Remembering Abbot Oscar

The Right Reverend Oscar C. Burnett, seventh abbot of Belmont Abbey, died peacefully in the Lord, shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.  A native of Savannah, GA, he is the third of five children of the late Oscar Caldwell Burnett and Ellen Nell (née Wheeler) Burnett. Throughout his life, he was devoted to and proud of his family and native city. After graduating from Benedictine Military School in 1944, he served in the United States Army Air Force during the closing months of World War II. He earned an A.A. degree from Armstrong State College, and his law degree from the Lamar School of Law at Emory University. He practiced law in Savannah for six years before entering the novitiate at Belmont Abbey, professing his vows in 1958. He completed his seminary studies at Belmont Abbey and was ordained a priest in 1962.

BornSeptember 17, 1926 in Savannah, Georgia
ProfessedJuly 11, 1958
OrdainedDecember 22, 1962
Elected AbbotDecember 21, 1991
ResignedNovember 25, 1999
DiedNovember 21, 2017

At Belmont Abbey College he held a number of positions over time, including associate professor, chair of the Social Sciences Division, campus minister, member of the Board of Trustees, president and chancellor. Known by the students as “the Big O”, his career as dean of students was legendary for swift discipline. He also served on two different occasions as associate pastor of St. Benedict Church and teacher at Benedictine High School, Richmond, VA. As Executive Director of the Ecumenical Institute of Wake Forest University and Belmont Abbey College from 1984-1990, he earned wide respect and made significant contributions to ecumenical and interfaith relations in North Carolina and the Southeast. His service to the monastic community over the years included the offices of subprior, procurator, pastor of the abbey parish, novice master and prior.

In December 1991, at age sixty-five, when most men are entering retirement, he was elected abbot for an eight-year term. At a critical time in our community’s history he comp