Father George W. Burden II, Josephite for nearly 60 years, dies at 81

Father George W. Burden II, Josephite for nearly 60 years, dies at 81

By Lisa Harlow

Josephite Father George W. Burden II, a priest who started his journey as a Brother almost 60 years ago, died Nov. 26 in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan. He was 81.

“Father Burden was a faithful priest who served as a Josephite for many years,” said Bishop John H. Ricard, Josephite superior general. “He had a variety of assignments, all of which were very well received.”

Father Burden was born in 1941.

According to Bishop Ricard, the priest’s father, George Sr., was in the military. After World War II, he was stationed in Saginaw, where he met his wife and started a family.

After Father Burden’s mother and sister converted to the Catholic faith, he was baptized in 1947.

In his youth, he was an altar server for then-Father James A. Hickey, who later became cardinal of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Father Burden attended St. Paul Seminary in Saginaw and later transferred to St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Clayton, Del.

He became a Josephite Brother in 1963 and was the librarian at St. Joseph’s. After earning his teaching certificate, he taught at the school for five years.

Next, he moved to New Orleans and earned his bachelor’s degree from Xavier University. Father Burden had a passion for teaching, and he taught at St. Augustine High School 1975-1987. He loved science and taught physics, earth science, biology and general science.

He also served as head of the science department and on the school’s financial committee.

“He was friendly and popular with the students,” said Father Paul Oberg, SSJ, who taught with then-Brother George Burden at St. Augustine. “He loved teaching, and he was very involved and active in school.”

Father Oberg said the pair attended football and basketball games together.

“It was while Father Burden was in New Orleans that he discovered he had a vocation to the priesthood,” Father Oberg said. “God changed his path to become a priest.”

Along with five other Josephite Brothers, Father Burden was ordained a priest in 1991.

After his ordination, Father Burden started work in parish ministry with the Josephites. His first assignment as a pastor was at St. Joseph church in Welsh, Louisiana.

As a priest, he served in parishes throughout Louisiana, Delaware and Washington, D.C. His longest assignment was seven years as pastor of Prince of Peace church in Mobile, AL.

His final assignment was Parochial Vicar at Holy Family church in Natchez, MS, 2011-2013.

“Father Burden was a blessing,” said Vera Green, a parishioner of Holy Family. “He loved the Lord, and he shared the spirit of the Lord with us in his homily.”

During his time in Mississippi, Father Burden was a frequent dinner guest at the home of Mrs. Green and her husband Vincent.

“I kept in touch with him until the day he died,” said Mrs. Green. “He was very loved.”

When he was at Holy Family, he became ill and retired to the Josephite Manor in Baltimore in 2013.

“He had a cheerful attitude and he was always positive about everything,” said Father Oberg, who was rector of the manor at the time and is now rector of the Josephite Senior Residence in Washington. “He was happy-go-lucky whenever you saw him.”

In retirement, Father Burden kept busy celebrating Mass and hearing confessions of fellow retired priests and brothers.

“He was very involved and led a prayerful life,” Father Oberg said.

When the Manor closed in 2018, Father Burden didn’t want to move to Washington, D.C. He went back to Saginaw, where he lived in the Swanhaven Manor retirement community and, later, at St. Francis Home.

His health may have declined but he still had a great devotion to St. Joseph, Father Oberg said.

“He called me constantly and we prayed together,” the priest remembered. “For four years, we spoke on the phone.”

Father Burden didn’t give in, according to Father Oberg.

“Even when he was sick, he laughed and was cheerful,” Father Oberg said. “He had a good sense of being pleasant. He spent 144 days in the hospital and he prayed until the end.”

Father Burden’s funeral Mass was offered  Dec. 5 at St. Joseph in Saginaw. Bishop Ricard was the celebrant and homilist.