George F. Burnell, O.S.A.

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1921 – 2001 (May 17)

George Francis Burnell, son of George F. Burnell and Anna Mack, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 20, 1921, and was baptized on February 13, 1921, in the church of St. Edmund. He received his early education at Holy Child Parochial School, and at St. Joseph Preparatory School, both in Philadelphia. From 1937 to 1938, he studied at St. Joseph College. On October 30, 1938, he entered Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, professed first vows on October 31, 1939 and solemn vows on October 31, 1942. He studied philosophy at Villanova University, and graduated with a BA degree in 1942. He pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C. and was ordained to the priesthood on May 22, 1945, by Bishop John M. McNamara, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

After ordination Father Burnell pursued graduate studies in education at The Catholic University of American and earned an MA degree in 1946. In 1948, he was assigned to Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, where he served as vice rector of the school, sub-prior of the Augustinian community, and taught English and Latin for ten years. In 1956, he was appointed prior. In 1961, Father Burnell was assigned to teach English and Latin at Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts. In 1962, he was entrusted by the Province to establish a college preparatory school, Austin Prep., in Reading, Mass, at the request of Richard Cardinal Cushing. While there he served as prior and headmaster and was Inspector of Studies in Universities and High Schools. In 1968, Father Burnell was assigned to Villanova University as Director of Admissions. He was also a professor and the assistant director of the Augustinian Education Association. From 1971 to 1975 and from 1990 to 1994, he was councilor of the Province. In 1976, he was appointed principal of Monsignor Bonner High School, Drexel Hill, Pa., but three years later, he returned to Villanova University and served in several administrative positions. From 1990 to 1994, he was prior of St. Thomas Monastery at Villanova. 

Father Burnell’s entire priestly life was spent in education. His commitment as an Augustinian teacher and as a college and high school consultant on the national level, gave him the authority to state unequivocally the ultimate goals and rewards of an instructor. He shared the following observation at another friar’s 25th jubilee celebration.”The teacher is fashioning the world of tomorrow. What he gives of himself to his students may live on from one generation to another, perpetuating the inspiration and the tradition to which he is dedicated. For the headaches and the heartaches and the infrequent small triumphs, the reward comes later. They who instruct others unto justice shall shine as stars for all eternity.”

Father Burnell died on May 17, 2001. On Monday, May 21st a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Thomas Church, Villanova, with interment at the Community Cemetery on the Villanova campus.