By Andy Telli, Tennessee Register
NASHVILLE — Father Philip Breen, 77, who died Feb. 29 after a relapse of leukemia, was remembered as a wonderful priest, pastor, brother and friend.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be with all of you to give honor to God for one who lived and loved well,” his brother, Father Joseph Patrick “Joe Pat” Breen, said during the funeral Mass celebrated March 4 at St. Ann Church in Nashville, where Father Philip had served as pastor for 25 years before retiring last summer. “So many of you nurtured him and helped him be the great priest that he was.”
A standing-room-only crowd, which included members of his large family, parishioners from St. Ann, Bishop David Choby, Abbot Cletus Meagher, OSB, of St. Bernard Abbey in Alabama, former Gov. Phil Bredesen and his wife Andrea Conte, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, priests and deacons, and friends from all walks of life, filled the church for the funeral Mass.
“He was a great priest. That was his primary call in life. All he did was centered around the fact he was very committed to his priesthood,” said Father Pat Connor, a close friend of Father Breen’s. “He would want to be remembered first of all as a loving and caring pastor. St. Ann was his life. Those people were his life.”
Father Joe Pat Breen said during his funeral Mass homily that his brother knew how to make friends that would last forever. “The people of St. Ann — you’ve been such a great, great blessing to him. He always considered how lucky and fortunate he was.”
Father Philip Breen was born Jan. 15, 1939, the youngest of Anne Marie and Philip Paul Breen’s nine children.
The Breens were parishioners at Christ the King Parish in Nashville, and Father Breen graduated from Christ the King School, where he was taught by the Sisters of Mercy.
After Christ the King School, Father Breen attended Father Ryan High School and graduated in 1957.
In 1959, he began his studies for the priesthood at St. Bernard Seminary in Alabama. After finishing his seminary studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, he was ordained on May 22, 1965, by Bishop Joseph A. Durick at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Father Breen spent the start of his priesthood in Memphis where he taught at Memphis Catholic High School for Boys and later Bishop Byrne High School, while serving as associate pastor at several parishes. In 1981, he moved to St. Jude Church in Chattanooga.
In 1990, Father Breen returned to St. Ann as its pastor. ■