By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
It was a day for the memory books, said those who helped plan for the June 10 retirement celebration of Msgr. James J. Brady, longtime pastor of St. Dominic Parish, Brick – one that recognized his Irish heritage, deep faith and steady hand with which he guided the parish of 4,500 families and its school for more than two decades.
Photo Gallery: Msgr. Brady celebrates last Mass before retirement
More than 1,000 witnessed the emblematic sound of bagpipes from his native country. They echoed through the vast nave of the church as Msgr. Brady was accompanied by 11 priests and deacons of the Diocese who served with him over the years as well as 37 altar servers and the Knights of Columbus from the Monsignor Baldwin Assembly.
Deacon Edward Buecker, a parishioner since 1973, preached the homily.
“In his 20-year tenure here, I can assure you he doesn’t want to be remembered for planting cherry blossom trees or building community rooms and thrift stores or new pews in the church, or any of the many improvements he made here to make our parish comfortable, not lavish, but a worship space that is home away from home,” Deacon Buecker said.
Rather, the deacon continued, Msgr. Brady’s legacy “is in his priesthood and how he was able to get everyone to interact with each other and follow the simple code of conduct in the Gospel: to love God and love our neighbor. His inspiration was to create a peaceful and harmonious parish where everyone could live and work together as a family and get to know God’s love in an intimate way.”
“His idea of building a parish was in building a community among each other and the main way to do that is to come here in this church and share the family meal in thanksgiving in the Eucharist at Mass. In his eyes, all parish life begins here,” Deacon Buecker said.
During the Mass, Msgr. Brady shied away from the spotlight as much as possible in what parishioners described as his characteristically modest way. But observers, including Ann Cramer, parish coordinator of religious education, said that in a memorable and moving moment, he reached out to the altar servers, bringing Holy Communion to each individual.
“It was a beautiful day in church,” said Cramer, who helped organize the Mass and luncheon for 900 that followed.
Cramer worked with Msgr. Brady for 30 years, including 10 years in Ascension Parish, now part of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish with worship sites in Bradley Beach and Avon.
A Good Shepherd
Msgr. Brady’s retirement became official July 1, and he departed for Ireland shortly thereafter for a summer visit with family.
When he was invested as a monsignor by Bishop John M. Smith in 2010, Msgr. Brady spoke of his own faith, kindled in his Irish homestead where family values were nurtured around the table, at Mass and at home with a nightly recitation of the Rosary.
Msgr. Brady was born in 1947 in County Cavan, Ireland. He prepared for the priesthood in St. Patrick College and Seminary, Carlow, Ireland, and was ordained a priest June 10, 1972, in Carlow for the Diocese of Trenton.
His first assignment in the Diocese was as parochial vicar in St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold. He subsequently served as parochial vicar in St. James Parish, Red Bank; Our Lady of Sorrows Parish (now Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish), Hamilton; St. James Parish, Woodbridge, and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, both now in the Metuchen Diocese; and Holy Family Parish, Union Beach.
Msgr. Brady was named temporary administrator of Ascension Parish on April 30, 1987. On Feb. 10, 1988, he was named temporary administrator of St. Dominic Parish and two months later became pastor.
In addition to his parish assignments, Msgr. Brady has also served on the Vocation Council of Priests and as spiritual moderator of the Holy Name Society in Monmouth County.
He was appointed a Chaplain to his Holiness with the title of Reverend Monsignor Dec. 15, 2009.
Joseph Cahill and his wife, Patricia, have been parishioners of St. Dominic since 1965. He recalled Msgr. Brady’s many contributions to parish life.
“He really stressed people reaching out, getting involved. He encouraged a variety of ministries such as parish nursing and to the separated and divorced. He was very active in supporting youth and the school,” Cahill said, adding that the pastor’s sense of caring extended to the wider world.
Cahill shared how, inspired by a missionary friend, Msgr. Brady encouraged parishioners to become involved with a project that has changed lives in an impoverished Ethiopian village. “Now our parish helps this parish in Ethiopia. We’ve raised funds for things like a well or [farm] animals. He would visit there when he could to see how things were going.”
Because of Msgr. Brady, Cahill said, “Our parish was very supportive, and it has upped [the Ethiopian parish’s] standard of living from starvation to being self-sufficient.”