Pembroke – Father Brady McNamara was a priest who cared faithfully for his flock, had a special rapport with children and was recognized as “one of the good guys” throughout his five decades as a priest.
A native of Eganville, the 79-year-old spent the last 52 years of his life ministering to Roman Catholic faithful across the Diocese of Pembroke. He was called home last Wednesday morning at the Pembroke Regional Hospital where he had been a patient.
A son of the late Lawrence (Lornie) and Elizabeth (O’Malley), he was educated in Eganville and received his call to the priesthood during his family’s membership at St. James the Less parish. He studied at both Resurrection College in Kitchener and St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto and was ordained to the priesthood on April 19, 1969 in Eganville.
He first served as an assistant at Our Lady of Fatima parish, Renfrew, and Holy Name parish, Pembroke. He went on to serve as pastor at eight parishes including St, Ann’s, Cormac; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Braeside; Our Lady of Lourdes, Pembroke; St. Francis Xavier, Renfrew, concluding with the joint charges of St. Michael’s, Douglas, St. Pius, Osceola, and Sacred Heart, Cobden.
After retiring in 2017, Father Mac, as he was affectionately known, continued his duties among the religious communities of Pembroke and at Marianhill where he resided.
One of The Good Guys
Mary Catherine (Rice) Brisco of Renfrew and her family were parishioners of Fr. McNamara’s at Our Lady of Fatima and she was principal at St. Michael’s School in Douglas when he was parish priest there.
“First of all, he was a great friend and supporter of Catholic education,” she recalled. “And he was a great supporter of me, in the role of principal, and the teachers.
“And he was great with the kids personally,” she added. “He was a real tease with all the kids.”
She recalled how he used to tease her own children when they attended Fatima, and he would always get a great chuckle from their response to his teasing.
“Same with the kids at St. Mike’s. He’d tease them and get them wound up and just enjoy watching them.”
When he was parish priest at Fatima, she was responsible for the annual children’s Christmas pageant with its regular cast of Mary and Joseph, the wise men, angels, shepherds and, of course, sheep.
“But it never failed that the sheep, who were the little ones, would not follow their roles and go off in all directions, and that just made his day. He’d joke about it in the pulpit then.”
Mrs. Brisco said Fr. McNamara was always available when she called, regardless of the situation.
“Whenever you needed his presence he was always there, he would never turn you down,” she said. “If you were ever in trouble or needed advice, his door was always open.”
Mrs. Brisco said Fr. McNamara had a very special gift when dealing with people at the end of their lives. She said he was great friend of her late uncle, Father Isaiah Rice, and he had gone to see him in the hospital shortly before he passed away.
“When Isaiah was in the hospital dying . . . I’ve never seen anyone with the gift he had for the dying and the peace that he brought to Isaiah.”
She said Fr. McNamara was very interested in the family connections of students and was always asking them their names to try and connect them with families he knew from the past. She said any time he learned of a family in need, he would try to get them assistance, and not hesitate to contribute himself.
Mrs. Brisco said he was more than her parish priest, he was a good friend.
“He was one of the good guys,” she said.
Met On Way To Seminary
Father Grant Neville, a retired priest from the diocese, said saying good-bye to his longtime friend was very difficult. The two had met on a bus in Pembroke when they were both 18 or 19 years old and were heading off to seminary.
“Brady and I introduced ourselves as we were heading off to the seminary to try to discern whether the good Lord was calling us to be priests or not,” he explained.
He said the conversation on the ride turned to sports and Fr. McNamara revealed he was a Montreal Canadien’s fan while Fr. Neville was a true blue Leafs fan.
“So that became a contest for many years to come,” he noted. “We had a lot of fun with it.”
As one of the founding members of The Flying Fathers, Fr. Neville regretted never being able to convince Fr. Brady to lace them up for the team, noting he was a very capable defenceman in his day.
They maintained the friendship throughout seminary and through their adult lives, with Fr. Neville noting Fr. McNamara was a regular golfing buddy who would represent the diocese at tournaments with himself, and Fathers Jack Quinn and Ken Bradley, who were both from Eganville as well.
He remembered Fr. McNamara as always being incredibly supportive of his fellow seminarians and later priests.
“Brady was the guy you could go to if there was anything you wanted to talk about or you weren’t sure of or if you were going through a difficult time. Brady was the guy you went to, trusted and spoke with and he’d be pretty honest with you as far as his thoughts.”
Like others, he noted how Fr. McNamara loved to tease children and see what reaction he’d get.
He said Fr. McNamara had been suffering from pneumonia for almost a year and was hospitalized a couple of days before his death.
Fr. Neville said he had the privilege of saying a few words to honour his late friend at a Mass on Sunday evening. He admitted it was tough for him, but he was honoured the Bishop asked him to speak. Father Ryan Holly, who Fr. McNamara had baptized at St. Ann’s in Cormac, delivered the homily at the funeral on Monday.
Loyal Friend to Priests
When “Father Brady” was ordained there were three young men ordained in the Diocese of Pembroke. Father Ric Starks, who was also ordained in 1969, recalled this time as a period of great change in the Catholic Church.
“One of the things which fascinated me was how quickly things had changed,” he said.
Priests who were ordained in 1963 would have had the mass entirely in Latin. By 1967 it was partly Latin and by 1969 it was all in English. This was the timeframe in which the late Father McNamara began his ministry.
Father Starks recalls his friend and fellow priest as a man who exhibited loyalty throughout his life.
“If he struck a friendship with you, it was for life,” he said. “He was faithful to his word and his parishioners.”
Father Brady got to know his parishioners and cared for them, he added.
“He was bonded with them by living in their midst,” he said.
Father Starks also noted his friend was known for his hospitality.
“He was available to any priest who needed to talk,” he said. “He was never too busy for a fellow clergyman.”
Father Brady was also known for his commitment to hospital visitation, he added.
“He was really quick to get to the bedside of the patient and parishioner,” he said. “He was faithful to the promise to be with the sick and elderly.”
Father Starks said Father Mac had a special quality about him which drew people to him, especially the young.
“I’ve seen children fascinated by him,” he said.
Father Brady kept a box of candies at the exit of the church and this was always a special draw, he also joked.
“He was a big man, but he could talk to the level of the children and engage with their interests,” he added.
Fr. McNamara was predeceased by his parents, and brothers Donald (Dick) and Jerry. He is survived by his sister, Betty (Michael Maheux) and several nieces and nephews.
The Rite of Reception was at Our Lady Lourdes on Sunday where friends and former parishioners paid their respects from 1 to 8 p.m. Most Reverend Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R. presided at the Vigil Payers.
A private Mass of Christian burial was held Monday and a recording of the Mass is posted to the Our Lady of Lourdes You Tube channel.
Spring internment will be in the family plot at St. James cemetery in Eganville.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader