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Burke-Sullivan Named First Holder of Barbara Reardon Heaney Chair in Pastoral Liturgical Theology

Eileen Burke-Sullivan, S.T.D., associate professor of theology, director of Creighton’s online Master of Arts in Ministry program, and associate director of the Master of Christian Spirituality program will become the first chairholder of the Barbara Reardon Heaney Chair in Pastoral Liturgical Theology in Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences. An inaugural ceremony will be held Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. in the Hixson-Lied Auditorium at the Harper Center on campus.

The new chair in pastoral liturgical theology reaffirms Creighton’s commitment to the importance of public worship in the life of the Church and will allow as many students as possible to study the transformative power of liturgy so that they, in turn, can go out and transform their world and become leaders in their communities of worship.

Burke-Sullivan has dedicated her life to serving the Church and society as a pastoral minister, administrator and educator. She has been a full-time faculty member since 2003.

Prior to joining Creighton, Burke-Sullivan served as a pastoral liturgical minister in parishes and dioceses, offering program leadership, ministry formation courses, retreats and spiritual direction in both Catholic and Protestant churches throughout the United States and Canada. Among her professional ministerial roles, she served as director of music and acting director of liturgy in the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Office for Divine Worship for three years. With her brother, the Rev. Kevin Burke, S.J., she is co-author of The Ignatian Tradition.

Burke-Sullivan has said, “Liturgy is the fire that fuels the life of the Church,” and that public liturgies communicate and, at the same time, nourish the heart of the Christian experience. Her goal as an educator is to tie formal, academic theology to the practices of liturgy and spirituality.

Burke-Sullivan completed her Doctorate of Sacred Theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., (now the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College). She also holds a License in Sacred Theology and master’s degrees in theology and music.

The Barbara Reardon Heaney Chair in Pastoral Liturgical Theology is a gift from the family and friends of the late Barbara Reardon Heaney, MD’51. In speaking about establishing this chair, Robert P. Heaney, BS’47, M.D., the John A. Creighton University Professor, recalls that his wife’s love for liturgy first drew her to his attention.

“While we were students in Creighton’s School of Medicine, I noticed several pieces of liturgical art—holy cards, bookmarks and such—spilling from her book bag. I remember thinking now there’s someone who likes the things I think are important,” Heaney recalls.

Medical training experiences took the couple all over the country. They settled in Omaha during a time when the liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church was flourishing and theology that led to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy at Vatican II was taking shape.

The couple worshipped at St. John’s Church on the Creighton campus and incorporated liturgical elements into their family life, such as reading the Psalms around the family table where they gathered with their seven children.

Barbara Reardon Heaney, who died in 2006, also was a compassionate psychiatrist, volunteering her services to numerous charitable and religious organizations. Once her children were raised, she opened a private practice in Omaha.

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.