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Current Society News: Obituaries

Rev. Dennis J. Burns

Wednesday, August 26, 2009  
Posted by: Katie Richards
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Rev. Dennis J. Burns passed away suddenly on August 24, 2009; he was 89 years old.

A native of Cambridge, Father Burns was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Richard Cushing at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 3, 1950. He had many and varied assignments in the archdiocese and beyond.

Prior to studies in canon law at the Catholic University of America in 1954, he served as assistant pastor and temporary administrator in two parishes.

Father Burns’ long and eminent service to the church locally, in the nation and internationally through his study, teaching and genuine love of canon law took shape with his graduate studies at CUA which began in 1954. He completed his doctoral studies and his dissertation on the indissolubility of marriage.

Upon completion of his studies in 1957 he was named chaplain at Regis College in Weston serving there until 1960 (and later from 1963-1969) when he was assigned to the staff of the tribunal of the archdiocese where he served as defender of the bond form 1969 to 1974. In 1971 he taught on the Faculty of Canon Law at Catholic University of America.

In 1974 he was named acting officialis of the archdiocese in 1974 and officialis the following year. He continued to serve in the tribunal until 1996.

In 1990 Cardinal Law named him pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea parish in the historic and scenic town of Marblehead on the Bay State’s North Shore.

For almost 15 years and well past the usual retirement age, Father Burns also served another active and dynamic parish with great zeal and energy. While serving as pastor in both parishes, Father Burns remained deeply committed to canon law and the pursuit of justice.

Fr. Burns was an active member of the Canon Law Society of America until his death, attending national and regional meetings annually. True to the end Fr. Burns was one of the first to register for the October 2009 convention in Louisville! He was elected President of the Society in 1979 and later received the Society’s prestigious Role of Law Award in 1993. The following excerpt from his Role of Law acceptance speech was quoted in his obituary: "You have all shared with me your wisdom and your friendship over these years; you have elected me to serve you in office; you have given me great laughter and some of the happiest times of my priesthood. You have above all given me a vision of the Church I could not have imagined. You have shaped my understanding of the law in service to the People of God."

Father Burns will Lie in State at Saint John the Evangelist Church, Swampscott, on Friday, August 28th from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.   The Reception of the Body will be held at 3:30 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint John the Evangelist Church, Swampscott, on Saturday, August 29th at 11:00 a.m. Interment at Waterside Cemetery, 294 West Shore, Marblehead, 01945.

Please remember Fr. Burns and his family in your prayers and masses.

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