June 26, 2009

Father Henry Brown continued pastoral ministry during retirement

By Mary Ann Wyand

Father Henry P. BrownFather Henry P. Brown, a retired priest who enjoyed pastoral ministry, died on June 21 at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove, where he had lived for 11 years. He was 82, and had recently been hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein at 11 a.m. on June 25 at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Beech Grove.

Father Gerald Kirkhoff, vicar of the archdiocesan Vicariate for Advocacy for Priests and pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, was the homilist.

Burial followed in the family plot at Garland Brook Cemetery in Columbus.

Father Brown was a very friendly and dedicated priest, Father Kirkhoff said, who continued his pastoral ministry during retirement.

“Besides being [assigned] in parishes [during his years of active ministry], he was the chaplain at the old Winona Hospital and Community North Hospital [both in Indianapolis],” Father Kirkhoff said. “He was a very caring chaplain. He spent a lot of time with the sick and the dying, even sitting up with them in the middle of the night. He never really retired. In his latter days, he did exceptional [pastoral] work at the hermitage.”

Father Brown helped wheelchair-bound residents get to Masses, meals or rosary prayer gatherings at the hermitage, Father Kirkhoff said, and provided sacramental assistance for Masses and penance services at South Deanery parishes.

“He liked to come to the chrism Mass and other gatherings of priests,” Father Kirkhoff said. “He was a good guy, and he loved the priesthood.”

Father Herman Lutz, a retired priest who serves as chaplain at the hermitage, said Father Brown was very dedicated to ministering to the residents and well-known for his compassionate care.

“Every single night, before they all went to bed, he would go around the rooms in the nursing care section [at the hermitage], and give them a blessing and say the ‘Angel of God’ prayer with all of them,” Father Lutz said. “They all appreciated it very much. He was always concerned if the residents were getting very sick. He wanted to be there with them and help give them their last sacraments. He did that until last week when he got sick. He also said one Mass a week in the nursing care section.”

His sister, Dorothy (Brown) Helt, also resides at the hermitage.

“He was a good brother,” she said. “He was always there to help people. That was his favorite thing to do—be with people in their time of illness.”

Father Brown had experienced a lot of sickness during his life, Helt said, including a near-death experience caused by gas fumes from a broken furnace.

Henry Peter Brown was born on Sept. 1, 1926, in Indianapolis and baptized at the former St. Francis de Sales Church.

When he was an infant, his parents moved to Columbus, where he attended St. Bartholomew School and the former Columbus High School. After graduation, he attended St. Mary College in Kentucky then Saint Meinrad’s minor and major seminaries.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Paul C. Schulte on May 15, 1951, at Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

His first assignment on May 29, 1951, was as associate pastor of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown.

On May 15, 1959, Father Brown was named associate pastor of St. Mary (Immaculate Conception) Parish in Rushville.

He was appointed to his first pastorate on June 15, 1965, at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Siberia.

On Oct. 31, 1968, he was named pastor of St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish in West Terre Haute.

He was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon on July 21, 1971, and also began serving as administrator of St. Anne Parish in Jennings County on Feb. 23, 1972.

He became director of the Legion of Mary in the archdiocese on June 22, 1976.

On Aug. 18, 1977, he was named pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Cambridge City.

Three years later, on July 9, 1980, he was named associate pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove.

On July 10, 1985, he was appointed pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg and administrator of St. Maurice Parish in Decatur County, with residence at the rectory in Enochsburg.

Due to health problems, Father Brown was granted a sick leave on Feb. 18, 1987, for several months.

On July 8, 1987, he was named associate pastor of St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg and St. Maurice Parish in Decatur County, with residence at the rectory in Greensburg.

He was appointed associate pastor of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County on July 25, 1990.

On July 1, 1992, he began his chaplaincy ministry at Community Hospital, the former Humana Women’s Hospital and the Midwest Medical Center, all in Indianapolis, and also served as priest minister for weekend sacramental assistance at St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis, where he lived at the rectory.

On March 18, 1996, he moved to the St. Lawrence Parish rectory in Indianapolis while continuing his hospital assignments.

Father Brown retired from active ministry on July 1, 1998, and moved to St. Paul Hermitage, where he kept busy ministering to the residents and providing sacramental assistance at nearby parishes.

In addition to his sister, Dorothy Helt, he is survived by a nephew, Thomas Helt of Indianapolis. †

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