OLEAN, N.Y. — More than 700 attended the Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday at St. Mary of the Angels Church here for J. Gregory Brennan who died earlier this month in a boating accident.
The funeral was magnificent said John O’Connor who celebrated the Aug. 25 Mass. “It was a great tribute to a simple friar who touched the lives of hundreds of people.”
“Look at all of these people,” said Richard Flaherty, in his homily, “You’d think we were burying a cardinal. But we’re not. We’re burying a wonderful brother.”
Gregory, 56, a professed Franciscan friar for 32 years and a priest for 28 years, died by drowning, apparently on Aug. 17. Gregory had left the friary at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., that afternoon, as was his usual custom, to spend his free day at the friars’ cabin at the Kinzua Dam Reservoir west of Salamanca, N.Y. Gregory, an avid outdoorsman, was reported missing Sunday morning, when he failed to arrive to celebrate a scheduled Mass. New York State Police immediately began a search since a damaged boat had been found the previous evening floating unattended in the reservoir.
His body was recovered on Aug. 20 from reservoir waters. It appears that Gregory had gone out in the boat Friday evening, and was knocked out of the boat by the waves of a sudden severe storm, said Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti.
Gregory was born on April 10, 1951, in Troy, N.Y., to James and Marie Anne (Beaudoin) Brennan. He was baptized on April 29 in St. Jean’s Church in Troy. He was graduated from Catholic Central High School in Troy in 1969 and from Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
Gregory was received into the Franciscan Order at St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Mass., on Sept. 2, 1973, where he also professed his first vows, on Aug. 24, 1974. He made his solemn profession on Aug. 20, 1977, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York, N.Y. Gregory pursued his theological studies at the Washington Theological Union, Washington, D.C. On May 12, 1979, he was ordained to the priesthood at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., by Bishop Eugene Marino, SSJ.
Following his ordination, he was assigned as parochial vicar at St. Bonaventure Church in Allegany, and later served from 1985 to 1987 as parochial vicar at St. Stephen of Hungary Church in New York City. In 1987, Gregory returned to Western New York as a staff member of the Division of Business and Finance at St. Bonaventure University. Since 2001, he served as manager of fixed assets and reprographics for the university. In addition, since 1989, he served as pastor of the mission parish of St. Pacificus in Humphrey, N.Y., and over the years was chaplain to St. Francis Hospital in Olean, the Olean and Allegany Fire Departments, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and was, at one point, president of the New York State Firefighters Chaplains Association and a Boy Scouts of America volunteer.
Gregory’s Wake was held on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24 at the St. Bonaventure University Chapel and a prayer service was held there on Friday evening. Interment followed at St. Bonaventure Cemetery, Allegany. Greg is survived by his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers, all of whom live in the Albany-Troy area of New York State.
Following the funeral service, Gregory’s casket was placed on the back of an antique Allegany Fire Department fire truck for a procession to the cemetery.
A Mass will be celebrated in Allegany at St. Bonaventure Church on Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in thanksgiving to God for Gregory’s ministry to the parish, according to the St. Bonaventure bulletin. At all Masses on the weekend of Sept. 15, a collection will be taken for donatons to purchase a stone for the parish’s Tree of Life in memory of Gregory.