In Remembrance
AFFIRMING AN INCLUSIVE PRIESTHOOD, ROOTED IN A REFORMED AND RENEWED CHURCH

O'Brien, John

 John O Brien 1460460244

On April 7, 2016, John William O'Brien beloved husband of the late Mary Jane O'Brien (nee Healy); dear brother of Arthur S. (Nancy) and Thomas J. (Mieko) and the late James F. O'Brien; devoted brother-in-law of Marie Doelger O'Brien and John Healy. Also survived by nieces and nephews. Friends may call at Corpus Christi Church on Saturday, April 16th from 9:30 - 11:00 AM at which time a Funeral Mass will be offered. Interment New Cathedral Cemetery. Please omit flowers. Memorials in his name may be made to Corpus Christi Church or the charity of your choice . Arrangements by the family-owned MITCHELL-WIEDEFELD FUNERAL HOME INC. www.mwfuneralhome.com.

John was a loyal supporter and an active member of CORPUS and its mission for a renewed and expanded priesthood.  John was ordained 1957 for  Baltimore  after attending school at the North American College. After leaving the canonical priesthood,  he married Mary Jane Healy, a former member of the Sisters of the Holy Child, in 1974.   John was a former board member of CORPUS and attended many national and international conferences for a married priesthood.

 

            EULOGY for JOHN O’BRIEN

APRIL 16, 2016

Good morning. My name is John Gray. My wife, Gerri, and I first met John and Mary Jane in December 1978, when we joined Corpus Christi, and our lives have been interwoven every since, including more than 90 Center Stage productions, from time to time sailing and Oriole and Ravens games, two week trip to Ireland in 96, and weekly Tuesday prayer group meetings. Before joining Corpus Christi, I did not know John personally but knew of him as a very caring, compassionate, associate pastor, who served first at St. Rita’s for 8 years and then at St. Claire’s for two years followed by three years on the faculty at St. Paul’s high school minor seminary. We are pleased to welcome this morning John’s friends and former parishioners from those days.

For all of us at Corpus Christi, one of our most enduing images is that of John and Mary Jane every Sunday for many years sitting there on the first two seats in the first row on my left. This morning you will notice on those chairs one of Mary Jane’s scarfs and several of John’s hats. John would enter the church, wearing a hat, often with sweater or coat draped stylishly over his shoulders, always with a smile communicating “I am so glad to see you,” followed by a few moments of quiet conversation, John paying attention and genuinely interested. On many Sunday mornings, he served as an usher, a role through which his gregarious hospitality found ready expression, as he reached out to welcome new comers, and connected with people as he passed the basket. And at the Kiss of Peace, John navigated most of the church.

John recently told me that the two parts of his adult life - his 14 yrs. as a parish priest and then 44 years married to Mary Jane- were seamless and that he was grateful for the many, many blessings he had experienced. In both parts of his adult life, John was at heart a deeply pastoral and caring person. In addition to his many Corpus Christi activities, he had a personal ministry of bringing the blessings of the church to many who felt that the church had rejected them.

For me, the spirit, the passion, that underlay John’s enduring presence and multiple activities at Corpus Christi was his Catholic faith, a faith deeply rooted in his upbringing and subsequently shaped by his study of theology at Louvain University, by the Second Vatican Council’s vision of the Church as the People of God and the Body of Christ, by his 14 years as a parish priest, and his 44 years married to Mary Jane, 38 as Corpus Christi parishioners.

The Second Vatican Council was not a distant abstraction for John. For him, it was embodied here in Corpus Christi parish and its journey of faith — in the specific, concrete reality of its people, its pastors, its parish mission, above all, in the experience of its liturgical celebrations and social outreach. One of the most revealing images of John is Fr. Marty’s anointing him on Palm Sunday morning in the presence of the People of God within their celebration of Mass, only two and half weeks before his death. How Second Vatican Council! How John O’Brien! Sacraments are community celebrations, to be created in and by the community. To stand and be anointed with one’s illness before and within one’s healing faith community is the sacrament of standing before God’s unbounded healing love mediated by this community. John’s communal sacramental vision was evident unfailingly every year by his interest in those to be baptized, to be confirmed, and to receive their first communion.

John was ever the student, the educator, especially of history. He was a journal writer, recording his reflections on each day, each sailing trip, other trips taken by him and Mary Jane. His journal of the two week trip they took with Gerri and me to Ireland included his historical research prior to the trip and his reactions each day thereof, including each day's expenses down to the cost of a Guinness or Jamison in the pub. He initiated an oral history of the pastoral years of Fr. Callahan and Sr.Jane Coyle. John was a serious student of the Second Vatican Council and of the lives of the popes from John XXII to Francis. Ever the educator, in recent years, he passed on his insights to others, not only to fellow parishioners at Corpus Christi, but also including some cardinal archbishops, through his written Reflections on Sunday Scriptures and on the Council.   His conviction was that this is our church, we are the People of God, the Body of Christ, warts and all, this parish is what we continue to create and have a responsibility to pass on.

Our reading today from II Corinthians speaks of reconciliation, the profoundly humanizing gift and mission given to all of us, and of the call to all the baptized to be ambassadors of Christ. John was a reconciler, an ambassador of Christ, within church and society.   His was a lover's quarrel with the leaders of the Church. When, in his opinion, its leaders failed the Council’s vision and the Gospel it expressed, he was disappointed, saddened, angry. Yet his was always a lover’s quarrel. John’s faith knew as Gerald Manley Hopkins said: “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things and that though the last lights off the black west went, lo morning in the brown brink eastward springs because the Holy Ghost broods over the bent world with warm breast and with, ah, bright wings.”

How fitting John died having known Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Compassion and Mercy and also having known this Easter Season celebrating the Resurrection. Easter Sunday Mass was the last time John sat in that chair up front.

We will miss John.. Today we see the empty chair. Its emptiness evokes the emptiness we feel today in our hearts.   But also like the Easter empty tomb, it evokes our conviction that we are now blessed with John’s new presence with us and within us. In the words of the Psalmist he loved: I shall not die, but live anew, declaring the works of the Lord.

John O'Brien, charmer, Irish tongue and wit, wearing his French beret or Irish Tweed, with coat draped over his shoulder, Baltimore City high school teacher, involved Reservoir Hill resident, regular Oriole and Ravens Fan, devoted to the O’Brien and Healy clans, happy member of the O’Brien Brothers snow skying club, regular Center Stage and BSO subscriber, enthusiastic sailor of the Chesapeake Bay, proud graduate of Louvain University's school of Theology, Tuesday night faith sharer. His presence: a quiet, a strong, an independent - some would say “stubborn” - but always smiling presence - in all these and other roles and relationships, Ambassador of Christ.

St. Augustine said: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee. May the soul of John O’Brien and the souls of all the faithfully departed rest in peace. Amen. Alleluia!

                       

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