Bio: Brennan, Rev. Joseph J. (1872 19??)





Surnames: Brennan, Casey, Schwebach, Messner, Katzen, Carroll, Dunne


----Source: History of Marathon County Wisconsin and Representative Citizens, by Louis Marchetti, 1913.


Brennan, Rev. Joseph J. (13 January 1872 19??)



REV. JOSEPH J. BRENNAN. The subject of this sketch, Rev. Joseph James Brennan, son of William Brennan and his wife Mary A. (Casey), was born January 13, 1872, on a farm at Black Hawk, Iowa, ten miles from the city of Waterloo. He was the fourth offspring in a family of eight children, five boys and three girls, all of whom are living in Iowa except Father Brennan.  


Joseph James Brennan, when a boy, attended the district school in his vicinity during the winter months, while in summer he labored on the farm. Even while attending the country school the future priest evinced a decided inclination and a real thirst for knowledge, and nearly always stood at the head of his class. When about fourteen years of age he was sent by his parents to Independence, Iowa, where he entered the high school and where he remained for two years; he then took up his studies for one year at the Waterloo (Iowa) Business College. All this time, and in fact even as a small boy, his mind had been set on the idea of the ministry he labored and prayed that he might some day be a priest.  


But his parents were not blessed with much of this world's goods in fact, they were poor so Joseph James worked for three years as a hired man on a farm in his native country in order to gather together the necessary funds to insure at least a fair beginning in his studies for the priesthood.  


He then went to the famous Creighton University at Omaha, Neb., conducted by the Jesuit Fathers, where he began in earnest his studies for the priesthood, and where again he gave a good account of himself, standing well up in a very large class. On the advice of his pastor and friends he left Creighton University at the end of the school year, 1894, and entered St. Joseph's College, Dubuque, Iowa, where he completed his classical and philosophical studies with high honors.  

He was then sent by his Bishop, Rt. Rev. James Schwebach, La Crosse, Wis., to the St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, Wis., where he made his theological course, and again established a splendid record as a student. He remained in this renowned and venerable institution for three years, and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Frederick Katzen, of Milwaukee, June 16, 1901.


Father J. J. Brennan celebrated his first mass in his parish church at Waterloo, Iowa, June 23, 1901, in the presence of relatives and friends, and assisted by many priests, amongst who was the present Bishop of Helena, Mont., the Rt. Rev. John P. Carroll, who acted as assistant priest and who was Father Brennan's professor for three years. In a few days thereafter Father Brennan was assigned by his bishop as assistant priest to Rev. A. B. C. Dunne, of St. Patrick's congregation, Eau Claire, Wis. Here he remained as assistant for about one year; and when Father Dunne went on a six months' trip to Europe in 1902, Father Brennan was given temporary charge of this parish.


When Father Dunne returned from Europe in November of that same year, Father Brennan was, by his bishop, appointed pastor of St. Francis Church, Necedah, Juneau County, Wis., and the missions, New Lisbon and Camp Douglas. He remained here about two and one-half years, during which time he built a parish house and remodeled and repaired the churches at Necedah, New Lisbon and Camp Douglas. This was in 1902, 1903, 1904 and a part of 1905.  


The Catholic St. Mary's Church at Wausau having became too small to accommodate the large and still growing congregation, the Rt. Rev. J. Schwebach, bishop of La Crosse, acceded to the request made to him by a portion of that congregation for a new parish, and in the latter part of June, 1905, appointed Father Brennan as first pastor of the newly organized parish of St. James. Some time previous to this date the proposed members of the new congregation had purchased the old Methodist Church, corner of Second and Grant streets, and the residence immediately adjoining as a temporary abode for divine service.  


Father Brennan arrived in Wausau early in July, 1905, and set about completing arrangements for the legal and ecclesiastical establishment of the new St. James' Parish. The old Methodist church was dedicated by Father Brennan July 10, 1905, under the patronage of St. James the Apostle, and in honor of Bishop James Schwebach, by whose authority it was established. Not more than one-half of those who desired to attend the dedicatory services could find seats in the church.  


The congregation in July, 1905, numbered 125 families, but at this date, January 1, 1913 the number is at least 300 or about 1,500 souls. In the year 1907 the St. James congregation purchased the two lots and buildings immediately adjoining their property on the south, from Morgan Brothers, and this purchase then gave them an entire half block in the city of Wausau.  

In May, 1911, Father Brennan and his people voted to erect, on the newly purchased property, a modern, commodious and substantial church, in keeping with the growth of the city of Wausau and the new St. James' Parish. Work on the new edifice was begun about May 1, 1911, but owing to serious difficulties the new church was not completed until December, 1912. On December 17, 1912, the beautiful new St. James church was solemnly dedicated by Rt. Rev. James Schwebach, D. D., Bishop of La Crosse, in. whose diocese Wausau is located, and in whose honor the new parish was named.  


The dedication of the new St. James Church marked a red-letter day in the history of the young parish; for besides the bishop of the diocese and thirty three priests. His Grace Archbishop Messner, of Milwaukee, was present in the sanctuary for the dedicatory services, and in the afternoon confirmed a large class of children and adult converts and preached an eloquent sermon.  


At this writing St. James' congregation has one of the most beautiful, substantial and complete church edifices in the country. The edifice itself is one of the most beautiful and artistic in the state, both exteriorly and interiorly. It is of pure Romanesque style in architecture, of solid stone and brick, and modern in every particular. The furniture is substantial, modern, and in full keeping with the general architectural design of the church; the stained glass windows are real works of art and present a complete life of Christ and the work of redemption; and the new pipe organ is one of the very best in the state.  


Rev. Joseph James Brennan, the founder of St. James Parish, has labored faithfully the past eight years to accomplish the work which he undertook to do in July, 1905. That he has succeeded in doing this, even far beyond his fondest hopes at that time, he himself cheerfully confesses. Though he has labored hard during the twelve years of his priestly ministry, always faithful in the discharge of his duties, Father Brennan is still in the prime of life, and appears many years younger that he really is. He is now forty-one years of age, but he might well pass for a young man of thirty-five; given proper encouragement, average health, and barring unforeseen accidents. Father Brennan will be heard from for many years to come in his labors in the vineyard of the Lord. 



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