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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monthly Archives: June 2009
Friday

Redemptorist Father Leo Dunn, a former missionary, parish priest, teacher, and retreat house director, died Friday, June 19, at Saratoga Springs Hospital in New York. He had been living at St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs since 2004 and was 92 at the time of his death.

The Funeral Mass and burial were held at Mount St. Alphonsus, Esopus, NY, on Monday, June 22.

A native of Rochester, NY, Father Dunn was born Oct. 1, 1916, the son of John and Mary O’Brien Dunn,. The family belonged to Immaculate Conception Parish.

After grammar school, he was accepted at the Redemptorists’s St. Mary’s Seminary in North East. PA., for a six-year course of studies. He spent his novitiate in Ilchester, MD, and made his first profession of vows in 1939. His final profession came in 1942. After completing his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, he was ordained there on June 18, 1944.

Father Dunn’s first 16 years of priestly ministry were spent in Brazil, where he served in Miranda, Aquadauana, Campo Grande, and Ponta Grossa. Father Giles Gardner, who still ministers in Brazil at the age of 96, recalled being stationed with Father Dunn at Ponta Grossa: "He had a serious exterior, but a big, warm heart and an awful lot of friends. He was very zealous in his Father Leo F. Dunn, C.SS.R. work and a very good community man too," he said.

When Father Dunn returned to the U.S. in 1961, he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Rochester, where he not only ministered to the parishioners, but put a great deal of work into building a high school, teaching there, and guiding it in its early stages of development. Father Lawrence Lover, who at that time was serving at the seminary in North East, said that they used to visit together from time to time and see each other at regional meetings. "He was a very lively fellow, interesting and nice to visit," Father Lover said. "He was very heavily involved in getting that school built and going. Of course, in Brazil he had built chapels and churches and was more or less used to supervising construction. He very outgoing ,very welcoming, and had a good sense of humor"

His commitment to education came to the attention of the Diocese of Rochester and Father Dunn was asked to serve also as Assistant Superintendent of Diocesan Schools.

In 1970, he was asked to take on a new aspect of ministry — preaching retreats for lay people at Tobyhanna, PA. Two years later, he was named rector of the Redemptorist retreat house there. Father Dunn continued doing retreat work when he was named rector at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, NY, in 1981. In a tribute to Father Dunn’s work at Tobyhanna, a confrere wrote:

"The mountain man — as strong as iron
Whose work is never done
From Tobyhanna and its environ
The tireless Leo Dunn.

"He models his thought on the Summa
His preaching as solid as rock
And if you care for some humor
He’s got plenty of that in stock."

Father Timothy Keating recalled having served with Father Dunn at Canandaigua, where the elder confreres "was always reading, always with a book in hand." At Canandaigua, he said, "when I’d come down in the morning for breakfast, I’d find him sitting in the common room reading Karl Rahner; other times, I’d see him walking around with a New Testament in hand." Father Dunn also was known for his dry wit and Father Keating said he used to enjoy watching people’s faces as they listened to his confrere’s introduction to the mission. "You could tell when someone ‘got it,’" he said, "because lips would begin to tweak — sometimes there’d be a soft chuckle."

Along with humor, they was a sense of kindness that characterized Father Dunn, Father Keating said. One instance was the time he spent one summer tutoring his nephew to help the boy pass from the 7th to the 8th grade. At another time, Father Keating’s mother was visiting at Canandaigua and the rector would fix her a pre-dinner drink and sit to discuss theology with her. Father Keating said that in his mother’s judgment, "Underneath that gruff exterior, there’s a teddy bear inside."

In 1987, Father Dunn returned to St. Joseph’s in Rochester, where he served for another three terms before going back to Canandaigua. At the age of 85, he "semi-retired" to Mission Church in Boston, where he continued with his habit of reading and sharing the insights he gained with his younger confreres.

After suffering a heart attack, Father Dunn was transferred to St. John Neumann Residence. Sister Serafina Sarnowska, director of nursing then, said, "He had a great sense of humor and was always full of ideas — a very deep man." During the last three-and-a-half years she got to know him and found that "he was always following God’s will." When the Baltimore Province announced that the residence would be closed, Father Dunn agreed to accept an assignment to St. Clement Mission House in Ephrata, PA, where confreres are offered an assisted living situation. Then came another heart attack and he agreed to go instead to Stella Maris in Timonium, MD, where the Redemptorists have a wing of the nursing home for round-the-clock care. It was the fragile state of his health which prevented his planned move to Maryland.

Father Gerard Szymkowiak, rector at St. John Neumann’s, noted: "After Father Jack Doherty’s death, Father Dunn became our senior priest — for 22 days. "He was fun, kind, gentle, humble; and he loved a good joke and a good scotch," Father Szymkowiak said. "He was also a very prayerful man who loved the Alphonsian life. He loved his Mass, his daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and he prayed his rosary every day. For his last four days, he never let that rosary go; it was as if he were holding his Mother’s hand."

Father Dunn is survived by a sister, Mrs. Rita Tobiassen, and several other relatives.

 

Rev. Leo Francis Dunn C.Ss.R.

  • Born: October 1, 1916
  • Professed: October 1, 1942
  • Ordained: June 18, 1944
  • Died: June 19, 2009

 

Services

Wake Service
Sunday, June 21
7:00 – 8:15 p.m.
Mount St. Alphonsus Retreat Center Chapel
Esopus, NY

Funeral Mass and burial
Monday, June 22
10:30 a.m.
Mount St. Alphonsus Retreat Center Chapel
Esopus, NY

Additional Memorial Services

Monday, June 29
7:30 p.m.
at OLPH 59th Street
Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, July 1
7 p.m.
at St. Peter’s Church
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, July 1
10 a.m.
at St. Patrick’s Church
Enfield, CT

Thursday

Redemptorist Father Francis Brown, known as a zealous "fisher of men," died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack while fishing with a parishioner and the man’s grandson. The shock of the 66 year-old priest’s death on Thursday, June 18, reverberated through Sacred Heart Parish in New Smyrna Beach, FL, the Vice Province of Richmond, where he had readily agreed to serve because he was asked, and his home Province of Baltimore.

A wake service was held Monday evening and a Funeral Mass offered on Tuesday, June 23, at Sacred Heart Church, where Father Browne had been pastor. A Funeral Mass, followed by burial in the Redemptorist cemetery is scheduled for Saturday, June 27, at 10:30 a.m. at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY.

Born in nearby Kingston, NY, on July 17, 1942, Father Browne was the fourth of five children of Edward and Anne Gelshenen Browne and grew up in St. Joseph Parish. He was accepted by the Redemptorists to study at St. Mary’s Seminary in North East, PA, and made his novitiate in Ilchester, MD. He made his first profession of vows in 1962 and his final profession four years later. After completing his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Alphonsus, he was ordained there on June 23, 1968.

Father Browne spent his first years as a priest ministering at St. Cecilia Church in East Harlem, an area widely referred to as "El Barrio." With an outgoing personality and a playful wit, the young priest reached out not only to parishioners, but to the whole community. Looking back on that period of his life, he said recently: "It was very busy, but wonderful at the same time." Assigned to Holy Redeemer Church in Manhattan’s East Village in 1976, he continued to reach out not only to English-speaking, but also Spanish-speaking people in the area. His sister, Kathleen (Kam) Browne Doetzer, said that "from the beginning, he wanted to be a missionary."

The Redemptorists had other plans for Father Browne in 1978, wanting him to serve as prefect of students in Suffield, CT, at their major seminary which replaced the one in Esopus.

He returned to pastoral work in 1984, serving two three-year terms as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Church/ St. John Neumann Shrine in Philadelphia. There, he was responsible for, among other things, renovating the church crypt, where the body of the saint is displayed in a glass case which forms the base of the altar. In 1990, Father Browne was named pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Brooklyn, where he again served two three-year terms. The parish already had established English-speaking and Spanish-speaking congregants and Father Browne noticed that a growing number of Cantonese-speaking immigrants were moving to the neighborhood. His sister said he told her that Cantonese would have to be the next language he learned, but his time in Brooklyn was too short for such mastery. This assignment was followed by six years as pastor of St. Patrick Church in Enfield, CT. Still not content to wait for people to come to him in church, Father Browne went out in search of those who needed spiritual care.

Among those he found were a large group of seasonal Mexican migrants who worked the nearby tobacco fields. After getting to know some of the group, he decided he needed to earn a professional driver’s license to transport the men from the camp where they were housed to the church in town, for a weekly Mass in Spanish, followed by a hearty meal prepared and served by Spanish-speaking parishioners.

After 18 years of administrative responsibilities along with parish and outreach work, Father Browne was granted a sabbatical in 2002.

The following year, when the Vice-Province of Richmond faced a shortage of manpower and needed a priest with enough energy and vigor to take care of a large parish, a school, and a growing mission church, Father Browne volunteered to go to Sacred Heart Church in New Symrna Beach.

Father Karl Aschmann said that the news of Father Browne’s sudden death "shook all of us." Father Aschmann, who lives at San Alfonso Villa, also in New Smyrna Beach, said that his younger confrere "had a feel for the people. He knew everybody, not just in his own parish, but in the diocese, he was up on what was happening. The people here are devastated." He added that Father Browne was a "joyful man, never a sorrowful face, a confrere you’d like to be like."

Father Francis Nelson, who serves at Sacred Heart, noted that the rector "was very protective and very caring of the older guys in the house. He worried about them and would never put extra pressure on them. He made this a very well-melded community." Appreciating a bit verbal give-and-take, Father Browne took a lot of teasing about his fishing, said Father Nelson, who challenged his confrere to bring him back "a sirloin-flavored fish." Even on his weekly "day off," when he would enjoy a few hours of fishing, Father Browne "was always with someone from the parish, always ministering, doing all in a priestly manner," Father Nelson said. Mrs. Doetzer noted that her brother "was never happier than when he caught enough fish to feed everyone."

According to Father Eugene Grohe, a fellow outdoorsman, he and Father Browne spent eight or nine summer vacations hiking in the mountains and the two also used to ski together. "He was a very talented man and when he was at Esopus he was part of a group that called themselves ’The Collar Men.’ He had really good voice. He told wonderful stories and had a great wit." He was a wonderful preacher and also had "a great rapport with kids," Father Grohe added.

Father Browne’s standing among his confreres was expressed in his being elected to three terms on the Baltimore Province’s Extraordinary Provincial Council. Richmond Vice-Provincial Father Jerome Chavarria said that Father Browne could have been elected twice to be Vice-Provincial, but would not accept nomination. "He was a great animator of our community; he’d light up a room when he’d come in," he added. "Frank was truly a missionary. His bag was always packed for the Lord."

A 16-year-old student and altar server from Sacred Heart Parish also saw beyond the jokes and mimicry and songs and sports to the essence of Father Browne. He expressed this in a poem when he heard of his pastor’s death. In a nine-stanza tribute, L.J. Whalen spoke of God as the Fisherman and wrote:

"God knew that he was happy, God knew that he was loved, God knew it was his time For him to come above….

"God gave the man a pair of wings, And his very first halo to match. And after the man told his first lame heavenly joke, God said … "My Greatest Catch!"

 

Very Rev. Francis Browne C.Ss.R.

  • Born: July 17, 1942
  • Professed: January 1, 1962
  • Ordained: June 23, 1968
  • Died: June 18, 2009

 

Services

Wake Service
Monday, June 22
7:00 p.m.
Sacred Heart Church
New Smyrna Beach, FL

Funeral Mass
Tuesday, June 23
11:00 a.m.
Sacred Heart Church
New Smyrna Beach, FL

Funeral Mass and Burial
Saturday, June 27
10:30 a.m.
Mount Saint Alphonsus Retreat Center
Esopus, NY

Monday

Last Saturday, Cardinal Justin Rigali blessed and installed a restored icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a new side altar at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The icon and the altar came from St. Boniface Parish in Philadelphia, and were gifted to the cathedral by the Redemptorists and St. Boniface parishioners, whose parish is now closed. "Our Mother of Perpetual Help draws our attention to the passion of Christ," the cardinal said during his homily for the vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. "As His mother embraces the Christ Child, so she gazes at all of us, offering her own divine Son to be our hope. In the midst of all our pains and sorrows, Mary is with us to comfort us and offer her Son, especially in the Eucharist."

The cardinal also thanked the Redemptorists for their almost 200 years of service to the archdiocese, including the ministry of Redemptorist St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia.

In addition to the Marian side altar, the cardinal blessed three other new altars honoring St. Joseph (also a gift from St. Boniface), St. John Neumann, and St. Katharine Drexel.