Rev. Donald E. Brennan, O.S.A. (1927 - 2010)

Rev. Donald E. Brennan, O.S.A., 82, died peacefully at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 24, 2010. He was in Hospice care. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer a few weeks earlier. He did not fear death; rather, his attitude was one of hopeful longing for his new life with the Lord.

Donald Eugene Brennan was born in December 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, to Walter J. and Norrine Brennan. He was baptized in January 1928 at St. Gall Church, Chicago. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation in June 1938 at St. Adrian Church, Chicago.

After attending St. Adrian School until Grade 4, he completed his elementary education at Bishop Quarter Military School, Oak Park, Illinois, graduating in 1941. In the Fall of that year, Donald entered the minor seminary program at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. When St. Monica Seminary, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, opened in 1942, he joined other students from the Midwest there for two years. He returned for his senior year to Augustinian Academy, where he earned his high school diploma in 1945.

He was received into the Augustinian Novitiate on September 8, 1945. He professed simple (temporary) vows in the Order of St. Augustine on September 10, 1945 and solemn (permanent) vows on September 10, 1949. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1953.

Following his profession of vows, Donald studied at Villanova College, Villanova, Pennsylvania, where he earned a B. A. in Philosophy in 1950. He followed the program of theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, D. C., from 1950 to 1954. He earned an M. Ed. in Guidance from DePaul University, Chicago, in 1964 and an M. A. in Theology from St. Xavier College, Chicago, in 1968.

He served as a teacher in several Augustinian secondary schools: Austin Catholic High School, Detroit, Michigan (1954-1959), Mendel Catholic High School, Chicago (1959-1961 and 1972-1975), St. Rita High School, Chicago (1961-1968) and Augustinian Academy, St. Louis, Missouri (1968-1972).

In 1975 and 1976, Father Brennan served briefly in the Peruvian missions. Upon his return, he was assigned to St. Augustine Seminary, Holland, Michigan, while participating in the Pastoral Institute at Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Indiana.

He was named Pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Pekin, Illinois, in 1977, where he also served as Prior of the community. In 1983, he was named Prior at St. Clare of Montefalco Parish, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.

Father Brennan was appointed Pastor of St. Rita Parish, Racine, Wisconsin, in 1984. He served briefly at St. Matthew Parish, Flint, Michigan, during 1995. In 1996, he was named Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Pilot Point, Texas, and a member of the St. Mary Center House community, Gainesville, Texas. Following his retirement as Pastor in 2002, he continued as part of that Augustinian community, while providing pastoral ministry as needed. He was named Prior of the Augustinian community at St. Mary in 2002. He served in this office until 2008.

In 2008, Father Brennan was assigned to Cascia Hall Monastery, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He volunteered his assistance in Cascia Hall School as his health and strength permitted until the time of his final illness.

Father Brennan is remembered as a kind, helpful, easy-going and peaceful man. His profound spirituality and prayerfulness were the foundation of his faith-filled life. He was an intelligent and gifted teacher who was able to inspire and motivate his students by gently challenging them to excel. He read extensively, particularly on theological matters.

He is buried in the Augustinian Plot at Calvary Cemetery, Tulsa.

Memorial gifts may be made to Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, 5401 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago, IL 60615-5664, or via our Online Giving Page.

Funeral Homily by Rev. Theodore E. Tack, O.S.A. 

                                                                                                                                   June 29, 2010

Wis.3: 1-6,9

Rom. 8: 14-23     

John 12: 23-26

1.       I am sure I speak for all gathered here this afternoon--our Father Provincial, all the rest of us Augustinians, Msgr. Pat Galaas, Vicar General of the Diocese of Tulsa, and those here in our local community who loved Fr. Don very much—when I extend to you, Sharon, your husband John, and all your daughters and their families our sincerest sympathy, prayers and love on the loss of your dear brother, uncle and friend.  I know Fr. Don loved visiting with you all, enjoying some home cooking and a challenging round of golf,  especially when he was stationed near you in Texas. And though you were well prepared for his death, and you knew he was also well prepared to leave this life and meet the Lord, I well understand how his loss is still very painful for you, especially coupled with the fact that just a few years ago you also lost your other brother and uncle, Fr. Ray, a Redemptorist priest and missionary.

2.       Did any of us catch that stupendous statement that St. Paul made to the Romans in the reading we just heard? Let me remind us all of what he said: “We are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  What a fabulous expression and reality, that we are actually God’s adopted children and called to enjoy life with him forever!  And yet though we who have been baptized into Christ can call ourselves God’s children, Paul goes on to say that even we, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, “also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”.  In other words Paul is telling us that though we have been blessed with the promise of an inheritance that has no equal, we find ourselves groaning because we must struggle as we make our way through life towards the fulfillment of this remarkable promise.

3.       What we have just heard St. Paul say reminds me so much of a homily St. Augustine once gave to his people who were gathered to dedicate a new church: “This church, Augustine told them, is the house of our prayers, but we ourselves are the house of God…We are being built up during our life here so that we may be dedicated at the end of time.  A building, or rather the construction of that building, demands hard labor; but its dedication elicits only joy” [S.336,1-2].  The inheritance promised to us by Christ and his Father is truly the treasure of great price about which Jesus tells us [Mt. 13], and those who appreciate this treasure are willing to give everything they have to possess it.  But before we can attain this treasure, there is a lot of hard work to be done in this life so that we can be faithful to our call as Christians and follow the example of Christ himself.

4.       It is not hard for me to see Fr. Don represented here, both by St. Paul and by St. Augustine.  Fr. Don well knew the inheritance promised him, and as a dedicated Augustinian and priest he labored long and hard in the vineyard of the Master, seeking to win others for Christ and to confirm them in their struggles to achieve  the eternal life promised them.  In his earlier years as a priest he served faithfully in many of our schools, instructing, guiding and motivating young men and confirming them in their faith.  In the last 30 or more years of his life he was responsible for hundreds of God’s people as their pastor in both large and small parishes, in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas.

5.       In these last two years, while living here with us at Cascia Hall, he found himself severely handicapped, unable to stand and walk for any lengthy period of time and burdened down by other disabilities as well. Yet he never gave up in trying to be of service wherever and whenever he could. When called upon he pushed himself to his limits and beyond to be able to celebrate the Eucharist here in our chapel on weekdays and Sundays until finally he could do it no more. He knew exactly what St. Paul meant when he talked about the Spirit groaning within us, for he truly groaned with great longing for union with God, and as Paul put it, he knew “that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Tremendously active for the first 54 years of his priestly life, he now had to draw back and accept the painful cross—which so many are called to experience in life—of feeling helpless, frustrated and incapable of making further, significant active contributions.  And yet he never complained.   As long as he could he took part in all our community activities, celebrating the Eucharist, praying the Liturgy of the hours, being present for community sharing. He was a very faithful and loving Augustinian to the end, who always tried to look at the bright side of things and be of help to others whenever possible.

6.       In the course of these last two years, because of his difficulty walking, he necessarily spent a lot of time in his room.  During this time especially Fr. Don was an avid reader of books on spirituality and theology, whose insights he gladly shared with those who attended Mass here in the dynamic homilies he was well known for. 

7.       In the gospel Jesus tells us that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”  What Jesus seems to be saying is that if we don’t use our talents and just put them on display, as it were, they will be of service to no one.  On the other hand if we give these talents over for the good of others, literally let them die as our own, giving them away to the service of others, then they will bring about great blessings for all.  Fr. Don knew what that meant.  He did not hold back on using his talents but gladly surrendered them in the service of others, his fellow Augustinians and the people whom the Church entrusted to his care.  

8.       St. Augustine reminds us at the very beginning of his Confessions that God has made all of us to journey towards him in this life and that we will never be at peace until we find him and rest in him.  Augustine concludes this remarkable book of his with a prayer that points out clearly that it is only God himself who can grant us this peace we all seek: “Lord God, he writes, because you have given us everything, grant us peace, the peace of repose, the peace of the Sabbath, the peace which knows no sunset” [Conf. 13,35].  May that same good Lord grant Fr. Don that peace in his presence which he longed for and which knows no sunset.  May he rest in the peace of Christ whom he served faithfully, joyfully and with great love all the days of his life.

--Theodore E. Tack, O.S.A.