Monsignor Patrick Brennan

Patrick was born on the 13th of March 1901 to parents Patrick and Jane (nee Gorman) Brennan and was baptised on the 24th March 1901 in the Church of Nativity of Our Lord 653 W.37th Street, Chicago IL.60609. He had a brother Richard who later became a fire chief and a sister who became Mrs Patrick O’Brien.

He began his elementary studies at St Bridget’s Grammar School and completed these studies at St Leo’s.   He went to St Rita’s School for two years. 

 Where studied Classics: Quigly Preparatory Seminary
Where studied Philosophy: St Mary of the Lake Seminary

Where studied Theology:

St Mary of the Lake Seminary
Date of Minor Orders: Dec 19 1925, May 13, 1926
By whom Conferred:            George Cardinal Mundelein
Date of Priesthood: April 14 1928
By whom Ordained: George Cardinal Mundelein


Father Brennan’s first assignment was as curate of Epiphany Church 25 24 Keeler Ave.  After serving at St. Mary of the Lake Church, 4200 N. Sheridan Rd  he was made a member of the diocesan mission band. And Cardinal Mundelein released him from the Chicago Archdiocese to preach missions for the Cardinal’s Jubilee year. Fr Brennan applied to join the Society of Saint Columban and while awaiting his acceptance into the Society, Fr Brennan assisted in the work at St Anthony’s Church in Joliet.

1936    Fr Brennan joined the Society of St Columban



Father Brennan was first appointed was Kwangju, Korea in 1937

In the early spring of 1939 the Maynooth Mission was entrusted by the Holy See with the care of a second mission field in the Province of Kogendo in Korea. Three Columban priests, Father Tom Quinlan, Father Pat Brennan and Father James Doyle were immediately appointed to the new territory.



Patrick Brennan






About this new Mission territory Father Tom Quinlan wrote:

The total population of Kogendo is approximately is a million and a half of whom twelve thousand are Catholics.   I think it is no exaggeration to say that they are among the best in all Korea.   Most of them are descended from the martyrs who fled from Seoul and other cities, during the violent persecutions of over a hundred years ago.

In very truth , a precious heritage has been given us and I ask the prayers of THE FAR EAST readers that, weak and puny though we be when compared with our predecessors, we may do our part to carry on the glorious traditions that have come down to us.

By then Japan was already preparing for her coming struggle with the West, and police surveillance of Missionaries in their work and their movements had become a routine nuisance.   There were endless questionings which often proved a severe test of patience, but which had their lighter side as well. Father Brennan’s descriptions of these encounters with authority, in lively unexpected turns of Chicago phrase, travelled from mission presbytery to presbytery to delight his companions. One of them wrote: “When I think of him now, it is to see him setting off ripples and explosions of laughter as he relates some such encounter, with fluent gestures and trenchant phrases to a group of fellow priests.”

Father Brennan was interned after Pearl Harbour, 8 Dec 1941, with the other priests. He was repatriated to the United States on the exchange ship “Gripsholm” in 1942 as an enemy alien.   In the United States he joined the US Army as a Chaplain, served in Normandy, Germany and the Ardennes.   Before going overseas, he won the Soldier’s medal for heroic service rendered to troops injured in a collision between a hospital train and a freight train.     





Father Brennan returned to Korea in 1946

In 1947 he visited Ireland to attend the General Chapter of the Maynooth Mission to China and that same year was appointed to St Columbans Shanghi as Superior of all the Missionaries in China. Father Neill Collins wrote: “He made a tour of the Columban mission in Hanyang part of which was in the hands of the Red Army. When he returned to Shanghai, he received a letter from Eugene Spenser in Hanyangsaying that the Communists were hunting for the American priest who had just toured their territory.”

In 1948 Monsignor McPolin came home to Ireland and in November ,on medical advice, requested permission to resign from his post as Prefect Apostolic of Kwoshu  in Korea. In his place Father Pat Brennan was appointed by the Holy See Prefect Apostolic of Kwoshu.

This appointment took him completely by surprise.  He wrote to Father Herlihy: “I never got such a shock in all my life.  The German 88s were like toy pistols compared with the news in the cable from Rome. The thing is like a dream, and I feel like a heel.  With all the telegrams, cables and letters I am just wondering if there isn’t another Brennan in China.”

“Those who knew him would say that, in or out of China, there could be nobody quite the equal of ‘The Pére’” (quote from Father Herlihy).



On the road in Korea…Monsignor Patrick Brennan, Apostolic Prefect of Mokpo Prefecture, with his Korean boy.


Father Michael O’Neill visited Monsignor Brennan in Mokpo in about June in 1948. He spent an evening watching Monsignor and his priests drawing up building plans for twelve timber and plaster church-rectories which they hoped to build in the prefecture.

 Fr O’Neill says, “I look over his shoulder as the Monsignor completes his rough outline by candlelight,for once again the electric power has failed as it frequently did since the North Koreans cut off South Korea from the main electric power plants over the border.

Even at that time there were unmistakable signs of tension – machine guns mounted on tripods outside the police station in Mokpo, soldier-filled trucks on border patrol chugging along the rough mountain roads near the 38th Parallel, a bus in which I was travelling being stopped by the police and the passengers being lined up on the side of the road to be searched for arms.

It was not an atmosphere which would inspire confidence, but if missionaries in the Far East were to wait until every dark cloud had passed, nothing would ever be accomplished. “ Who knows,” remarked Monsignor Brennan, “ We may have three or four or five years before the storm breaks? It may never break at all.” He only had eighteen months.”

BrennanHeadshotIn the November 1949 Far East Monsignor Brennan wrote from Kwoshu:

“We have had 200 more adult baptisms this year than last year, and our Catholic population has increased by 604 as against a pre-war annual increase of about 500. The fact is particularly noteworthy in view of the difficult conditions that prevailed during the year: on the island of Cheju alone some 1,500 were killed in the disturbances which were so widely reported in the press.

Times are more tranquil now, thank God, though they cannot yet be described as normal. I should like to pay a special tribute to our priests, who worked so well under such difficult conditions. And with all my heart I thank our benefactors, whose generosity enabled us to achieve such good and fruitful results.”




In May 1950 in a brief note, Monsignor Brennan added the following to a letter written by Father Brian Geraghty:

“Conditions have improved tremendously and the priests are kept very busy. The numbers under instruction are increasing: On Christmas Eve in Mokpo parish Father Tom Cusack had 150 for baptism, and excellent figures are reported from the other parishes. We are all overjoyed at the opportunities this year has presented to us, and on top of that the attitude of the political authorities has been most favourable and helpful.”

In the summer of 1950 Monsignor Patrick Brennan was planning the opening of a second parish in Mokpo City in south-west Korea. As a site for the church he bought a piece of land with donations received from former priest colleagues in Chicago archdiocese. It was one of his last official acts before he died.

On September 24th 1050 Monsignor Patrick Brennan was killed at the Massacre of prisoners in Taejon. He was 49 years old.

Eight years later Father John Vaughan of Dunedin, New Zealand, was walking along a crowded, narrow street of Seoul when he chanced upon a small bookstall. He absentmindedly fingered through an odd assortment on the remote chance that he might find something of interest. He picked up a small black volume; it was the summer quarter of the Divine Office. Opening the cover to see to whom the book might have belonged, on the flyleaf he found written, “P. Brennan 18 Dec 1929.”

Please click here to read about the Captivity and Deaths of Monsignor Pat Brennan, Fr Tommie Cusack, and Fr Jack O’Brien.