Brother Benet Bourke, 20.6.1928 – 27.1.2018

Posted on January 29, 2018

Br Benet’s earthly journey ended on Saturday morning at Longueville Hospital, where he had been a patient intermittently for the last two months. During this period, as he wished, he was able to spend some time back at Hunters Hill, but last weekend it became clear that he needed the care and attention that could only be provided in a hospital. He returned to Longueville on Monday, was given the last rites on Tuesday, and has had a steady flow of visitors over the last five days. Br Tony d’Arbon and Benet’s niece, Janice Mather, from Alice Springs, were with him when he died peacefully at 9.15am. 

Two years ago, Ben collapsed while visiting friends at Moree and he was returned to Sydney by air ambulance for treatment. In reality this cardiac crisis heralded a decline in his health. Despite procedures on his heart valve, problems persisted and more recently bone cancer added to his difficulties. 

Edmund John Bourke was born in Mareeba, Queensland, on 20th June 1928. He was one of ten children, born to William and Eileen Bourke. Four of his siblings were older, and five younger. 

He was educated at St Augustine’s College Cairns before leaving the tropical north to begin the Juniorate at Mittagong in January 1945. Br Andrew Power received his first vows on 2nd July 1948, he made his perpetual profession at Mittagong in 1954 and took the Vow of Stability in 1967 at Hunters Hill. Last year Benet celebrated his 70th anniversary as a Brother. 

Ben’s ministry was exclusively in secondary education. He was nine years at Rosalie and had a total of six and a half years at St Augustine’s Cairns, where he was Principal for three years. From 1965 to 1976 he was at Hamilton and for the latter part of that time was Deputy. It was during this period that he completed a Masters in Science while teaching full time and taking on all the other tasks that accompanied the role. However, the bulk of his time was spent at St Joseph’s. There he was appointed at the start of 1978 and there he remained until now. Ben loved the College, its community, the ex-students, staff and students. He was admired and respected for his great commitment as a teacher and as a Brother. He made an extraordinary contribution to SJC over forty years. 

He valued his ex-students and spoke proudly of them and their achievements. Many have been in contact with him in recent months. 

A “no-nonsense” man who was blessed with boundless common sense and practical ability, Ben was a real “doer”. He didn’t like to sit around idle and valued the challenge that tasks offered. He could be direct, but was always helpful. When something needed to be done, the phrase on everyone’s lip at Joey’s was “see Benet”. He would have the answer and get the job completed, fully, expertly and without any fuss. The epitome of generosity, he refused no request and delighted in being able to assist. No doubt he is being welcomed to heaven with a lengthy “to do list”! 

I offer my appreciation to the staff at Longueville Private Hospital for their excellent treatment, to Linda and Gil and the other staff at Champagnat House for the care they gave Ben especially during his illness; gratitude also to Anthony Robinson and the community for their brotherly affection and solicitude. 

Ben’s earthly labours are now complete, and he is resting in the embrace of the God he served so faithfully, practically and totally. Rest in peace Br Benet. 

Br Peter Carroll fms
Provincial – Marist Brothers Province of Australia

A funeral to celebrate the life of Br Benet Bourke fms will be held in St Joseph’s College chapel on Tuesday 6 February 2018 at 10.30am. Interment will follow in Field Of Mars cemetery.



If ever there was an example of the humble Brother, it is Br Benet. In my 12 years as Headmaster of the College I had the opportunity to work with some of the ’legends’ of the College in the likes of Br Michael Naughtin, Br Emile and Br Brian Horton. Each man gave a particular witness of what it is to be Marist bringing Christ alive to all of us and I believe that Br Benet holds his place among these extraordinary characters of the College.

His encouragement, infectious enthusiasm and his wonderful laugh often made a difficult day so much easier. Through him the Holy Spirit worked in wonderful ways.

Ross Tarlinton
Headmaster (2006-2017)

Thank you for your note about the passing of Br Benet. Sad news but Ben is now home and can put up his feet. No more worldly worries.

Ben was a great help to me at SJC. He accepted a lot responsibilities for me: he met weekly with John Sim (architect) and ensured the new science labs had everything in place; he ensured the ladies had a secure room where they could work on the Quilt; no one booked the Br Emilian Hall without going through Ben; he assisted Virginia Cross with the extension to the Hall of Fame; he assisted the P&F in the extensions to the kitchen in the Br Emilian Hall; he gave a lot of time and thought in the design of the labs and his knowledge of the teaching of science was of course a great help. I never heard any criticism of the labs after teachers and students commenced using them. This was the combined effort of John Sim and Ben.

Marshall (Joseph) McMahon
Headmaster (1983-1991)

Very sorry for the loss of a wonderful Marist Brother. Our prayers are with Br Benet, his family, the Marist Brothers and the Joeys community.

Tim Dalton (84)
President, SJC Parents & Friends Association

Sad news indeed. Br Benet was a real fighter over many years with health issues, but somehow came back stronger. He was a tremendous asset to us in Maintenance / Property, with his ongoing enthusiasm, drive and memory of many of the plant and facility infrastructure details which had been laid with no real records of where and how these were put in place. When I started at the College in 2006, Ben was always around assisting wherever he could. He will be a tremendous loss to us all.

Stewart Smith
SJC Property Manager

What a great man. I always enjoyed a chat but found his knowledge of almost anything extraordinary.

Max Rawnsley
SJC Director of Business Services (2008-2013)

A truly sad day for one of the true legends who made (literally) Joeys.  Prayers and best wishes to the Brothers and whole Joeys community.

Mark & Sue Casey

This is truly said news for both Kerri and I. We have been close friends of Ben from the day I joined the College and Marist community in 1985. Ben, his family and the Marist community are in our thoughts and prayers.

Bruce Cook
SJC Head of Science

He was a wonderful Physics teacher (in Year 11 and 12). I regret he had finished up for my boys’ HSC. Vale Br Benet.

Dr Allen James (82)

My heartfelt sympathy and sorrow at the passing of a very treasured and loved Marist Brother. He helped me enormously when I was setting up the very first Fine Arts section in the Joeys Art Show and in the following years in our transition to the Brother Emilian Hall. He was a man who gave his very best all the time, and I admired him greatly. May he rest in peace.

Annette Tynan and family

Brother Benet has been coming to stay with our family for the last 20 years on our farm in Moree. We were are deeply saddened to hear of his passing.  We visited him in hospital with our grandson Felix Blanco at the end of November. He was in such good form that afternoon even producing a bottle of whisky! Matthew and I had been disappointed that we could not attend his celebration of 70 years as a Marist brother. The night of his celebration we were in The Hermitage, St Chamond (France) and he was very pleased to see our photos and hear of our visit. We have many Brother Benet stories and have missed his visits in the past couple of years but have always caught up in Sydney or via phone.

Catherine, Matthew (78) and Alexander (07) Madden

It is with great sadness I learn the passing of Br Benet Bourke. I have known Br Benet for over 18 years and can recall many fond moments speaking with him during this time. His understanding and interest in all things mechanical and the overwhelming knowledge and support he had for the college, its staff and the students was remarkable.

I feel sure Br Benet will go down in the memory of St Joseph’s College as one of the great champions of the college, after all it was his home for many years…

God speed Brother, you will be missed.

Peter Lloyd
Managing Director, Gladesville Locksmiths

We are terribly sorry to hear that. Sending a condolences from the Robertsons

Danelle Robertson