A family of faith in the vineyard of the Lord

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
A family of faith in the vineyard of the Lord
A family of faith in the vineyard of the Lord


By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus taught his disciples God’s word must be nurtured in order to yield a fruitful harvest. Four members of the Briant family, sisters and Catholic educators, have taken the Lord’s words to heart.

Alison Briant Burley, Ellen Briant Reilly, and Susan and Katelyn Briant, seedlings in the vineyard of the Lord, have dedicated their lives to put this parable into action. Here is the story of the four women and the four sowers who nurtured them.

Parents’ loving sacrifice

Doris and Thomas Briant each lived childhoods that nurtured faith. Doris Lindsay enjoyed a Catholic education, graduating from St. John the Apostle School and Mother Seton Regional High School, Clark, while her husband, Thomas Briant, though not born a Catholic, resolved to enroll their children in the educational system he held in high regard.

The daunting prospect of 12 years’ school tuition per daughter did not dissuade the Toms River couple. “My motivation was to show [our] commitment to Catholic education,” Mrs. Briant stated. “We didn’t have family vacations, we went to Cape May for the day. You can give up all those trips to Disney World. The benefits you get [from Catholic education] are better than all those trips to wherever.”

Eventually, Thomas Briant professed his faith in the Gospel mission of Catholic education on a deeper, personal level. He entered the St. Joseph Parish RCIA process and converted to Catholicism upon the birth of his third daughter, Susan. Doris and Thomas, who will be married 35 years this September, also served as a couple with the parish’s Pre-Cana ministry for many years.

A nun’s special touch

Mrs. Briant freely acknowledges the couple had spiritual help in the rearing of their daughters. One heaven-sent assistant was Dominican Sister of Hope Juliana Naulty, principal of St. Joseph School.

“She touched their lives, and mine, like no other,” she declared. “God blessed us with her.” Sister Juliana, a New York native, was appointed principal in 1971 and served at the helm of the Toms River school for 23 years, remaining to assist with developmental work and serve as a spiritual mentor to the students for an additional 13 years.

In her roles as school PTA president and school cafeteria worker, Mrs. Briant grew to admire the hard-working nun. She recalled, “Sister Juliana demonstrated to all the girls that being a Catholic educator went beyond the classroom walls. She celebrated with them in their victories and supported them when they were down, [and] she knew the best way to help her students was to help their families. All four were honored to have known her.” 

Sister Juliana returned to her New York motherhouse upon her retirement from active ministry in 2007; she died the following October at age 85.

A priest’s devotion

The other Briant guardian angel was Father William P. Gardner, parochial vicar in St. Joseph Parish, who, declared Mrs. Briant, “was more than a parish priest. He was a best friend, a confidante, a grandfather, an uncle. He watched over {his flock}.” 

Father Gardner, a native of Chicago, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trenton in 1962; he served as Army chaplain at numerous overseas and stateside bases before arriving at the Toms River parish. 

Over the years, Father Gardner was indispensible in the lives of his parish families, offering guidance and congratulations at their achievements. “He was on the phone with us each time there was a life event, and in the audience during MonDon show choir performances,” Mrs. Briant remembered. Father Gardner also performed the marriages of Doris and Tom’s daughters Ellen and Alison, and baptized their first grandchild, Alison’s son, Thomas.

“Father Bill cared for parishioners with a Christ-like compassion,” Briant asserted. The depth of his devotion to his flock was evident even in his 2010 newspaper obituary; the 73-year-old priest’s list of survivors included “his brother priests of the Diocese of Trenton and the parish family of Saint Joseph …”

 

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By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus taught his disciples God’s word must be nurtured in order to yield a fruitful harvest. Four members of the Briant family, sisters and Catholic educators, have taken the Lord’s words to heart.

Alison Briant Burley, Ellen Briant Reilly, and Susan and Katelyn Briant, seedlings in the vineyard of the Lord, have dedicated their lives to put this parable into action. Here is the story of the four women and the four sowers who nurtured them.

Parents’ loving sacrifice

Doris and Thomas Briant each lived childhoods that nurtured faith. Doris Lindsay enjoyed a Catholic education, graduating from St. John the Apostle School and Mother Seton Regional High School, Clark, while her husband, Thomas Briant, though not born a Catholic, resolved to enroll their children in the educational system he held in high regard.

The daunting prospect of 12 years’ school tuition per daughter did not dissuade the Toms River couple. “My motivation was to show [our] commitment to Catholic education,” Mrs. Briant stated. “We didn’t have family vacations, we went to Cape May for the day. You can give up all those trips to Disney World. The benefits you get [from Catholic education] are better than all those trips to wherever.”

Eventually, Thomas Briant professed his faith in the Gospel mission of Catholic education on a deeper, personal level. He entered the St. Joseph Parish RCIA process and converted to Catholicism upon the birth of his third daughter, Susan. Doris and Thomas, who will be married 35 years this September, also served as a couple with the parish’s Pre-Cana ministry for many years.

A nun’s special touch

Mrs. Briant freely acknowledges the couple had spiritual help in the rearing of their daughters. One heaven-sent assistant was Dominican Sister of Hope Juliana Naulty, principal of St. Joseph School.

“She touched their lives, and mine, like no other,” she declared. “God blessed us with her.” Sister Juliana, a New York native, was appointed principal in 1971 and served at the helm of the Toms River school for 23 years, remaining to assist with developmental work and serve as a spiritual mentor to the students for an additional 13 years.

In her roles as school PTA president and school cafeteria worker, Mrs. Briant grew to admire the hard-working nun. She recalled, “Sister Juliana demonstrated to all the girls that being a Catholic educator went beyond the classroom walls. She celebrated with them in their victories and supported them when they were down, [and] she knew the best way to help her students was to help their families. All four were honored to have known her.” 

Sister Juliana returned to her New York motherhouse upon her retirement from active ministry in 2007; she died the following October at age 85.

A priest’s devotion

The other Briant guardian angel was Father William P. Gardner, parochial vicar in St. Joseph Parish, who, declared Mrs. Briant, “was more than a parish priest. He was a best friend, a confidante, a grandfather, an uncle. He watched over {his flock}.” 

Father Gardner, a native of Chicago, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trenton in 1962; he served as Army chaplain at numerous overseas and stateside bases before arriving at the Toms River parish. 

Over the years, Father Gardner was indispensible in the lives of his parish families, offering guidance and congratulations at their achievements. “He was on the phone with us each time there was a life event, and in the audience during MonDon show choir performances,” Mrs. Briant remembered. Father Gardner also performed the marriages of Doris and Tom’s daughters Ellen and Alison, and baptized their first grandchild, Alison’s son, Thomas.

“Father Bill cared for parishioners with a Christ-like compassion,” Briant asserted. The depth of his devotion to his flock was evident even in his 2010 newspaper obituary; the 73-year-old priest’s list of survivors included “his brother priests of the Diocese of Trenton and the parish family of Saint Joseph …”

 

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