Peter Paul Brennan was born on November 10, 1941 in the Bronx, New York and went home to
God on August 01, 2016. His parents were John Brennan and Mary (Browne) of Kilkenny, Ireland.
Today, we bid him goodbye in the place of his earthly origin. He has come full circle. Our hearts go out to his beloved family, to Shawna, Matthew and Caroline and their families and his siblings and their families. The youngest of nine children, one of whom, a brother, died in infancy, he grew up in a large family in a large house on University Avenue. Later, he was a very beloved uncle to Patrick, Claire, Mary Kate, Elizabeth, Jack, Kathleen, MaryEllen, Jenny, Marylou, Charlie, Steven, Maura, John, Siobhan, Megan, Patrick, Martin and Brendan and all of their children. As a jubilant granpere to Madeline, Peter, Freddie, Rose and Vivienne he was always thoughtful, playful and kind. He loved them dearly and cared for them often. Many of you have seen his FaceBook profile in FaceBook featuring himself and Freddie. One of the hallmarks of Peter’s ministry was his concern for community and ecumenism. It is easy to see the source of that in such a family.
Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan was seventy four years of age when he died, exhausted from his labors as a Catholic priest according to the Order of Melchizedek and our Lord Jesus Christ, our High Priest and great shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20).
To say that Peter Paul Brennan was an unusual Catholic priest and bishop is a bit of an understatement. He was a most unusual Catholic priest and bishop as perhaps most of us here today can attest. Very early in his career he recognized a unique vocation. He was called to be a Roman Catholic priest indeed, but a special kind. He was to be a “worker priest” in the style of the worker priests of France who felt called to live and work as ordinary people not exalted by clergy status but working side by side in secular work in ordinary homes in neighborhoods teeming with the life of families and children so that the Gospel of Jesus might be heard through the character and actions of their ordinary lives.
God provided a helpmate in 1968 for this unique vocation in the person of Marie Kirby, who, like himself, was a vowed member of a Roman Catholic religious order who responded to the call of Pope John 23rd for a New Pentecost through Vatican Council II and underwent a conversion of mind and heart which filled them with the Holy Spirit and set them on a path leading to roles in a worldwide renewal of the Church. It required new wineskins for the heady new wine and they swapped their religious habits for secular clothes and occupations in teaching in the New York public schools where Peter excelled in teaching and administration and where they met.
I have had in my possession since 1982 documents of his ordinations as priest and bishop which Peter entrusted to me for safe keeping lest his originals become lost. They chart his journey to the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy through his ministry and ordination to priesthood in 1972 and episcopacy in 1978, which I was privileged to attend, in the apostolic succession of the African Orthodox Church, and other ecumenical commission successions, and eventually as an archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church at the hands of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Emeritus Primate of the Archdiocese of Lusaka, Zambia on behalf of the world’s one hundred and fifty thousand married Roman Catholic priests and bishops. Along the way his ministry, dedicated to ecumenism and education gave birth to serving parishes in the African Orthodox Church, to the establishment of a house-church ministry, Christ House Ecumenical Center and the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit at 151 Regent Place, West Hempstead, NY, a now fabled address in the lore of independent Catholicism and the worldwide Roman Catholic renewal movement through the Society of Priests for a Free Ministry, the Fellowship/Federation of Christian Ministries; the St. Barnabas Mission, the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas; Married Priests Now! a Catholic Prelature of Sts. Peter and Paul, and more recently, The Good Shepherd Companions an Ecumenical Catholic Ordinariate.
Peter Paul was a committed ecumenist, not only as an advocate but as a practitioner helping other churches fulfill their ministries. Especially dear to his heart was his participation in the Order of Corporate Reunion which in later years he served as Primate. A number of his colleagues in that Order are present here today and several attended him on the day of his passing. Still, apart from his family, the closest to his heart was his own beloved Roman Catholic Church which was for him his bedrock his entire life and his Irish heritage.
It is not possible to overstate the importance of his support in 2006 for Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo in his struggle to free the Roman Catholic presbyterate from its shackles of mandatory celibacy and male domination.
As early as 1984, as he announced the creation of the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas, he stated publicly his willingness to ordain women as deacons and priests. He was a long time member of the Federation of Christian Ministries since 1973 and of CORPUS, an association for an inclusive priesthood which, rooted in a strong Eucharistic commitment, promotes an expanded and renewed priesthood of married and single men and women in the Catholic Church.
We shall not see his likeness again. We have lost a great champion and friend. May he rest in the peace of Christ, his beloved friend and Lord, and may all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)
William J. Manseau, D. Min
Additional Reflections on Peter's Life