Reverend Kenneth Burns, C.S.C.
Father Kenneth Burns’ leadership, contribution and sacrifice for Catholic education in Niagara is legendary, and spanned a tremendous 52 years.
Father Burns joined the teaching staff of Notre Dame College School just after his ordination in 1948. He threw himself into life at Notre Dame with his now famous capacity for hard work. For 10 years he taught as many classes as there were periods in a day, and held extra classes in the evenings and on Saturdays for senior math students. He spent his spare time remodeling school facilities, doing weekend parish work and visiting all the Catholic homes from St. Catharines to Port Colborne, recruiting students.
In 1958, he became Notre Dame’s third principal. He was the driving force behind two major expansions. The first expansion allowed 200 additional students to attend Notre Dame. A Commercial-Industrial Arts-Home Economics wing and Dillon Hall were added in the second expansion.
Under his leadership, two new religious communities of women complemented the work of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Fr. Burns went out of his way to acquire resources to ensure that students at Notre Dame experienced an authentic Catholic education. In 1959 he said, “To succeed in life is not equivalent to achieving a successful career. A student may, by natural talent and industry, attain eminence in his or her profession and yet may prove a failure in life. For a career is not an end but a means. A livelihood is not life, though a sufficiency of material goods is necessary to live. A person may succeed as a doctor or lawyer or engineer and yet fail as a child of God. To fail in the eyes of God is to fail in life.”
In 1966, Father Burns became the second principal at Denis Morris. He promoted DM to St. Catharines residents as the pioneer co-educational Catholic high school there and as a powerhouse of faith, academic and athletic prowess.
At a time in life when most people contemplate retirement, Father Burns accepted the Lincoln Board’s request to spearhead the establishment of a second Catholic high school in St. Catharines, fittingly named Holy Cross in honour of his religious community. He brought the same powerful, passionate, tireless leadership to his challenge as he had consistently done his whole life. The quality of education at St. Catharines’ two schools became so much in demand that ultimately a third school was established in St. Catharines and a Catholic high school was established in Grimsby.
After a hiatus, Father Burns returned to represent Welland in the last years of the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board ,and later to represent the newly amalgamated Niagara Catholic District School Board. He was an informal conscience for the Board; and his expertise in Catholic secondary education led the Board to confidently endorse his vision for a newly remodeled and greatly expanded Notre Dame.
Father Burns consistently inspired others because he always walked his talk. He died in 2006, but continues to be deeply admired, appreciated and loved.
Inducted: January 27, 2006