Jesuit Father Bill Browne has lived by the adage that learning can transform your life.
“Reading about the hero martyrs helps you discover your vocation,” says Fr. Browne.
It helped him. He remembers reading about the Canadian Jesuit martyrs at age 9, which lead him to the Society of Jesus, where he’s been for 77 years.
After decades in education and pastoral work, at 94 years of age, he is still learning and teaching.
“Most of my sermons are teaching,” says Browne.
The St. Bonaventure’s College alumnus (1945) was still active at the St. John’s, NL school well into his 90s, saying daily Mass as well as sitting on the College’s board of governors and the alumni committee. He’s been a fixture in the Jesuit community of St. John’s since 1982. There he served as pastor and assistant pastor at St. Pius X Parish and spent more than 25 years serving as chaplain at a health centre. His care and concern for others also extended to him co-founding the MacMorran Community Centre, which has given more than 300 children a place to play and space for social groups, music lessons, and tutoring.
Prior to St. John’s, Browne served at Regis College, Toronto and Loyola College and St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Montreal. From 1960-1963, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. It was there that Browne earned his Doctorate in Theology, with an emphasis on Liturgy. The scholar has also studied Latin, Greek, English, German, Spanish and music.
“If you want to learn a new language, pick up the Bible because you already know the stories in English,” says Browne, who is also an accomplished singer, organist, pianist, and composer. He’s also an avid gardener. In fact, despite having a pacemaker, this active Jesuit says Latin Mass regularly and declares he has never felt physically better.
His thirst for knowledge and travels have allowed him to meet many generous strangers. “I never imagined how many kind people would be in my life,” says Browne. He adds that the Jesuits also “appreciate every cent that is given,” by friends and donors.
For young men considering the Jesuits as a vocation Browne says, “You could hardly ask for a better place to go if you are ready to be close to the guidelines of St. Ignatius and want to know and love Jesus.”