John F. Burns, O.S.A.

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1895 – 1976 (August 17)

John F. Burns, son of Joseph Burns and Teresa Leonard, was born in Albany, New York on December 2, 1895. He was received as a novice at Villanova, Pennsylvania, on June 19, 1913 and professed simple vows in the Order on June 19, 1914. He was solemnly professed on the same day in 1917 and following studies, was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Dennis Dougherty at the Philadelphia Cathedral on May 29, 1920.

Father Burns began his ministry as a teacher, writer, drama coach, and preacher at Villanova College. His plays were produced on both coasts receiving accolades, especially the play “The Nazarene.” He also authored a book of Lenten Sermonds and was co-author of a college textbook entitled “Medieval Europe.” After twenty-three years of ministry at Villanova, he was assigned to Saint Patrick’s Church in San Diego, California in 1943, and during the next seven years raised funds to build a parish grade school and expand the parish plant. In 1950 he was transferred to Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Hollywood where he undertook a monumental building task for a new church building and friary which he accomplished with skillful fundraising and careful planning. Being a medieval historian his design of the stained glass windows displayed only three sacred persons: the Blessed Virgin, St. Augustine, and St. Monica. The other windows displayed Redemption themes and titles of the Blessed Virgin. These were met with initial skepticism, but Fr. Burn’s careful and well documented planning won over those skeptics, inlcuding the bishop. 

In 1956, Father Burns returned to Saint Patrick’s in San Diego for two years, and in 1958 was once again stationed at Our Mother of Good Counsel. Due to health issues, in November, 1961, he asked to be relieved of his pastorate, but stayed on at the parish until the new church was opened and dedicated. In 1965, he was assigned to Saint Patrick’s for the third time, but returned to Hollywood in 1971, where he spent his final years in the friary he had built. He died there on August 17, 1976 at the age of 80.