Henry E. Greenlee, O.S.A.

1897 – 1990 (November 18)

Henry Greenlee was born on December 21, 1897 in Bristol, Connecticut, one of three sons and daughters of Charles Greenlee and Margaret Donnellan. When he was two years old, the family moved to Philadelphia, eventually settling in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where he attended Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish School. After graduating in 1912 he entered the novitiate at Villanova on June 24, 1916, and professed simple vows on June 24, 1917. Three years later on June 27, 1920 he professed solemn vows. After receiving his AB degree from Villanova, he was sent to Collegio Santa Monica, Rome, for theological studies. On July 18, 1923, he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Pamphili in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. While continuing his theological studies, he was appointed submaster of professed students at Saint Monica. In 1925, having received a doctoral degree from the Vatican Theological Commission, he returned to Villanova.

Father Harry, as he was known during his lifetime, had his first assignment at Villanova College as a professor in church history and submaster of professed at St. Mary’s Hall. In 1931 he was assigned to Saint Mary’s Parish, Lawrence, Massachusetts, as assistant pastor and treasurer of the community. After two years of parish life he was assigned to Augustinian College, Washington, DC, where he taught theology and served as treasurer of the community. From 1944 to 1947 he served as a counselor of the province. In 1947, he returned to Villanova as prior of Saint Mary’s Hall and in 1951 he was elected Secretary of the Province and was transferred to Saint Thomas of Villanova Parish as prior of the community.
Upon the death of the Provincial, Father Joseph Dougherty, O.S.A., Father Greenlee was appointed rector provincial by the Prior General and completed the term of office. In 1956 he was elected Prior Provincial and served until 1959. During his terms in office he continued and consolidated the Province expansion that characterized the post-World War II years – the growth of Villanova College due to the G.I. Bill, the newly established Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, the archdiocesan high schools in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, and the newly establish foreign mission in Nagasaki, Japan, as well as the opportunity to extend the Province’s activities in Florida. 

Following his term as Prior Provincial, Father Greenlee served as pastor and prior at our parishes of Saint Thomas, Rosemont, Saint Denis, Havertown, and finally as prior and assistant pastor at Saint Genevieve, Flourtown. In 1975 he moved to Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova.

During his years of retirement Father Greenlee retained the love and respect of the friars as well as that of the laity and clergy with whom he had been associated during his long and active life. Revered for his wisdom and memory, which remained with him to the end, his humor, common sense, and gentleness were summed up by the homilist at his funeral, “He remained young at heart and was a balanced optimist, never losing his sense of humor.” About a half-hour before his death he asked those at his bedside, “ Am I dead yet?” He died peacefully, having commended his spirit to the Lord and surrounded by his brothers in religion.

The Prior Provincial, John Hagen, O.S.A., was the celebrant at the Mass of Christian Burial at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church on November 21, 1990. The homilist was the former Provincial, James Sherman, O.S.A. Father Greenlee is buried in the Augustinian plot in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.