Rev. Joseph P. Browne, C.S.C.

Fr. Rioux0018

June 12, 1929-Oct. 30, 2016

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rev. Joseph Peter Browne, C.S.C., 87, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind. on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.

Watch Fr. Browne’s Funeral Mass via YouTube.

He was born the eldest of four children to George and Mary (Fahy) Browne on June 12, 1929, in Detroit, Mich. He graduated from De LaSalle Collegiate High School in 1946. Later that summer, he entered the University of Notre Dame and was received into the Congregation on Aug. 15, 1947. Fr. Browne professed first vows on Aug. 16, 1948, and returned to Notre Dame, graduating in 1951.

Fr. Browne studied theology at Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C., and was ordained to the priesthood in Detroit by Edward Cardinal Mooney on June 4, 1955 with his brother George who was a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Detroit. After assisting at Holy Cross Parish, South Bend, from 1955-1956, he went to Rome to do graduate work in theology at the Angelicum, receiving his S.T.L. in 1957 and an S.T.D. in October 1960. He returned to teach theology at Holy Cross College from 1959-1964. Fr. Browne was assigned to live at the Foreign Mission Seminary in Washington in 1961. He took classes at the Catholic University, which led to a master’s degree in Library Science in May 1965.

In September 1964, Fr. Browne was assigned to the University of Portland, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Library Science and Director of the Wilson Clark Memorial Library. In June 1973, Fr. Browne became Chairman of the Department of Library Science at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, Texas, where he served until 1975. He returned to Portland where he was again Director of the Library until he retired in 1994. He then became Pastor of St. Birgitta parish in Portland for the next ten years. During his many years in Portland, he was also a member of the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Portland. He also served as vicar for the Columbia County Vicariate. Fr. Browne was a nationally recognized expert in the field of parliamentary procedure. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus and served as chaplain to five separate councils, among a number of other duties. After suffering a stroke in September 2004, he moved back to the Holy Cross Community at the University of Portland. He moved to Holy Cross House in 2009.

Preceding him in death are his parents, George and Mary Browne; brother, Rev. George T. Browne. He is survived by two sisters: Sr. Maria Goretti, OP of Adrian, Michigan, and Teresa Browne of Fletcher, North Carolina.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 3, 2016, at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, IN, where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus on Friday, November 4, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at

Wake Eulogyby Rev. Michael DeLaney, C.S.C.
Nov. 3, 2016

I want to extend my condolences to Fr. Joe Browne’s sisters Maria and Teresa. He always spoke so fondly of his brother, who was also a priest who passed away, and the two of you as family … and being from Detroit! Also please accept the assurance of our prayers. Tomy brothers in Holy Cross and friends of the Community and Fr. Browne, what an honor it is to be asked to offer these words tonight. One of the GREAT GIFTS of being in the Congregation of Holy Cross is that, for the most part, our community life is intergenerational. From the beginning of our time in Holy Cross, we learn from our elders, and as the years go, we all get the opportunity to share our experience and what we know to be wisdom. Also learning from our younger brothers! What I learned of Fr. Browne,and observed wasdiscipline, prayerfulness, loyalty, God fear, orderliness, tradition, belief, hard work, generosity with time, being committed, sacrificing much, pride in being Holy Cross, intelligence, respect for the letter of the law, and just abit of intimidation. If you did not know him, let me speak of a couple of those traits from a personal level!! I knew Joe in a few different moments … as a seminarian spending two summer placements in Portland with the community … as a newly ordained and younger priest … my first assignment at the University of Portland where I served for 15 years, and in that the last 5 years as the Religious Superior of the community there … each one a very unique and memorable time. There’s a storied history of the community at Portland and their poker nights. Well, I got invited in. Fr. Browne, Kehoe, Fr. Biger, Fr. Hamel, Paul Fryberger and Jim Anderson when I was a seminarian … along with Fr. George Bernard, who is still a good friend in Holy Cross today, and Dick Berg, the first of the next generation. It was intense! We played with pennies … and you would have thought each penny played was like a $10 bill! Let’s just say, I was out of money very quickly … and they had no mercy! No loan to stay in the game! And we were talking about pennies!!! But the worst was playing one evening at the community retreat at Mount Angel. We were playing some game of cards with partners, maybe euchre or pinochle. It seems I made an error, and he scolded me right there at the table telling me what a bad play I had made!! Yes, so I should addcompetitive to his long list of traits and virtues! Yet he endeared himself to the Knights of Columbusand the Irish Hibernians. St. Patrick’s Day truly was a holy day to celebrate for Joe. He also endeared himself to Parliamentiarians, Diocesan priests who needed assistance, to Bishops and Archdiocesan Leadership, to every living Detroit Tigers fan he met, and he endeared himself to his CSC community in his faithful presence. He also endeared himself to the St. Brigitta community and the Croatians while they were on the verge of closing. Perhaps most importantly, he endeared himself to the Hispanic community. As an older man, sitting down to learn Spanish with a class in order to improve his skills to bring Eucharist and Sacraments. I think he had first been exposed to Hispanic people in the years he was in Texas in the 1970’s. Being a good priest, herealized the need to serve themand took it upon himself to respond as he could. I subbed for him at a Spanish Mass frequently. I was so moved by what the faithful said about him. I was always humbled at Joe’s Apostolic Zeal with the Hispanic community. In the 80’s and 90’s there were many who did not respond to this need. I honestly don’t know if he ever declined an invitation or request to help out! And in Oregon, sometimes we would find ourselves driving an hour or two to get to the parish were we helped out on the weekends. He started in Downtown Portland at St. Patrick’s. He was having this kind of reawakening in an entirely new ministry as he was winding down from his long career in academics and administration.Joe was kind to me as his local Superior. He could be an intimidating figure to a younger religious, and I think I was 38 when named his superior. He was faithful, honest and supportive. If there was ever anything to discuss, it was done with great respect and a sense of brotherhood with me. Joe lived a life as a priest and Holy Cross religious, very well lived, and never doubted what motivated him.He shared his zeal and desire to serve Christ consistently throughout his life.

Funeral Homilyby Rev. Gary Chamberland, C.S.C.
Nov. 4, 2016

And the voice from heaven said, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.” Today, we say farewell to our brother Joseph, who spent his time on this earth serving God and caring deeply for his people. He was a good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus and we trust that his name has been inscribed in the Book of Life, and that he shall spend eternity singing God’s praises before the throne of heaven dressed in the white robe of salvation.

Today, we celebrate his faith and a life well-lived, just as we mourn his passing and acknowledge the hole that is left in our hearts. We pray with and for his sisters with us here, Teresa and Sr. Maria Goretti. Together let us mourn our loss and pray for the repose of Joseph’s soul and his eternal rest. On his journey to Jerusalem where he would show the completeness of the unity, his oneness, with his heavenly Father and his love for all of us, non-Jews sought an audience with him. Rejected by his many of his own people, it was Greeks and pagans who were being drawn to his mission. In hearing of their desire to meet with him, Jesus understood that it was all coming together, that his earthly mission was coming to fruition and that the human family was beginning to recognize, however imperfectly, the revelation of the Father in and through Jesus.

Yet, Jesus’ teaching on this earth was not yet complete. The Son of Man, he said, must fall like a grain of wheat into the ground and die. For the great harvest can only be reaped when the seed is nurtured in the soil and then bursts forth in new and abundant life. “Falling” is not a typical image for Jesus’ saving work in the gospel of John. Rather John emphasizes his “being lifted up.” Lifted up not in resurrection, but in crucifixion. Lifted up in glory like the seraph serpent on a staff in the time of Moses when simply looking at it brought healing and life. Lifted up in glory as the sign, and the means, of the unity of Jesus and the Father and the sign, and the means, of the breaking of the chains of death for all of humanity. In this telling of the grain of wheat, then, falling into the ground to die is the same willingness to surmount the cross and it signals the new reality of resurrection and new life. Jesus’ message is clear. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” Jesus’s words to his disciples on the road to Jerusalem are still his words for those of us who count ourselves as Christians today. We must let go of our quest for personal self-determination before God, we must unclench our fists which cling too tightly to an earthly life as we would define it, and we must follow the will of God and allow ourselves to be planted into the soil of his choosing and allow his love to blossom forth in our hearts, our lives, and our service to others in our world. Joe Browne tried to do just that across the 68 years of his religious profession and 61 years of priesthood. He was dutiful to his vows and the commitments they entailed. He embodied the old maxim of religious life, “If you keep the rule, the rule will keep you.” He was prayerful, serious about the stuff of faith, and proper in manner and dress.

A former Holy Cross Associate from the 80’s used to call him “the elegant one.” He wasn’t fancy – just careful and mindful of his appearance. I think it was a sign of regard for the role of priest he had assumed and a note of respect for those he would encounter that day. Another former Associate simply stated that he was “the consummate gentleman.”

In ministry, Joe went where he was sent and did what he was asked to do. He received a doctorate at the Angelicum in Rome and taught moral theology at Holy Cross College in Washington DC for 5 years before switching courses and coasts becoming chair of Library Science and director of the Wilson Clark Memorial Library at the University of Portland, a position he held for 28 of the next 30 years. Library Science worked well for Joe Browne for he loved order and organization. Dewey decimals made sense, they created neatness, everything had a place. And while all this may have favored a temperamental bias, in Joe’s world, it served a far greater purpose. The categorization, structure, order & neatness of a well-run library served learning and the flow of information. Material was categorized, not to limit it in anyway but rather to make it more accessible so as to deepen human knowledge and our understanding of the world. Likewise, his deep regard for parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order was not a white-knuckled need for control, but rather a means to help groups manage and explore areas of concern and to move forward to the future in a logical and well-thought out way.

Like a composer whose great opuses were created through the received symphonic structures and forms, Joe believed that personal and community life, the processes of learning, and the governance of groups and organizations would flourish through the acceptance and use of healthy and helpful structures.

My favorite memory of Joe comes from the confluence of his life in the library and his expertise in Robert’s Rule. His 1994 retirement party was held in the Wilson-Clark Library. Just attending the event made otherwise sober academics giddy for joyas they contemplated eating Swedish Meatballs in Joe Browne’s Library for Joe’s sense of propriety and library etiquette did not extend to socializing in the periodical room. There, Fr. David Sherrer, then Provost, read a list of Joe’s honors and accomplishments. In the most sonorous speaking voice I’ve ever heard, David built to a crescendo and concluded, “And he was once elected national parliamentarian of the National Association of Parliamentarians.” “Wow!” The crowd laughed heartily and we all looked to Joe to see if he would too. And laughed he did, wholeheartedly, with head thrown back and tears coming to his twinkling Irish eyes.

In retirement, and after 40 years of priesthood, Joe fell back into the ground and died, becoming the pastor of St. Birgitta’s Parish in Linton, OR. Just a few minute drive from the University, Linton is a world away, an old river town whose best days were some time ago. Joe took that parish and cared for its people. He saw it become the home of the celebration of the Tridentine liturgy, now called the extraordinary form, providing a place for that expression of the faith in the archdiocese and a home for those who longed for its particular beauty.

One Sunday afternoon in 2004, he was driving from the parish to the Holy Cross Court for dinner. When he arrived, he couldn’t get out of the car and he had to honk the horn to get the attention of others. Only Joe could have a stroke and keep driving. The next few years called for a role reversal for Joe. He who had always served others needed to increasingly accept help from them instead. There is dying to do on the way to the Father. It may not have always been easy for him, but outwardly he managed it with real grace. Thus began the ZZ Top years when Joe sported a great Fr. Sorin-like beard. He taught hipsters how to be hip. The first time I saw it, I was more than taken aback. I said, “Joe, I like your beard.” Eyes twinkling again, he simply said, “Yes,” with the slightest hint of a smirk. These last few years saw an even greater diminishment of his public ministry when in 2009 he returned to Holy Cross House. There, with the other men, he engaged primarily in the ministry of prayer. I ran into him there once and we were recollecting our time in Portland. Speaking about his retirement party, I recalled that he was given a small Waterford harp, a gift of appreciation from the University that payed homage to his beloved Irish heritage. “No,” he said quite sternly, “I was given the harp and a trip to Australia.” And then with a twinkle in his eye once more, he quipped, “At least I got the harp. I don’t think I was ever going to see Australia.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that if we wish to serve him, we must follow him; where he is, there also we must be. In this world, Joe strived mightily to follow Jesus. From Rome, to Washington, to Portland, to Holy Cross House, Joe went where he was sent in Jesus’ name and did what he was asked to do to the best of his ability. Folks who worked with his in the library simply note that he was fair and kind. His parishioners at St. Birgitta’s loved him for his sweet and generous soul. Like many on mission, he loved the people and places he served.

However much he loved them though, they were no earthly home like the one he knew in Detroit with you girls, and with George and Mary, your beloved parents, and George your brother. In that school of faith which took the Holy Family as its model, he learned to loved God and to seek to do his will. He carried you with in his heart wherever he went and whatever he did.

And so today we gather to say farewell. If we were at St. Birgitta’s, Fr. O’Hara would be wearing black vestments as would Joe himself, draped in a black pall. He would no doubt remind me to take it easy on heaping on the praise; that we are here to pray for his soul not make a case for his canonization. Those black vestments would call us to mourn and pray for the dead. But neither would he reject the white pall and vestments we see today, for they look past our mourning to the joy of the heavenly banquet. They symbolize the white robe of salvation which has been promised to all Christ’s faithful. For if we follow Christ, we know that we will necessarily be led to crosses not of our choosing and to many small deaths along the path of life.

But if we are found faithful to Christ, we follow him not only through suffering and loss but to honor glory and peace. “The Father will honor whoever serves me,” says the Lord; we will be swept up in the oneness that unites Father and Son. That is the promise in which we live whose foretaste is found in our participation at the Eucharistic table and in the love we experience here on earth.

And So, “Blessed are you, Joseph, who died in the Lord. Find rest now from your labors, for your works – dutiful acts of love, charity and devotion to your God and to his beloved people – accompany you. You may not as of yet attained to the heights of perfection, your impurities may even now be being burning off in a purgative blaze of love, but we have faith that your name is inscribed in the book of life and that the robe of salvation is yours. Rest in peace, Joe.

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