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thedrifter
04-03-06, 07:54 AM
Former pastor remains in heart of parishioners
Saturday, April 1, 2006 12:49 PM EST

LISA TOLLIVER EDITOR - 3/19/06

The rain was still pouring down when we headed to church last week. As my mom, dad, brother and I walked through the rain, mom shared an umbrella with me. Dad elected to wear a hat instead of carry an umbrella and my brother had chosen neither.

As comments flowed back and forth through the droplets of rain about the need to wear a hat and the reason no hat was worn, we made our way to the church door.

Our comments hushed and eventually stopped as the doors open. We respect that some choose to use the time before church to pray and so our conversation is quiet and minimal when necessary.

But as we opened the door, there was a hushed chatter throughout the sanctuary. Father Ben Brown was there. Not only was he talking, but parishioners were elbowing each other, pointing in his direction and leaning over to tell someone that Father Brown was at church.

It was a surprise visit. He was between assignments in his military chaplain role and had stopped by for a quick visit with his former congregation that Sunday morning.

For 11 years he called St. Thomas Catholic Church home. He served his fellow man through his assignment in the church. In 1993, Father Brown left to serve his fellow man through a different avenue. He left to join the U.S. Navy as a chaplain.

It was a sad goodbye when Father Brown left. Our parish had grown to love the man who led our church. His sermons were not full of condemnation and sinfulness but rather full of hope and common sense. He had a way of speaking to a church full of people and still coming across as if he was speaking only to you.

He was down to earth, often playing guitar for the congregation and entertaining us with song. He loved his job, it was obvious he had chosen the right path in life.

We would have been happy to keep Father Brown for the rest of his years of a priest. But he had another calling. Military chaplains were in demand and Father Brown felt it was something he could do — bring comfort to a troop when they need it most.

As a parish we reluctantly let him go and wished him luck in his new life. The various faiths represented in a military unit meant Father Brown would have to serve those of all faiths not just Catholics. But his down-to-earth approach to helping others would serve him well in his new challenge.

He began his career at Camp Pendleton in California with the Marines. He also served with the Coast Guard and the Navy. He has worn all the uniforms and has even served in combat zones.

Throughout the years, the congregation has remained in contact with Father Brown, getting updates from time to time about where he was or where he was going.

Sunday the congregation got a special treat as Father Brown delivered the update on his career personally.

He was the same Father Brown who left us 13 years ago. Still down to earth, still happy to be doing what he was doing.

He is just one of those priests that never leave your heart. And now his is serving his country in a different manner but one that is important especially during our current state of war.

Though he is not on the fighting front line, Father Brown recently received a bronze star for heroism under fire. During his time in Iraq he was under fire several times. It was his conduct at those time that earned him the honor.

It didn’t surprise those of the parish that knew him 13 years ago. We thought he was something special when he first arrived and when he left in 1993, we knew it.

Thanks for the visit Father Brown. Come back anytime.

Ellie