…CWR: What was it like growing up in Van Nuys?
Bishop Brennan: It was a great place to grow up. We were located in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, and at the time, we were surrounded by remnants of our agricultural past. There were still vacant lots, unincorporated areas and old barns in which we were told not to play (of course, we did play in them). My mom and dad provided my nine brothers and sisters and I a stable, loving home, sadly something many children don’t have today. It was a refuge for us kids; we were enveloped by goodness and discipline.
We were a very observant Catholic home. Sunday Mass attendance was not an option; when we were young we’d fill up a pew. All 10 of us children went through 12 years of Catholic education. That was a lot of tuition, paid for by a grocery clerk and a stay-at-home mom.
We lived just two blocks from our parish, St. Elisabeth Church, which at the time was staffed by priests from Ireland. I had great memories of them; their spirit deeply attracted me to the priesthood. I also had an uncle who was a priest, Fr. John Brennan. His parish had a pre-Vatican II Mass schedule, meaning there were no Sunday evening Masses, so he’d come over to our house for dinner on most Sundays. We always had big dinners on Sunday evenings, with 15 or 20 adults and 30 or more kids, with my mom and dad feeding everyone. He’d come, although he wouldn’t be dressed as a priest, except from the waist down (he’d always have on his black pants and shoes).
I loved my Uncle John’s persona, and I wanted to be like him. He lived a life of prayer, and was preternaturally calm and joyful.
CWR: Your interests include singing and basketball.
Bishop Brennan: Yes. My sisters played piano, and we all sang. Every year we’d drive up and down California’s Route 99 corridor to vacation in Sequoia National Park and Yosemite, both of which are in the Fresno diocese, and we’d sing all the way in the car as well as by the campfire.
Basketball was something we all played growing up. The last game I played was with our seminarians in 2019 when I was age 64, way past my prime!…
Full interview by Jim Graves on I Thirst Fresno at Catholic World Report.