Msgr. Bartholomew J. O’Brien, 76, pastor emeritus of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Philadelphia, died Sept. 14.
Born in Norristown, he was the son of the late James and Helen (Kauflie) O’Brien in a strong Catholic family of seven children that produced three religious vocations. He attended St. Stanislaus School in Lansdale and Lansdale Catholic High School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
He was ordained May 22, 1965 by Archbishop John J. Krol at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
He served as parochial vicar at St. Andrew Parish, Newtown; St. Agnes Parish, West Chester; St. Frances Cabrini Parish, Fairless Hills; St. Matthew Parish, Philadelphia and St. Philomena Parish, Lansdowne. He also served as chaplain of Cardinal Dougherty High School and Regional Vicar for Philadelphia-South.
A former pastor of St. Columba Parish in Philadelphia and Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Plymouth Meeting, he was appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in 1995 and was named pastor emeritus in 2006.
Father John Hutter, who served his pre-deacon year with Msgr. O’Brien at Epiphany of Our Lord, remembers him as a very humble, soft-spoken man, very much like St. Francis of Assisi. He drove around in an old heap of a car until a group of parishioners chipped in and bought him a new one.
He loved his assignments as pastor, especially his first, St. Columba (now St. Martin de Porres). On the other hand, being vicar in South Philadelphia was extremely difficult for him, according to Father Hutter. Because of parish and school closings, some people could be very hurtful and he took it to heart.
He loved to decorate the church with flowers but would suffer for it because of severe allergies.
A brilliant man, he loved music and was an accomplished musician on both the organ and guitar. He would treat the parishioners by playing contemplative preludes before the weekday Masses, Father Hutter said.
When Father Frank Giuffre was ordained, his first assignment was to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish where Msgr. O’Brien was a huge mentor to him.
“He was never haughty, very good to people,” Father Giuffre said. “He had a great sense of humor and as a young priest you make mistakes and he had a way to lighten you up, to not get the wrong kind of seriousness. He would teach you in a very loving and lighthearted way.”
Msgr. O’Brien had a really good pastoral sense and was always welcoming and kind, Father Giuffre recalls.
“He lived a very, very simple life and he gave so much away to priests and anyone around, with the sense he didn’t need much,” he said. “He had a spirituality that was very uncomplicated.”
Msgr. O’Brien’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at St. Stanislaus Church, Lansdale, on Sept. 19. Concelebrants included Msgr. Joseph Gentili, Father Anthony Cossavella, Father David Fernandes, Father Hutter and Father Giuffre, who was the homilist.
Msgr. O’Brien is survived by his brothers, Jack and Gerard (Eileen), and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brothers, Father James O’Brien and Robert O’Brien and his sisters, Joan Meyer and Sister James Ellen, O.S.F.
Interment was at St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Lansdale.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103