Fr. Bernard O’Brien Pastor Emeritus of St. Paul’s, Cantley, Doncaster RIP

Fr Bernard, who had become increasingly frail over the past few years died on 22 September 2023.

He was born in Chelmsford, Essex, on 28 January 1939, shortly before the war. He was the third in a family of six children. His father, William, came from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, and his mother, Elizabeth, from Linz-am-Rhein, Germany. Both were Catholics, and active in their church, Our Lady of Lourdes, Leigh-on-Sea, and his family life revolved around it.

Aged 14, he attended Junior Seminary, St. Hugh’s College, Tollerton, Nottingham. And from there to Senior Seminary, the English College, Lisbon. He was ordained as a priest for the Brentwood diocese on 6 June 1963 together with Fr. Pat Murphy who later would precede him as parish priest at St Paul’s.

His first curacy was to Saints Peter and Paul, Ilford, in Brentwood Diocese. After 6 years he went to Colchester, but after a year, back to the East End, to Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead. From there he was appointed to his first parish, St. Thomas’, Grays, on the Thames. Three years later, it was back to Colchester, this time as Parish Priest; he worked there for 13 years. The next change, in 1988, was to Leigh, his ‘home’ parish! After five years, he joined the Prison Service.

At that time a new prison was being built in Doncaster, a private prison on the American model. He took up a part-time post there, but within a year moved into the state sector, with a full-time post in HMP. Lindholme and HMP Moorland. He stayed for 10 years, before handing his keys in, aged 65.

Bishop John appointed him in 2004 to St. Pauls, to take charge following the retirement of Fr. Pat Murphy. He also served as the diocesan representative to the Prison Service in the Diocese.

Over the years, as well as parish work, he has served as a Dean, the Diocesan Representative on Essex Education Committee, Diocesan Chair of Justice and Peace, and the Coordinating Chaplain of the Yorkshire Group of Prisons.

Father Bernard retired on 28 January 2019 – his 80 Birthday. He spent his retirement living in his final parish and continued to be involved in the life of the parish community where he had ministered.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.