble and generous heart and a great, generous spirit of service,” Bishop Vincent said welcoming everyone gathered.
“His pastoral and spiritual care of the people was particularly felt here, at Christ the King, North Rocks.
“The presence of so many people here this morning is a testament to that service, that generosity of the heart.”
Concelebrating was Most Rev Bede Heather, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Parramatta, Most Rev Richard Umbers, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney and clergy from the Diocese of Parramatta and other Dioceses.
Commenting on Facebook, parishioner Donna Storey remembered Fr Eric as “A lovely, humble man who was the cornerstone of Christ the King North Rocks. May he rest in peace, thankyou Father Eric for everything you personally did for my family and for the parish x.”
A priest for almost 70 years, Fr Eric was the first parish priest of Christ the King Parish, having helped establish the parish in 1970.
He went on to serve the parish in this capacity for 41 years, retiring from active ministry in 2011.
“His name is synonymous with that Parish,” Donna Storey said on Facebook.
Cheryl Morgan, also on Facebook said: “May you rest in peace Fr Eric, thank you for you service to our community.”
READ: Vale Fr Eric Burton
Fr Ian McGinnity, the current Parish Priest of Christ the King Parish, North Rocks delivered the homily.
“The image of the Good Shepherd is fitting also for the life and ministry of Father Eric Edward Burton,” Fr Ian said.
Fr Eric “established the Parish of Christ the King, North Rocks in 1970” and built a new school, parish hall, Church and presbytery with the help of the local nuns and parish community.
“Eric determinedly set about to meet the sheep of his newly established parish; spending a lot of his time knocking on doors, visiting people in their homes, Catholic or non-Catholic alike.
“He knew, as Pope Francis has reminded us, how critical it was for the shepherd to smell the sheep, to know the sheep and for them to know him. In his later years, when I arrived as parish priest at the end of 2013, Eric was better than the proverbial computer in knowing something about the stories of the hundreds of parishioners, current and past, from this parish. Eric had accompanied these people through the good and the bad times.
“Eric’s greatest ministry was his sacrament of presence. He was the golden thread connecting people to God and the love of Jesus.
“Eric was indeed the Good Shepherd who selflessly laid down his life and his own interests for the sheep of this pasture. Eric also knew his weaknesses. He would not wish to be idealised, whilst he was a good shepherd, he was not a perfect one.
“Eric always put his trust in God and in God’s mercy especially in the testing times of which I know he had a few.
“Eric was one of the first priests to implement The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in our diocese. As he himself said ‘one of the big challenges in today’s Church is to inspire laity to become involved in the life of the parish and to assist the priest in his ministry and especially in the new evangelisation,’” Fr Ian said.
Fr Eric also had a love of sport, in particular rugby league and golf, he said. “He played regular at St Michael’s golf course.”
Fr Eric “loved his family” and “four nephews and their families” Fr Ian said.
Though Fr Eric had left us physically, Fr Ian said concluding his homily, his spiritual influence remains and “will be to the end of time. May his witness inspire us here to continue on so that his legacy will not be lost, but live on in the lives of his family, his parishioners, all people of goodwill, into the future.”
Light refreshments were served in the parish hall following the Mass. Fr Eric was buried at Rookwood Cemetery, next to his brother Fr Kevin Burton who died in 2009.
Fr Eric Burton, Emeritus Parish Priest of Christ the King, North Rocks, died Wednesday 5 September, at Rosary Village, Yennora, aged 92.