Distinguished education administrator, missionary priest dies

Father Edward Norton, 1919-2009

Norton,_Fr_Ed_for_webRev. Edward Norton, 90—a proud Bostonian, gifted education administrator and Divine Word Missionary—died Thursday, Dec. 31, at Techny, Ill.

"Ed was a great mentor," said Rev. James Braband SVD, who succeeded Father Norton as director of the Office of Education, Recruitment and Formation. "I will always be grateful for his wisdom and guidance, and for his willingness to assist me for a number of years after his retirement. I will miss his friendship."

Among his accomplishments as an administrator, Father Norton founded a Catholic girls’ high school in the Philippines and guided Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, through a successful accreditation process.

Born in 1919 in Medford, Mass., he was the third of Edward and Mary (Walsh) Norton’s five children. In 1940, Father Norton became a member of the Society of the Divine Word and was ordained in 1945.

After earning a master’s degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he began his first assignment in 1947 at Catholic University in Peking, China. Barely a year after his arrival, the Communist government expelled all Catholic missionaries and Father Norton left for the Philippines.

While in the Philippines, Father Norton worked as an administrator at University of San Carlos, Cebu, and founded an all-girls secondary school. He returned to the United States in 1953 and completed a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Chicago.

In 1967, he returned to his beloved Boston. For nine years, he served on the faculty of the School of Education at Boston College and was the weekend assistant at his home parish of St. Clement’s—where he had attended grammar school.

Over the years, Father Norton’s many roles in the Society of the Divine Word included rector of the Divine Word Seminary in Duxbury, Mass., from 1961-67; rector of Divine Word College in Washington, D.C., from 1976-85; and Chicago Province director of Education, Recruitment and Formation from 1985 until his retirement in 1991.

Father Norton’s funeral was held at the Divine Word Residence chapel on Tuesday, Jan. 5, with burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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