Date of Birth: 24th May 1942
Date of Ordination: 6th July 1997
Christian Brother from 1956 – 1996
1997 – 2000: CC, Cathedral
2000-2008: CC, Myshall & Clonegal
2008-2017: PP, Ballon
May he rest in peace.
Reposing at St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Ballon, from 3pm on Wednesday, January 3rd, concluding with Prayers at 7pm that evening. Funeral Mass at 12 Noon on Thursday, followed by burial afterwards in Levistown Cemetery, Maganey, Co. Kildare.
Homily of Bishop Denis at Requiem Mass, 4 January 2024
We gather still in the Season of Christmas, with the beautiful crib to my left, to pay a faith-filled farewell to Fr. Brendan Howard – the Christian Brother, the Priest, the Relative, the Friend.
In the middle of the afternoon on New Year’s Day, around 3.30pm, the Lord called Brendan home to his eternal reward. Like the calling of the first disciples in John’s gospel shortly, he too heard those words last Monday afternoon: “Come and see” , as he was beckoned from time with family and friends into a life lasting eternity with God.
My prayers and thoughts are with his family: Noel, Aidan, Kieran, Deirdre, Nuala and Angela and their families; with his brother priests in the diocese and with you the parishioners of Ballon-Rathoe where Brendan served as Parish Priest from 2008-2017, with earlier curacies at the Cathedral Parish from 1997-2000 and then in Myshall from 2000-2008.
I welcome the many who gather with us today including Bishop Paul Dempsey who was ordained a priest with Brendan in the Cathedral on July 6th 1997. I welcome priests and parishioners who have travelled to join us and of course Christian Brothers and former colleagues from the many schools where he taught in or indeed served as Principal. I welcome all who join on the parish webcam.
Brendan was very proud of his roots in Jerusalem and will be laid to rest later, alongside his parents, in Levitstown, very close to their family home. As we gather together let us offer these sacred mysteries for Brendan and to prepare for same, let us call to mind our sins …
Our gospel text is the gospel from St. John, proper to this day, the eleventh, in the Christmas Season. Some may be surprised we are still celebrating the Christmas Season. There is a tendency to take down decorations and put away crib figures, long before the season has properly ended. For some as soon as the New Year is welcomed in, it’s time to begin the process of putting the bits and pieces aside for another year. The Magi haven’t yet arrived. Here in Ballon, we see they are well on the way. Let’s offer them an opportunity, when they arrive, to catch their breath.
Fr. Brendan saw Christmas celebrated this year and indeed a New Year rung in. Growing up in Jerusalem, he made it to Bethlehem, but not long enough for the visit of the Persian and Ethiopian Kings with their lavish spices and gifts. Today and last evening we have gifted Brendan with our presence. The condolences posted on rip.ie saw the impact this man has had on so many lives, forty years with the Christian Brothers; twenty-seven years with the Diocese. Many tributes reflected Brendan’s years in education – Br. Howard – the teacher & Principal. I loved the personal stories shared where Brendan influenced others into teacher training colleges. Equally his parish ministry, sacramental moments that touched the lives of so many. Stories again of weddings celebrated or funerals officiated at, of school visits or house calls, all detailed as if they were yesterday.
John’s gospel tells us about the curious disciples of John the Baptist, who on seeing Jesus pass, wanted to know all about him, where he lived and what he was up to. Curiosity is a critical component for faith. Curiosity is a critical quality in a good teacher. Returning to John’s gospel, and they call him “Rabbi – which means Teacher” . I often think Brendan was so long a teacher, it was permanently imprinted into his DNA. On Saturday last when I visited him in Hillview Nursing Home, where he was exceptionally cared for, he lifted his hands in the air to bless me as I was leaving, until the end he was ever the teacher, the pastor, the priest.
The book of Job reminds us that knowing God is with us, is so reassuring. St. John in our second reading reminds us our good deeds go with us. ‘God is with us’ is in many ways our Christmas anthem. Through the ministry and life of Br. Howard and Fr. Brendan, many also realised that ‘God is with us’. He is always with us.
Brendan Howard was fourteen when he entered the Christian Brothers novitiate. It was young then and even much younger now by today’s standards. He would qualify as a Primary Teacher in Marino in 1966 before taking on a colossal tour of duty in Christian Brothers schools dotted right across the country including Limerick, Portarlington, Drimnagh, Fermoy, Bray, Portlaoise, Athy, the famous North Mon and concluding in St. Mary’s, Kilkenny in 1993. The appointments varied in duration but as attested by the tributes over recent days, are well remembered with several mentions from Portlaoise, Athy, North Mon and Kilkenny: “his strong and effective leadership” “he was a stickler for punctuality” and the image I loved best “I can still see him standing inside the door in Tower Hill”. There are great stories of his fundraising prowess, a gift that came in handy when Ballon Community Centre was under construction in his time here.
He was ordained alongside Fr. Paul in the Cathedral on July 6th 1997. Brendan had been Principal of Colaiste Eoin, Athy in Paul’s time there. Both men with strong Carlow roots were to be ordained together by Bishop Laurence Ryan, the Principal and the Pupil. How proud Brendan was twenty-three years later when Paul was ordained Bishop of Achonry. His greatest pride was not only were they ordained together that day in July but that he had actually taught Paul.
He was a fluent gaelgóir, wearing the fáinne with great distinction on his lapel. I noted the photograph of the younger Brendan posted on rip.ie; he was wearing the fáinne then and now. Along with the language and the fluency that came so easy, he had a passion for all things gaelic, its games and culture. An out and out true gael! He was life President of the Blues, the O’Hanrahan’s. In September 2019 he joined me to mark their centenary in the Cathedral. His teaching career brought him in contact with many teams. Alongside the Blues, he was also President of Naomh Eoin, Myshall. But it wasn’t just football and hurling, Brendan loved all sport – basketball, boxing and athletics. He had his own treasure trove of athletic medals to prove that point.
His love for gardening, the daffodils around Myshall and Clonegal, his peas, plums, potatoes and gooseberries led him to having a great interest in the Tidy Towns initiatives. Ballon/Rathoe and Myshall/Clonegal benefited from this passion. He had a photograph on his wall over the bed at Hillview, it was a presentation on his retirement in 2017 of a ride-on lawnmower! Others might get a silver tray or a cheque, but Brendan got a lawnmower with its very own registration number! Of course he also loved his cat, the name never changed, just the cat! Moll 1, Moll 2, Moll 3 and I think there was a Moll 4! While cats have nine lives, the four Molls never met one another under Brendan’s care!
Returning to the curiosity in John’s gospel as Andrew and his friend ask Jesus “where do you live?” Asking questions opens us up to different journeys. Having given forty years of his life to following the ideals of Blessed Edmund Rice, he very generously offered himself to seminary formation leading to ordination as a priest. I pray that more might consider that call, and the Lord’s invitation “to come and see” . No matter what age you are, curiosity needs a response. Brendan, sagart uasal, léannta, cineálta, you well deserve your leaba i measc na Naomh.