Father Joseph Burns, retired pastor and educator, dies


Burns-WEBFather Joseph Burns, 85, former pastor and principal in the Diocese of Camden, died Aug. 10.

Born on Aug. 14, 1930, he studied at Saint Charles’ Seminary in Philadelphia before his ordination to the priesthood on June 11, 1960 in Camden by Archbishop Celestine J. Damiano. He began his first assignment as parochial vicar at Camden’s Sacred Heart Parish, serving there until 1961.

Father Burns served as pastor at Our Lady of Victories, Landisville (1980-85), and following this assignment, was pastor at Saint Anthony of Padua, Hammonton (1985-2002).

He was parochial vicar at Saint Francis of Assisi, Vineland (1976-80).

Father Burns helped foster the development of high school students as a teacher and administrator. He served on the faculty of Camden Catholic, Cherry Hill; Holy Spirit, Absecon; and Sacred Heart, Vineland. He was assistant principal at Holy Spirit, and principal at Saint Joseph, Hammonton.

He retired in 2002.

Father Mark Cavagnaro, longtime friend of Father Burns’ and homilist at his funeral, recalled a “Renaissance man” who was “very cultured, well-read, loved the classics, and opera; he was an interesting conversationalist.”

Currently pastor at Saint Brendan the Navigator in Avalon, Father Cavagnaro served on the faculty at Saint Joseph High School when Father Burns was president there.

“He was organized and expected excellence from everyone,” Father Cavagnaro said, adding the Father Burns “always encouraged, and looked for the best in the students and faculty.”

In eulogizing his friend at his funeral Mass last Tuesday at Saint Anthony of Padua Church in Hammonton, Father Cavagnaro said he had been hearing “stories of how students would come to him with problems, knowing that he was easy to talk with.”

He always let them tell their story fully and then put a positive spin to the situation. He invited them to delve into themselves and through prayer discover what God was calling them to do… Look for God’s activity in every situation was (his) outlook.”

Interment will take place at the convenience of the family.