by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.
Father Brendan: I grew up in a strong Catholic household. I had two aunts who were religious sisters (Mercy and Dominican Sisters of Ireland). I learned customs and traditions modeled by my family in my home – Sunday and holy days of obligation, evenings with the rosary on most nights as a family. I went to Catholic schools all of my life, from 1st grade to graduate school. My father went to wakes and funerals for many people as a sign of respect. Many details but these are just a few.
Dr. Knight: What did your family think about your entering the Dominican order?
Father Brendan: From the time I made the decision, my parents supported me completely. Truth be told, I became the favorite son for the big news. My brothers and relatives were very supportive. Our family friends had a member of their family join the Dominicans of the East Coast, USA. Because my father’s sister was a Dominican, it was a time to celebrate for many of them.
Dr. Knight: You went to college and became an educator. How did you make that decision?
Father Brendan:: I did not go to college to become an educator. I went to college because I thought it was a reliable path to a stable job and career. I actually graduated with a Major in Political Science and a Minor in French. I did not formalize my interest in the Dominicans until my Senior Year. I was also considering social work or law as a few unclear ideas on career. Uncertain in a clear career path and also discerning the priesthood, I chose to become a volunteer with a few organizations, Jesuit Volunteers USA and the Dominican Volunteers USA. I chose the Dominicans because of some familiarity with the order and my impression of individual Dominicans doing amazing ministries with people on the margins of the church and society. I also wanted to belong to a religious order that seemed to have a balance among membership (sisters, friars, laity and youth)
Dr. Knight: What Dominican Charisms did you discern in your order?
Father Brendan: I explored the ways to preach and prominent figures of the order who pushed the boundaries and fought for social change. I admired the commitment of the Dominicans to preach in various forms and ways.
Dr. Knight: What was the mission of your order? Did you realize that mission?
Father Brendan: The mission of the order is to be a preacher and to seek ways to proclaim the Word of God in areas on the margins of society and in the midst of social struggles. I discovered that my passion was to be an animator of people, to help them recognize their voice to influence the church and society.
Dr. Knight: After you finished teaching did you decide to pursue another ministry? What was your next discernment?
Father Brendan: I did not prepare professionally for teaching at all. I actually felt attracted to the priesthood and a group that was not tied to parish ministry. I did not want to be simply an ordinary sacramental priest. I wanted to be a priest for others and one who would dedicate my life to animating people to not only see God in their lives but to see that God’s call in themselves to make a difference in the world. Ironcially, since ordination, I have spent over 75% of my years in parish ministry. I discovered that I learned about life and ministry most through the people in the pews and it has been a privilege to be a part of key points in their lives, from births to deaths and much more.
Dr. Knight: Do you think of your work in writing a journal part of your spiritual mission?
Father Brendan: I do not write a journal and I have not been published, other than my some projects of my Master in Theology program. I have though found that my voice was need to work with people in the immigrant rights movement and the struggles of Hispanic ministry in the United States. There is a powerful spirituality to the work of advocacy in our community. My spirit is enriched by people’s commitment and discovered gifts and talents. The encounter in influencing civic leaders through the voice of parents’ struggles is a powerful path of recognizing God’s work alive in our midst. That is the definition of spirituality.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?
Father Brendan: I believe that my life is a mosaic of many gifts. My voice, my heart, my wisdom, and my mission are directed and guided by surprising gifts each day. They are not my gifts. They are gifts that God and others push and shape me to discover in myself and others. I discover my gifts through the mistakes, the sins, the blessings and successes that their presence brings to me. I am molded and shaped by their influences and inspiration.
Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading your interview?
Father Brendan: I want readers to read in my story their own unique and sacred stories. I have been given life gifts to use. I am no master or expert of faith but a brother and preacher of God’s Word in the lives of others. I want the reader to never forget the passion for respect and dignity that the Gospel calls from each of us. Where a brother, sister or community struggles, my voice must be with them. They are my brother and sister. They are formed and shaped in the image of God. Imagine a world if all experienced that great gift. That is my mission. That is our mission.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?
Father Brendan: Our future comes with abundant opportunities that each generation gives to us. However, we have many struggles. Our Church is imperfect. Abuse of power, lack of respect and dignity of women and respect for sexual and cultural identity continues to plague our Church. The call of women to ordained and formal ministry leadership is obvious but a shameful part of our story still in our church. There is apathy among priests and a lack of vision in leadership. The people of God thirst for inspired preaching, liturgy and active programs and projects to put of our faith into action. We are too consumed by the maintenance of our church buildings instead of the people of God.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a follower of Christ?
Father Brendan: There are many joys. First, the biggest joy are the many encounters of the faith fo the people that I have witnessed that will continue to nurture my heart. I have witnessed mothers in the hospital gowns and with a bracelet around their wrist come to church who have held their newborn seeking a blessing of gratitude during mass. I have witnessed the strength of a mother wearing the same bloodstained shirt holding me in a hug as she weeps over her daughters 8 year old body at the morgue. I have felt the power and joy as I sat together with 43 faith leaders, Muslim cleric, Episcopal, Methodist, evangelical catholic ministers who sat in the street to block a bus filled with shackled prisoners on their journey to the airport for deportation so that those prisoners and thousands of others will feel they are not alone. I have lifted roses in a sanctuary and church with families of faithful in pews, standing in aisles, in a balcony, seated on the altar steps all singing together the joy of celebrating the model of faith of the Guadalupe story that inspires them today. There are many more joys – witnessing cousins weddings, holding babies at baptisms, all joys of the journey of ministry with the people of God.
Dr. Knight: Are there any other issues you, as an accomplished writer, want to bring to your readers?
F Father Brendan:: I want the reader to know that my story of ministry can and does reflect their own. I have been privileged with so much, a family, faith, ministries, church members, colleagues in the struggles and much more. I want you to know that we are all called – some for formal ministry, but all are called and we are called to recognize the story of Jesus in our midst. Once we recognize the plight and struggles of people, we are called to do something about it. I would like to paraphrase the words of a man of faith, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. If we can’t run, then we can walk. If we cannot walk that we can crawl. If we cannot crawl then keep on moving…. the mission of God is in our midst. As people of faith we are responsible to do something very sacred about it with our lives. I hope that I am doing something with my life to build the reign of God for others.