By Karen Vance
ANDERSON TOWNSHIP - As a communications, management and marketing major at the University of Dayton, Chrissy Donovan, 23, of Anderson Township, took the kinds of classes you'd expect in college.
But she says one class - one of the most popular on campus - taught her more about herself in one semester than she'd learned in her entire life up to then. The class, called "Christian Marriage" was taught by an unlikely professor - the Rev. Norbert Burns, a 79-year-old Catholic priest.
"He's the best guy I've ever known. Everyone laughs when I say my favorite class was Christian Marriage, but it's absolutely true," said Donovan, who took the class two years ago. She was in a serious relationship but not engaged at the time. "I learned so much about myself and how I want to raise a family in one semester."
So much that she encouraged her now-fiance, UD basketball forward Keith Waleskowski, 24, of Kettering, to take the class. Burns will marry the couple in August.
Burns has been teaching the marriage class at UD since 1963 and hasn't missed a day. More than 26,000 students - about a third of all living UD alumni - took the class.
The impact on his former students can be seen through an endowed scholarship fund set up by alumni in his honor. To date, they have contributed $38,000. In the fall he'll teach the class again to a class of 100.
"I get so energized by the whole class. I wish I could take everyone," said Burns.
And as for a never-married man teaching people how to be married, he's says it's an advantage.
"A relationship is a relationship. Marriage is the most intense, but there are basic principles in every relationship," he said. "There's nothing like experience, but if you're married and you begin projecting your marriage on someone else, it's counterproductive. Every couple is different."
He says the key to a successful relationship is knowing who you are, knowing your spouse and maintaining a focus, passion and dedication to each other.
Burns, who officially retired in 1996, should know. In addition to the UD class, he's been working as a marriage counselor - both before weddings and in troubled times - since 1958.
"I found this and discovered it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," he said. "At the time, marriage counseling was a new thing many people had never even heard of."
For Donovan, Burns' help and advice on her upcoming marriage to Waleskowski, who is headed to play basketball in Europe, was priceless.
"He told me, 'He has this opportunity, but it's going to change your life and you have to be ready for that,'" she said. "He definitely started us down the right path together."
GOSPEL EVENT JUNE 12: The Media Play store in Norwood, 4488 Montgomery Road, will host a free gospel music event June 12 from 3 to 8 p.m.
Cincinnati gospel artist John Gray will headline. Gray, the former singing phenom at Bethel Baptist Church, will have his debut release on June 15.
Local gospel artists The Prodigal Sons, Billyrich Ross, Cheri LaDell and The Ordinary People Choir will also perform along with local gospel choirs. Churches will sell religious items and youth groups are hosting a cookout.
To submit religion news, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to 755-4150.
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