Brangan, Gerald, 1912-1978, Jesuit priest
- IE IJA J/67
- 24 April 1912-29 September 1978
Born: 24 April 1912, Kells, County Meath
Entered: 26 September 1930, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 29 July 1943, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1946, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin
Died: 29 September 1978, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin
◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Gerald Brangan was the last of a family of four boys and three girls who grew up in the town of Kells, Co Meath in Ireland. The boys took their secondary school education at Clongowes Wood College and it was there that Gerald's vocation developed. He liked cricket and tennis and played them well. But it was on the golf links of his home town, in the company of his favorite brother Paddy, that his proficiency in the game was most admired.
Gerald had difficulties with the study of humanities even though he was intelligent and endowed with excellent judgment and much common sense. So it was with some relief that he moved on to Tullabeg for philosophy. His years at Tullabeg were happy ones. He was encouraged and guided in his study of philosophy by his former school friend Henry Fay, himself a very talented and kind scholastic. In fact, Gerry (as he was called) read widely in English, French and Spanish.
His regency years were spent at Belvedere College where he taught and had charge of the Junior Rugby and Cricket teams. These duties laid the foundation for many years of outstanding and distinctly priestly work among senior boys and other adults when, after tertianship, he returned to Belvedere as games master. He spent the greater part of his life in that post. During that time he was always approachable and helped many people by his advice and above all by his example.
Two of the three bishops who attended his obsequies had profited by it. Gerry was a priest and the work he did among footballs and cricket bats and referees' whistles was eminently priestly work. By his Christ-like gentleness and quiet winning manner he affected all with whom he dealt. After his time as games master, he returned to the teaching of religious knowledge to junior boys. This work must have been particularly difficult for one whose experience had been gained and talents exercised with much success among the older boys.
At this point in his life, he offered himself for a period of two years on the Zambian mission. Here again his kindness and gentleness won him many friends and endeared him to his parishioners. His work was pastoral, mainly in Roma parish, and a six month stint at the Sacred Heart parish in Kabwe. The warmth with which he was welcomed was a comfort to him. He felt very glad to be where he was wanted.
On his return to Ireland in 1974, he took up work in the diocese of Dublin. He was sent to a parish where the people understood him and he understood them. He also had the appreciation and sympathy of the parish priest. Steadfastly refusing to use a car, he walked every day through his district, visiting schools, making friends with children and teachers, chatting and sympathising with everyone he met. He revived devotions in the parish where they had lapsed, in spite of discouraging beginnings.
But the work took its toll. A heart attack laid him low. Hospital treatment and a rest gave him another year's respite and he struggled on. The end came quickly. At his funeral, a parishioner spoke the thoughts of many, saying "he radiated the gentleness of Christ and we all looked on him as a saintly soul".
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 54th Year No 1 1979
Fr Gerald Brangan (1912-1978)
Gerald Brangan was the last of a family of Clongownian brothers and it was in the Clongowes chapel and during retreats preached there by Fr Frank Browne and Fr Ernest Mackey that his vocation developed. At school he was known as a retiring boy, quiet but determined, and with much independence of character. In class he held a middle place and had to work hard to keep it; at games he showed only average promise, but he liked cricket and tennis and played them well. It was at home in Kells where he lived, the youngest child of a most Christian and affectionate family, that he was seen at his best and it was on the golf-course there that his proficiency in games was most admired.
As the end of school-days approached for him he felt a certain trepidation: he was weak in Irish and knew that a failure in that subject would deprive him of matriculation and so of entrance ot the Society, But Fr Andy O’Reilly, who was then a scholastic teaching in Clongowes, gave him special lessons and as a result Gerald passed without difficulty. This kindness of Fr O’Reilly’s he never forgot.
Difficulties began again at the university. Gerry was an intelligent man endowed with excellent judgement and much common sense, yet he found the humanities difficult. It was probably an extreme diffidence that handicapped him and he proceeded to Tullabeg without taking his degree.
The years of philosophy were happy ones and under the guidance of a great school-friend, Harry Fay (a very brilliant scholastic who died shortly afterwards in Milltown) he read widely in English, French and Spanish. For his colleges he went to Belvedere where he taught and had charge of the Junior Rugby and cricket teams.
After tertianship he returned to Belvedere as games master. He was to spend the greater part of his life in that post. It is easy to dismiss a man's life work in a sentence, and in Gerry's case it could be done, but only in externals. His influence can never be chronicled and the good he did is known to God alone and to those he helped in so many ways by his advice and above all by his example. Two of the three bishops who attended his obsequies had profited by it: the Archbishop and Dr. Dermot O’Mahony. He was a priest and the work he did among footballs and cricket-bats and referees whistles was eminently priestly work. They were the carpenter's tools of his Nazareth; and in plying them, by his Christlike gentleness and quiet winning manner, he affected all with whom he dealt. His powers of organisation were sometimes seen to be weak, but here the loyalty of colleagues helped him. With the boys he was apparently easy-going and tranquil, but when a question of good behaviour or honour or principle arose, all the steel in his character showed. Without this hidden strength he could not have won the respect and affection of so many generations of schoolboys and retained it when they had left school. In representing the school outside, in committees or games organisations, his quiet integrity and kindliness were much appreciated. In these circles he was known as a Jesuit of whom the Society could well be proud.
The circumstances of his change from this office which he had held for so long and in which he wielded so profound an influence were not unattended by humiliation for him, a suffering he had done nothing to deserve. This he accepted in his saintly way in the spirit of the eleventh rule of the Summary, showing that meditation on the third degree of humility is still necessary in these days of renewal.
Paradoxically however, a little consolation came from outside. Only his very closest friends were privileged to see the letters written by games-masters of schools all over Dublin. The warmest of these indeed were from Protestant schools and they showed much appreciation of all he had done to foster a spirit of gentlemanliness, fair play and sportsmanship in both cricket and Rugby. One such letter stated that he had changed the whole atmosphere of the world of schools cricket during his years in Belvedere. And of course, shortly before this change of office, he had been chosen to be one of the principal speakers at the inner to celebrate the centenary of Masonic School - surely a unique tribute to be a priest. The Old Belvedere Rugby and Cricket Clubs also showed their great appreciation of all he had done for them.
He was next entrusted with the teaching of seven classes in religious knowledge in the Junior school. This of course would have been a trial to anyone in the autumn of life; for him, whose experience had been gained and talents exercised with much success among maturer boys, it was particularly difficult. While engaged in this task he may have reflected that in the old Society the teaching of small boys was considered an appropriate preparation for work among the savages of North America. Be that as it may, the missions came to his mind and he offered himself for a period of two years in Zambia. The warmth with which he was welcomed was a comfort to him. He felt very glad to go where he was wanted. Reports that reached home indicated that his gentleness and spirit of hard work endeared him to his parishioners there.
On his return to Ireland he was advised by his friends that work in the Dublin diocese would be most suitable for him and with the approval of superiors he appeared before a diocesan board. When he was asked where he would like to work, his answer was characteristic: “I wish to be sent somewhere I am wanted”. The diocesan authorities chose wisely. He was sent to a parish which he suited in every way. The people were of a kind that understood him and whom he understood and he had the appreciation and sympathy of the parish priest. Yet the work was hard: the pastor was burdened with much diocesan duty and Gerry’s fellow curate was on the point of abandoning his vocation, so a very great deal fell to his lot. “Fr Brangan will be killed by all the work he is doing”, a parishioner remarked, But there were many consolations. He was loved by young and old. Steadily refusing to use a car, he walked every day through his district, visiting schools, making friends with children and teachers, chatting and sympathising with everyone he met. He revived devotions which had lapsed and despite discouraging beginnings persevered doggedly until they again became popular. A new curate, who understood and admired him, arrived and was a great support to him.
But the work took its toll. A heart attack, the first signs of which he had ignored, laid him low. Hospital treatment and a rest gave him another year’s respite and he struggled on. Then the end came very quickly.
His funeral was a most moving ceremony; the words of the parish priest, the evident sense of loss felt by all, especially the young, showed how he had been revered and loved, “I should not like to be the priest who has to take Fr Brangan's place”, one of the clergy remarked to the bishop. A parishioner spoke the thoughts of many, saying: “He radiated the gentleness of Christ and we all looked on him as a saintly soul”. May his noble, gentle soul rest in peace with his loved Master.
◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1979
Father Gerald Brangan SJ
Two absolutely delightful and totally unsolicited letters came to Belvedere in the weeks following the death of Fr Gerry Brangan. The first was from Salisbury in (then) Rhodesia, from Barney Flynn, who spent some time in Belvedere as a Jesuit Scholastic. The letter was the more moving in that it had crossed such a wide abyss of distance and time and culture. In a whimsical sense the other letter also crossed deep divides. Not only was it from a rival order, the Holy Ghost Fathers, but (darker and darker grows the deep), a Holy Ghost Father from 'Rock!! The latter writer wishes to remain anonymous apart from giving this address. They each agreed to allow their letters to be used as a tribute to this kind and gentle man, who would very often interrupt himself in mid sentence to apologise to you, if he thought he had slighted you in the first half of what he was going to say.
Happily we have a letter from Barney Flynn. It is not the one referred to above but a sequel to it. (The best planned filing schemes go all astray when someone else tidies one's room...). The letter from the Holy Ghost Father went the same way as the first letter from Salisbury, but it is worth recording that it was sent.
The rest of this notice is quotation from Salisbury:
12th November, 1978
Thanks for your recent letter in which you say you would like to use my letter of condolence on the death of Gerry Brangan as the obituary in the 1979 Belvederian. I am overwhelmed: there must be other more gifted pens...... I add the following paragraphs, which, if you wish, you could add in ...
Fr Brangan was a dedicated Prefect of Games.. Under him, Belvedere became the leading school in Leinster Cricket ...
Fr Brangan did not think it beneath his dignity to teach the rudiments of the game to the tiny tots of Elements, nor to run the Tuck Shop to make a bit of money to buy bats and balls. I close my eyes and see him in the Gym at break, amid a bedlam of noise, doling out buns and soft drinks ...
Classroom teaching was not his forte. How often I saw him, already late for class, frantically searching for his pile of exercise copies, lost somewhere under the rubble that was his table. But a teacher teaches himself and his pupils were bles sed to have as mentor a master of all the qualities that make up a christian gentle-man. These qualities of sympathetic understanding, deep kindness and love for others, later won him the hearts of the people of St John Baptist parish where he spent his last years as a curate.
Fr Brangan's spiritual life was hid with Christ in God. He did not parade his piety but it was there to see in his actions. Once he said to me, years after he had left Belvedere: “Remember how I used to dash off most evenings after dinner? The brethren probably thought I was off on a skite. Actually, used visit an old lady who was very lonely”.
... It was fitting that Gerry Brangan and Tom O'Callaghan should go to heaven more or less together, as they formed such a fantastic team for so long. They were Belvedere rugby and cricket for many years, their influence on generations of boys incalculable. I think it would be fitting if their obituaries appear as one..
Do you happen to know the date of TOC's death? I keep a record of the death dates of all I have known to remember them on their anniversaries. ... The fact that I am no longer in the Society need cause no embarrassement. If you wish you may make my contribution anonymous, representing all the 's who worked in harness with Fr Gerry Brangan.
◆ The Clongownian, 1979
Father Gerard Brangan SJ
Gerard was the youngest of three brothers who came to School at Clongowes from Kells, and spent five years here. At the end of his schooldays he went to study for a degree at UCD, but before completing his degree, he entered the Jesuit Noviceship at Tullabeg. At the end of his Noviceship he studied Philisophy at Milltown Park, and when this course was completed he went to teach in Belvedere College. Then after a couple of years he returned to Milltown Park for his Theological Studies, and was ordained priest there on the 29th July 1943. At the end of his course he returned to Belvedere as games master, a post he held for the greater part of his life.
He made a great name for himself among all the schools in Dublin with which he had dealings, and when he retired he received many letters of commendation from the games-masters of other schools - the warmest from the Protestant Schools of the city. Shortly before he retired he had been chosen as one of the principal speakers at the dinner to celebrate the centenary of the Masonic School. The Old Belvedere Rugby and Cricket Clubs also voiced their appreciation of all he had done for them. On retirement, he stayed on in Belvedere teaching in the Junior School.
Priests were badly needed in Zambia at this time, and so he volunteered to go out there for two years. On his return he learned that priests were urgently needed for parochial work in the Dublin Archdiocese; and so he offered his services once again, and was gladly accepted. He was assigned to the Clontarf Parish, and worked there for the last four years of his life. He was highly appreciated by the parishioners, and devoted himself especially to the care of the schools in the parish.
He worked hard and the exertion took its toll. A heart attack laid him low, but after some months in hospital he returned to the parish and struggled on for another year. The end came quickly and suddenly, and he died on the 29th September 1978. The large congregation at his funeral witnessed to how greatly he was appreciated in the parish. The Archbishop of Dublin and Dr O'Mahony presided at the obsequies. In earlier days they had both been under his care in Belvedere.