John S. O’Leary, O.S.A.

1890 – 1964 (March 2)

John Stanislaus O’Leary, son of John O’Leary and Mary Ellen McCarthy, was born on October 13, 1890 in County Cork, Ireland. He received his early education at the National School, Blarney, Ireland, and the Christian Brothers of North Monastery, Cork. At the age of fifteen, he journeyed alone to the United States to join his father who had preceded him to Philadelphia. John entered Villanova Preparatory School on September 11, 1908, entered the novitiate on June 20, 1912, professed simple vows on June 20, 1913, and solemn vows on December 8, 1916. He obtained an A.B in June 1916, and an MS in June 1919, both from Villanova. He also did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. On June 8, 1919, John was ordained to the priesthood by Dennis Cardinal Dougherty in the chapel of Saint Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Pa. Father O’Leary was a member of Saint Thomas Monastery community from the time of his ordination to his death, fifty-six years later. 

As a Villanova faculty member, most of his teaching was in the Engineering School, though he is noted for his expertise in Mathematics. In addition he taught Chemistry, Philosophy, Theology, and Public Speaking. He also taught at Rosemont College. While most of his ministry was dedicated to collegians, he gained popularity, as well, as a homilist and poet, and among grade school children during his weekend ministry for over twenty-five years, at Holy Spirit Parish, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Father John Klekotka, O.S.A., who was homilist at Father O’Leary’s funeral, and his former student, summed up his life as Augustinian, priest and teacher, when he said, “As a priest teacher and counselor in a men’s school, he gave outstanding personal example of a thoroughly manly religious life based on deep-seated conviction, implemented by a vigorous self-discipline. He demonstrated personaly as well as verbally, a priesthood of character, of vigor, of high ideals, of good common sense. For him religious life was first of all life. He lived intensely. He was always a priest, he took advantage of every opportunity to impart a proper message …”

Father O’Leary suffered a stroke while on vacation in 1958, necessitating the end of his classroom teaching. He died on March 2, 1964 in Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova. The Funeral Mass was celebrated at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church by Prior Provincial James Donnellon, O.S.A. followed by burial in the Villanova community cemetery.