Men of gold
by Stefani Manowski
May 7, 2012

Five Paulists celebrating 50 years of priesthood in 2012 – Father Bill Brimley, CSP; Father Donald Campbell, CSP; Father Thomas Murphy, CSP; Father Peter Shea, CSP; and Father Edward Wrobleski, CSP. Ordained on May 11, 1962 by Cardinal Francis J. Spellman at the Paulist mother church, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan, these man have a combined 250 years of ministry.

Join the Paulist community in celebrating with our golden jubilarians!

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Aiming high: Father Bill Brimley, CSP
Father Bill Brimely, CSPFather Bill Brimley, CSP

Bill Brimley couldn’t think of a more boring existence than being a Catholic priest as a young man in August 1954.

He had the thought while was observing the celebrant of a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. Mr. Brimley was working for a government agency at the time, and was attending Mass at St. Matthew’s with a co-worker just before the two were to take up new posts in Hong Kong.

After returning to the United States two-and-a-half years later, Mr. Brimley did a lot of soul searching.

“I started asking basic questions, and realized priests had the things people work for all their lives,” he said.

Mr. Brimley entered the seminary studying to become a priest for his home Diocese of Fall River, Mass. Because he was a bit older than the average seminarian at the time, Mr. Brimley studied at the Jesuit-run St. Philip Neri School for Delayed Vocations in Boston. Another seminarian invited Mr. Brimley to dinner he was attending at the Paulist Center, located on Boston’s Park Street.

“I started looking at [the Paulists] a bit, and one thing led to another,” said Father Brimley, who is now celebrating 50 years of service as a Paulist priest.

JubilarianFather Bill Brimley, CSP

“The idea of outreach, especially to people who were not Catholic, was so appealing to me,” he realled.

It seems the priesthood wasn’t such a stretch for the future Paulist when you consider his upbringing.

Father Brimley was born a cradle Catholic in July 1927 in New Bedford, Mass. His father was in the wholesale/retail meat business, and his mother was a teacher before she married. Father Brimley was a veteran altar server at Holy Name Church, and attended the parish school with his brother and sister. The family frequently prayed the rosary together.

After graduating from New Bedford High School, Father Brimley was accepted to college, but was drafted to serve in World War II September 1945. He served in the Air Force (AACS) for 16 months before beginning pre-med studies at Harvard. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in psychology. After a few months of graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City, Father Brimley became a hospital administrator at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital before starting his government job in Washington, D.C.

He entered the Paulist novitiate on Sept. 8, 1955, and was ordained a Paulist priest on May 11, 1962.

Father Bill Brimely, CSPFather Bill Brimley, CSP

The new priest first served in the preaching apostolate based out of Good Shepherd Church in New York City for two years before doing the same in Minneapolis from 1964-71.

Father Brimley was then appointed pastor of Old St. Mary’s Church in Chicago, where he served from 1971-78. He then became pastor of the three parishes that surrounded Clemson University in South Carolina until 1986.

After an educational sabbatical at the University of Notre Dame, Father Brimley served as associate pastor at St. Nicholas Church near Fairbanks, Alaska. He then served as pastor at Immaculate Conception in Knoxville, Tenn., for eight years before returning to serve at Clemson. He retired to Minneapolis, moving back to Boston and the Paulist Center in 2002.

Father Brimley said he enjoyed each assignment in his Paulist service because of the people he encountered along the way.

“I just enjoy people,” he said. “I have gotten to meet all sorts of folks from different backgrounds and how they live their faith, which made me excited about my own faith and what I was doing. That was never boring.”

 

 

Fortune of faith: Donald Campbell, CSP

JubilariansFather Donald Campbell, CSP

After teaching elementary school for two years, Donald Campbell left his native Nova Scotia to make his worldly fortune in Toronto. Little did he know that God planned a different kind of treasure in store for the young man, who is now celebrating his 50th year as a Paulist priest.

His boss and several other men invited the young Mr. Campbell to a Lenten retreat at their parish, Paulist-run St. Peter’s Church in Toronto. The group met at St. Peter’s to carpool to a retreat center outside of the city.

“The men spoke so highly of the priests who ran their parish, which really registered with me,” said Father Campbell of those days in 1953.

The future Paulist decided to go to Holy Thursday Mass at St. Peter’s, where Father John Bradley, CSP, was preaching.

“He was a renowned preacher and word craftsman,” Father Campbell recalled. “I was tremendously impressed.” He was soon knocking on the parish door to inquire about the priesthood.

“I had no idea what to say or who to ask for,” recalled Father Campbell, whom the parish secretary put in touch with Father Henry Flaut, CSP.

JubilariansFather Donald Campbell, CSP

“He was a kind man, a simple man, a holy man,” Father Campbell said. The two met each month for about 10 months.

“At that point, [Father Flaut] rolled in a portable manual typewriter and said, ‘I think you should apply [for the Paulist novitiate],’” said Father Campbell. “He asked me all the questions and typed them on the page. He asked me to look it over and sign it.”

And so began Father Campbell’s priestly journey. He said he always had the idea priesthood rolling around in the back of his mind, which comes as no surprise when the future priest’s devout Catholic family is considered.

The Campbell family – including four boys and two girls – lived on a Nova Scotia farm. The family attended church together and prayed the rosary while kneeling on the kitchen floor.

“There was no television unless you showed up,” said Father Campbell with a smile. “It was a time for us to be together as a family. It has a great effect on me. There is so little of that kind of thing nowadays.”

And so after the Paulists accepted his application, the future priest went to Baltimore to study Latin at St. Peter’s College from 1954-55 and formally entered the Paulist novitiate on Sept. 6, 1956, with 31 other men.

“I made a lot of friends in the novitiate; it was a good year,” he said.

JubilariansFather Donald Campbell, CSP

Studies continued for Father Campbell at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., that included two years of philosophy and four years of theology. He was ordained on May 11, 1962 at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, the Paulist mother church in Manhattan.

After ordination, Father Campbell served at Good Shepherd parish in New York for a few months before heading to the Paulist Center in Boston. The busy center had much to offer the young priest in the way of ministerial experience, with confessions being heard during each of the six daily Masses. After a year, Father Campbell was officially named to the center staff.

Father Campbell moved New York in 1964 after his mentor, Father Ryan, became pastor of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. After five years on the parish staff, he was asked to become the community’s director of vocations.

“The guy that was leaving the job hated it, and I was fearful of the job because I hadn’t been in touch with college-aged people that much,” recalled Father Campbell. “But it was a new challenge, and I loved that challenge.”

Some of the priests Father Campbell brought into the community are Father Tom Ryan, CSP, the director of the Paulist Office of Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations, and Father Ron Roberson, CSP, who works in the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

After serving as the community’s vocations director from 1969-75, Father Campbell served as the director of development from 1975-78.

Father Campbell admits he had gotten pretty confortable in a “desk job” administrative position with the Paulists when he was elected to the Paulist General Council (the leadership panel of the Paulists), and asked to take a pastorship.

JubilariansFather Donald Campbell, CSP

Father Campbell found encouragement to take the pastorship from Father Joe Gallagher, CSP, who would eventually serve as Paulist president.

“He said, ‘The church really touches the lives of the people in the parishes,” recalled Father Campbell, who accepted the post of pastor at Old St. Mary’s Church in Chicago.

“It was a whole new ball of wax for me with a busy downtown parish with lots of Masses, confessions, sacramental work and 10 weekend Masses,” Father Campbell said said, noting he still keeps in touch with people in Chicago.

He then became pastor of St. Lawrence Church and Newman Center in Minneapolis from 1986-90 before serving as superior of the Paulist house in Manhattan from 1990-98 and then as the Paulist finance officer from 1998-2009.

“I have enjoyed every assignment I have had,” said Father Campbell, who is now rtired and residing at the Paulist house in New York. “I have had the opportunity to see the United States and Canada. It has been a wonderful life, and the pastoral work I have done has let me touch the lives of many people. These have been happy years.”

Father Campbell said the Paulist community itself has been critical in sustaining his priesthood over these 50 years.

“The Paulist community is second to none,” he said. “I have never met a Paulist I didn’t like.”

 

 

Born to be a Paulist: Father Thomas Murphy, CSP

JubilariansFather Thomas Murphy, CSP

Thomas Murphy was all but born a Paulist.

The future priest grew up in the Paulist-run St. Peter’s Church in Toronto, and attended the parish school with his brother and sister.

The Murphy family attended Mass together, and it was as a teenager attending St. Michael’s High School that young Thomas first felt the call to a more substantial role in the church as a priest.

After high school, Father Murphy did clerical work for a couple of years but wanted to be an electrician like his father.

“I tried it, but it didn’t work out,” Father Murphy recalled. “Then I was a bookkeeper at a shoe company. I kept putting off going to the seminary. Finally I just had to go because it kept bugging me.

Knowing the Paulists mostly all of his life, “I liked them very much,” he said. “When I thought about the possibility of becoming a priest, the idea of becoming a Paulist was predominant. I knew them personally, and that made all the difference.”

JubilariansFather Thomas Murphy, CSP

Father Murphy spent three years studying at St. Peter’s College in Baltimore before entering the year-long Paulist novitiate. He then studied for another six years at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., before his ordination in 1962.

The newly-ordained priest served a summer assignment in his home parish of St. Peter’s in 1962 before heading to a pastoral year at the Paulist Center, Boston. He then became associate pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Clemson, S.C., from 1963-65.

Canada again called, and Father Murphy was a missionary out of St. Peter’s from 1965-70 before returning as pastor to St. Andrew Parish in Clemson, S.C., from 1970-75. He then served as associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Layton, Utah, 1975-81 and at St. Leo the Great in Houston from 1981-1992. He entered senior ministry at Old St. Mary’s Church, Chicago, Ill., 1992-93 before returning to St. Peter’s in senior ministry in 1993.

JubilariansFather Thomas Murphy, CSP

“I have enjoyed the variety in my assignments, and I liked the people I met along the way,” Father Murphy said. “I like the Paulist life very much – the brotherhood, the individual priests. They are very good people.”

 

In the footsteps of the founder: Father Peter Shea, CSP

JubilariansFather Peter Shea, CSP

When a young Peter Shea entered the novitiate of the Redemptorist Fathers, he had no idea he was walking in the footsteps of Paulist Fathers founder Servant of God Father Isaac T. Hecker.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1931, Father Shea and his seven siblings attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, served by Sisters of St. Joseph. The choirboy said the rosary regularly with his family, including his French Canadian mother and Irish Father.

“We learned faith by the example of my parents,” said Father Shea, now 80 and serving as associate pastor of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

Father Shea began his academic studies for the priesthood in North East, Pa., where he graduated from St. Mary’s College High School, a minor seminary. Father Shea then entered the Redemptorist novitiate, just as Father Hecker had done in 1845. He attended major seminary at Mount St. Alphonsus in New York, but left before making final promises as a Redemptorist.

JubilariansFather Peter Shea, CSP

Father Shea started selling insurance in New York City while studying for his bachelor’s degree in history from St. John’s University in Long Island at night. During this time, Father Shea began a discourse with a Redemptorist who was working with people who wanted to be Catholics. The Redemptorist suggested the young man consider the Paulists, whose main work was with people considering entering the Catholic Church.

The future Paulist entered the community’s novitiate at Mount Paul in Oak Ridge, NJ, in 1957 and began theological studies at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., in 1958, the 100th anniversary of the Paulist Fathers. Father Shea was ordained a Paulist priest on May 11, 1962 by Cardinal Francis J. Spellman at the Paulist mother church, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan.

Father Shea’s pastoral year was spent at the Paulist Center in Boston. He was then assigned as associate pastor of St. Austin Church in Austin, Texas, from 1963-64. Father Shea then joined the Paulist preaching apostolate, ministering out of Detroit, Mich., from 1964-66; Portland, Ore., from 1966-68; Detroit again from 1968-69; Minneapolis from 1969-71; and Old St. Mary’s in San Francisco from 1971-73.

JubilariansFather Peter Shea, CSP

Parish ministry again beckoned Father Shea to St. Leo Church in Houston, Tex., where he served as associate pastor from 1973-76. He returned to St. Austin as pastor in 1984 before becoming director of the Blessed John XXIII Parish at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1984. Father Shea went to St. Peter Church in Toronto, Canada, in 1988. He became associate pastor at Old St. Mary’s in San Francisco in 1996. Still in active ministry, Father Shea works celebrates liturgies, helps with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, directs a “Saturday for Engaged Couples” program and tends to the other pastoral needs of the community.

“I love the work, working with people,” Father Shea said, noting that the RCIA process of helping people on their journey to come into the Catholic faith is “fascinating and inspiring to me and my own faith.”

The Paulists have “a very American kind of spirit,” according to Father Shea.

JubilariansFather Peter Shea, CSP

“There is a free spirit and variety among us Paulists,” he said, “serving with freedom of and dedication to creativity. It is a spirit I appreciate that is inviting and sustaining.”

“There is a free spirit and variety among us [Paulists], serving with the freedom of and dedication to creativity,” he said. “It is a spirit I appreciate that is inviting and sustaining.”

 

Spiritual seeker: Father Edward Wrobleski, CSP

JubilariansFather Edward Wrobleski, CSP

With no real religious background to call his own, Edward Wrobleski started asking catechism questions to an Air Force chaplain during his service in the Korean War.

“I took lessons, stayed with it and became Catholic,” Father Wrobleski recalled.

After his four years of wartime service in Air Force intelligence, the future priest felt he “needed some stability in my life.” He had vague inkling the priesthood might be for him, but “really didn’t know what I was going to do” after retuning to his native Buffalo, N.Y., from Korea.

Father Wrobleski met with a parish priest, “and within five minutes, I realized there was so much I didn’t know about the faith.”

He used his GI Bill funds to study Latin in Canada, where another student handed him a brochure about the Paulists.

“Their media work and the work with converts appealed to me,” said Father Wrobleski, who contacted Father Henry Flaut, CSP, a Paulist serving at St. Peter’s Church in Toronto. Father Flaut encouraged the young man to enter the Paulist formation program.

JubilariansFather Edward Wrobleski, CSP

The future Paulist headed to Baltimore for studies at St. Peter’s College.

“It was all so new to me,” Father Wrobleski recalled. “Studying Scripture … everything.”

After St. Peter’s, Father Wrobleski earned a master’s degree from St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., where he also began producing radio and television programs.

“I liked using the media to get out and reach people,” said Father Wrobleski, who was ordained in 1962.

The young priest served at Old St. Mary’s Church in Chicago, where he helped the archdiocese with radio programming. Like his classmates, he then spent a pastoral year at the Paulist Center in Boston from 1962-63, where he also ministered in radio and television. Father Wrobleski then went to the media mecca of New York, serving as associate pastor of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan as well as doing work for two radio stations. He returned to Chicago for four years as associate pastor of Old St. Mary’s as well as hosting and producing radio and television shows.

JubilariansFather Edward Wrobleski, CSP

The West Coast beckoned, and Father Wrobleski then entered media ministry in Los Angeles, where he worked on projects in conjunction with the Franciscan Community from 1972-85. He became associate pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Los Angeles in 1986 while continuing to work on media projects until 1994.

During this time, Father Wrobleski was hired to produce the first Catholic-sponsored radio campaign titled, “The Sounds of Love,” and accompanying television spots titled “Signs of Love.” The campaign received some 60 award nominations, and “beat beer and car commercials,” Father Wrobleski said. “And they cost $35 to produce.”

JubilariansFather Edward Wrobleski, CSP

Paulist Media Works in Washington, D.C., was Father Wrobleski’s next stop, from 1994-98, when he returned St. Paul the Apostle Church, Los Angeles, where he continues to assist the parish and teaches the third- and fourth-grade religion classes at the parish school.

Father Wrobleski credits the Holy Spirit with guiding him throughout his priesthood.

JubilariansFather Edward Wrobleski, CSP

“Just being a Paulist is really what it’s all about, just being part of this family,” he said. “If you are thinking of becoming a priest, go for it! You won’t know until you try. If God is calling a man to the priesthood, he gives that man whatever he needs in order to make it happen.”