Brendan O’Dowd, CM, SVC 1949-60
1923 - 2003
Down through the years the Vincentians in St. Peter’s, Phibsborough have had an enormous influence over Phibsborians and, perhaps, never more so than during the 1940s and early post-war years. One street alone in Phibsborough, Shandon Drive, was to witness six Vincentian vocations – Fintan Briscoe, Noel Travers, John and Gerald Doyle and Dermot and Brendan O’Dowd. There were three O’Dowd brothers; Con the eldest, had already joined the Dublin diocese and Dermot, the Vincentians. When Brendan intimated to his parents that he was considering joining the Vincentians like his brother Dermot, they asked him to postpone entry and spend a year at University before making a final decision. At the completion of the year Brendan still felt the call to the priesthood and he entered the Vincentian noviciate in Blackrock.
Brendan was extremely clever and completed a brilliant first class honours BA Degree. Later, he took a Masters Degree, likewise with first class honours. His thesis was to be a definitive study of the life and work of a very prominent 19th century Vincentian. After his ordination in 1950, Brendan was appointed to Castleknock College. Confreres and pastmen alike remember Brendan as one for whom his priesthood was all-important, as an outstanding teacher, with a keen mind and, since he himself was prepared to work hard, as one who expected a like commitment from his students. The qualities were allied with a sharp and witty sense of humour and a fine understanding of rugby as a trainer and referee.
However, after eleven years – perhaps, too long a period teaching in school for one, who like his brothers, had always felt a strong calling to the parish apostolate – Brendan decided his vocation was elsewhere. With the consent of the Superior General, he left the Vincentian community (although it is said with some regrets) and joined the secular priesthood in California and became a curate in the parish of Fair Oaks, Sacramento. His pastor there was an Irishman, Fr Doheny, and, immediately, a deep friendship developed between the two priests which was to last a lifetime (Fr Doheny travelled over especially to Ireland for Brendan’s funeral). Brendan’s time in Fair Oaks were years of great happiness and fulfilment as a priest and he was popular with the parishioners. Eventually, he was appointed pastor of Carmichael and later of Weed. In both these parishes Brendan’s dedication earned him the love and respect of the people and, when Dermot visited him, the beauty of the surroundings and the contentment of his brother were evident.
At seventy-five Brendan retired to Oregan and acted as an assistant priest in Brooking. There his reputation proceeded him and he was invited to provide adult education for the parishioners which, as expected, he did successfully.
Mainly for health reasons, Brendan returned to Ireland in 2002. Shortly after his return, he suffered two strokes and when the end came in October 2003, I think he welcomed death. The day of his burial was his 80th birthday. His apostolic life was complete and surely earned him the welcome from the Master whom he served so well. Requiescat in Pace.
To his sister Moira, who in the last four years has suffered the pain of the death of her three brothers and, recently, the death of her beloved husband Sean, and to her daughters Ann and Emer, the whole Vincentian community offer their prayers and express their deepest sympathy.
John Doyle CM
MICHAEL BRENDAN O’DOWD
Born: Phibsborough, Dublin, 14 October 1923
Entered the CM: 3 September 1942
Final Vows: 8 September 1944
Ordained priest; 29 May 1949 in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, by John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin
1949-‘60: St Vincent’s College, Castleknock
1960-’64: St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill
1964-’69: Study in Chicago
1969-’75: All Hallows College, Drumcondra
1975-’82: Leave of absence, serving in the Diocese of Sacramento
1982: Incardination into the Diocese of Sacramento
2002 Returned to Dublin
Died: 10 October 2003, in Roebuck Nursing Home, Dublin
Buried: Glasnevin, Dublin, in his parents’ grave.