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Double tragedy at Gonzaga

The Jesuit community and the college at Gonzaga, Milltown, have been left in shock by the deaths, on the same day (8 January), of Joe Brennan SJ (right in photo) and Kennedy O’Brien SJ (left in photo). Both men had spent many years on the staff of Gonzaga College, and were held in the highest esteem by colleagues and students. According to Brian Flannery, Education Delegate for the Irish Province, the College has lost “two of its finest Jesuits and teachers – institutions in their own right”.

“Both loved the College and the Society that they had given their lives to,” he continued; “Their legacy will be the love they instilled in their students, for God and for the values of the Jesuit order.”

The principal of Gonzaga, Damon McCaul said Monday had been a very difficult day for the staff and students in the school. He said that Fr Joe and has taught for over sixty years there and had made such an impact on his students that older past pupils still remembered him with deep regard and gratitude. “And it’s the same with Kennedy for a new generation of pupils and past pupils. Both men were outstanding teachers and educators.”

Joe Brennan (aged 88) was for many years a teacher of religion and philosophy in the College and he was a member of the Gonzaga community for 43 years. He had been fully engaged in the Community and School right up to when he became ill on December 28th 2017. He was known for always encouraging students to think for themselves. Also for instilling values. “If you don’t stand for something,” he loved to say, “you will fall for anything”. Brian Flannery described Fr Brennan as “one of nature’s gentlemen – accomplished but modest, wise but humorous, religious but never ‘a holy joe’”. Fr Brennan was also an accomplished musician, particularly in the piano.

When he took ill recently he was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a respiratory illness, and he died peacefully on the morning of January 8th 2018.

Kennedy’s unexpected death occurred during the night of January 7 th /8 th 2018. He had been in great form during the Christmas holidays and had prepared a magnificent Christmas feast for the Gonzaga and Loyola Communities on Christmas Day. As usual, he had been looking forward to getting back to work in the College when his untimely death occurred.

A native of Galway, Kennedy (aged 61) devoted his life in the Society to teaching. He taught in his alma mater, Coláiste Iognáid, in Galway and in Belvedere College in Dublin before moving to Gonzaga. He made a profound impression wherever he taught, and he was well respected by the boys, staff and parents in all three schools. Brian said that Gonzaga held a special place in Kennedy’s heart, as he was the last Jesuit to teach a full teaching load there. He taught English, but he also served as chaplain and retreat leader.

He had a wide range of hobbies and interests, including heraldry, gardening, rowing, cricket and the poetry of G M Hopkins. His popularity and regard as a priest was indicated by the sheer number of weddings, baptisms and funerals which he was asked to officiate at.

In a statement on the double tragedy, Gonzaga College said, “The College community is in deep shock at the loss of these men who gave their lives in service of Gonzaga College and its students. They will be greatly missed, and each in his own way is irreplaceable.”

Faoi suaimhneas i measc na Naoimh.

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Funeral details are as follows:

Joe Brennan:

Removal: to Gonzaga College Chapel on Thursday 11 January at 5pm
Funeral Mass: Church of the Holy Name, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Friday 12 January at 11am
Burial: Glasnevin following the Funeral Mass

Kennedy O’Brien:

Removal: to Gonzaga College Chapel on Friday 12 January at 5pm
Funeral Mass: Church of the Holy Name, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Saturday 13 January at 10am
Burial: Glasnevin following the Funeral Mass