Remembering Captain Bertie… - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 26th November 2013

The hearts of many an Officer, Gentleman, Baggage handler and Villain would have been gladdened yesterday afternoon (Monday 25th, November) when, following an initiative by Mr Frank Kelly, a floor of the Rhetoric block was dedicated to the memory of their erstwhile Captain, the late Fr Joe Brereton S.J., who passed away last year.

Addressing the gathering of students and staff who had assembled to honour Joe, the Headmaster Fr Moloney spoke of his life and gentle legacy in Clongowes over forty-four years years before the School Captain, Peter Stapleton paid his own tribute, which we reproduce below. The Rector, Fr Sheil then blessed the newly named Brereton Floor after which Tom Cantillon (Secretary) and Gabriel Coulter (Vice Captain) unveiled a photograph of ‘The Captain’…

“Many people have come and gone throughout the life of Clongowes and, while many pass unnoticed, there are some whose memory remains strong in the collective history of the college.  One such man was Fr Joe Brereton S.J. Known affectionately by those in his care as ‘Brereto’, Joe’s gentle presence and unassuming manner manifested the very best qualities of being ‘a man for others’ long before that phrase was coined by Fr Arrupe S.J.

Fr Joe hailed from Limerick where he had moved from Liverpool when he was very young.  As a past pupil of Crescent College, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1938 and was ordained on 31st July 1952.  He spent forty-four years working as a teacher and mentor in Clongowes and many remember with gratitude how he shared with them his love of the English language.

Joe was an ever-present figure among Rhetoric students, offering encouragement and assistance to one and all.  His attentive personality meant that Joe became a confidant to students and staff alike.  Never one to judge, Joe would refer to a deviant student as a ‘villain’, not to be taken as an admonishment, but as one of endearment.  During his time working in Higher Line, Joe’s gentle manner, and courtesy to all whom he met will not be forgotten.

Many past pupils, whether Officers, Gentlemen, Baggage handlers or Villains,  fondly remember the quiet, softly spoken, avuncular presence. Never one to be held by boundaries, Joe’s spirit of encouragement, determination and wisdom garnered by his years, was shared generously with those who sat by him, or when he spoke at Declamations.  He encouraged all students to be ‘friends’ with the opposition teams they encountered on the playing fields, simply because in one or two years they could be playing with them as team-mates in University

Joe’s legacy lives on among those who knew him and worked with him.  These words only attempt to capture a part of an enigmatic, deeply holy and gentle pastor in the vineyard of the Lord.

Peter Stapleton

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