Father Joss Breen fondly remembered for his heart and devotion to the Eucharist
By Amanda Murthy
Beloved Dominican Priest Father Joss Breen OP who passed away one day shy of his 86th birthday on 7 July 2020, will be remembered as a generous and caring family member and priest who always placed the Eucharist at the heart of his ministry.
Since arriving in Australia in 1985, Fr Breen served in several parishes including Mundaring, Woodlands and most recently Gosnells, where he was Assistant Parish Priest (1987 to 1991) and Parish Priest (1995) until his retirement in May 2009.
Present for the Requiem Mass was principal celebrant and Geraldton Bishop Emeritus Justin Bianchini, who was joined by concelebrants Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Archbishop Emeritus Barry James Hickey, Fr Peter Hoang OP, Fr Tom Cassidy OP and several priests of the Archdiocese of Perth.
The Mass, held on Tuesday, 14 July at Doubleview Parish, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, was livestreamed for the many family members and former students of Fr Breen from Ireland, who could not physically make it for the Mass due to the travel restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
At the start of Mass, Fr Breen’s niece, representing the family, read out tributes and fond memories of her beloved uncle. Some of the words used to described Fr Breen included “kind-hearted, generous, always interested to know about his nieces and nephew’s lives despite living abroad, a family man and proud of his Irish roots.”
Happier times – Fr Breen greeted by parishioners Veronica and John Potter during the celebration of 50 years in the priesthood back in July 2016. Photo: Supplied.
In his homily, Bishop Emeritus Bianchini spoke about the generous person Fr Breen was, adding that his gift of priesthood was “an honour and privilege to witness.”
“The first reading reminds us that just as we who are farewelling, giving thanks and praying for Joss as a relative and dear friend, we are also doing this for a priest, someone who has shared in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Emeritus Bianchini stated.
“We see words like this – “He was taken from humankind as a priest and was appointed to act for people in their relations with God,” and this was evident in Joss’ life.”
Drawing attention to the symbols placed on the casket of Fr Breen, Bishop Emeritus Bianchini then explained the significance of each holy item.
“The stall and chalice remind us of Joss’ rich pastoral ministry here in this Archdiocese, through the Sacraments, Eucharist and the Word of God, which he had a very special gift for,” he explained.
“The little prayer book which we priests’ are given – are a call to pray apart from our personal prayer and the mass, five times a day, to praise and thank God on behalf of the whole church and world and to pray for the people we minister to and for the whole world.”
Emeritus Archbishop Hickey added that just as Jesus is described as the shepherd in the psalm, Fr Breen was a shepherd for many of his family, friends, students, parishioners and those he ministered in the Archdiocese.
Bishop Emeritus Bianchini ended his homily by encouraging the community gathered physically and remotely to continue to pray for the soul of Fr Breen and to always look to Jesus for strength as they undertake their own journey of life.
“We continue to celebrate this Eucharist for him today, with the hope that Joss enjoys eternal life which is guaranteed by the Eucharist,” Bishop Emeritus Bianchini cited.
“We are strengthened by the same Eucharist in our sadness and sorrow at his passing.
“We are also strengthened for our ongoing journey of life by Jesus, who is our Bread of Life and bread for that journey,” he concluded.
Dominican Priest Father Joss Breen passed away in the early hours of 7 July at the Regent Gardens Condo Care, Scarborough, Perth where he resided. Photo: Supplied.
Born on 8 July 1934, Fr Breen joined the Dominicans in Saint Mary’s Priory, Pope’s Quay, Cork, in September 1959 and was ordained a priest on 3 July 1966.
He grew up in Kilworth, County Cork and initially joined the Presentation Brothers, where he spent several years working as a primary school teacher upon completing school.
In the immediate years before he joined the Dominicans, he taught the scholarship class at Bun Scoil Chriost Ri, at Turners Cross in Cork City. Former pupils of that class remembered Fr Breen as a great teacher.
After his ordination, Fr Breen completed post graduate theological studies at the University of St Thomas, while living at the Irish Dominican Priory on the Via Labicana in central Rome. He returned to Ireland a year later and graduated with a higher Diploma in Education at Maynooth College. He later obtained an Master in Education and a diploma in guidance counselling from Trinity College, Dublin.
Fr Breen spent most of his Dominican life in Ireland at Newbridge College, where he taught, and later served as the school’s Career Guidance Counsellor.
In 1985/86, Fr Breen travelled to Australia and New Zealand on a sabbatical break. He enjoyed the experience so much that he sought permission from the Irish provincial to go and live and work in Australia, however remained a member of the Irish Dominican Province.