John R. Dunne, O.S.A.

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1907 – 1996 (April 4)

John Robert Dunne, son of John M. Dunne and Mary E. MacGregor, was born on February 4, 1907, on Staten Island, New York, and was baptized in the Church of the Sacred Heart there. He received his early education at St. Peter’s Grammar School, Staten Island, and attended St. Francis Xavier High School in Manhattan for two years. John entered Augustinian Academy on Staten Island, as a day student, and became a postulant in his senior year. In 1925, he was a member of the first graduating class of the Academy at its Grymes Hill location. On August 15, 1925, his class was the first to become novices in the newly founded Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York. He professed first vows on August 16, 1926, and made solemn profession on August 16, 1929. He studied philosophy at Villanova College, earning a B.A. degree in 1930. He pursued theology at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C., and on June 14, 1932, was ordained to the priesthood by William J. Hafey, Bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In June 1933, he received an M.A. degree in American history from Catholic University of America. 

On July 8, 1933, Father Dunne received his first assignment to St. Augustine College in Havana, Cuba, where he taught until 1937. While there he also served as assistant at El Cristo Church, served in a temporary capacity as acting superior in the community and head of the parish school. In 1937, he was appointed assistant professor in History and Theology at Villanova College, Villanova, Pa. Since he was a recognized athlete among his peers, Father Dunne became head of the College Intramurals at Villanova, a position he held for the remainder of his time at Villanova. After Father Dunne studied at the Chaplains’ School at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA., he entered the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II, as 1st Lieutenant Captain. He was assigned to an Engineering Aviation Battalion, and served in New Guinea, in Leyte as Task Force Chaplain, Okinawa, and had a 6 month’s stint with the Army of Occupation in Japan. In 1953, he was
honorably discharged from the Army Reserve having received the Rank of Major. From July 1961 to August 1965, Father Dunne served as prior of the community at Archbishop John Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. On August 9, 1965, he became prior of the Augustinian community at Holy Rosary Parish, Lawrence, MA. In August 1971, he was appointed assistant at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Jamaica, New York, and in June 1974, he returned to Holy Rosary Parish. 

On August 18, 1986, due to poor health, he was transferred to St. Thomas Monastery at Villanova, Pa. Father Dunne was very popular with the student body as a counselor and as an instructor of theology and history. His cheerful attitude brought with it many friends. He had the ability to read and absorb what he read with incredible speed. He could read a whole Dickens novel on a Sunday afternoon. As one of his life-long friends said, “No one ever challenged him on this ability – with any success, that is.” 

Father Dunne died at the age of 89, on April 4, 1996, in Bryn Mawr Hospital. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Thomas Church on the campus of Villanova University. Interment was in the Augustinian plot of Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pa.