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The Rev. Joseph O'Brien, 1929-2012: Catholic priest served area parishes for 4 decades


The Rev. Joseph L. O'Brien


The Rev. Joseph O'Brien, a retired Roman Catholic priest who served as pastor at parishes in the Toledo area for nearly four decades, died Saturday at Sacred Heart Home, Oregon. He was 82.

He had been ill for several months and the possible cause of death was renal failure, his younger brother, Richard O'Brien, said.

Father O'Brien retired in 1995 from St. Patrick Church near Grand Rapids, Ohio, after serving the Providence Township parish for 13 years. In retirement he moved to Port Clinton where he lived at Immaculate Conception Church, celebrating Mass there and serving as a visiting priest to area churches, including parishes in Oak Harbor, Marblehead, and Kelleys Island.

Mr. O'Brien said his brother traveled to the Lake Erie islands for weekend masses when the parish pastors vacationed or needed help. "He liked that a lot," he said.

Before becoming a patient at Sacred Heart Home, Father O'Brien lived several years in Kingston in Sylvania Township.

Msgr. William Kubacki, vicar of priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, said that Father O'Brien celebrated Mass at the home for the sisters and patients.

"I really think that was the highlight of his day," he said.

He grew up in Old Orchard and attended Gesu Grade School. He graduated in 1947 from Central Catholic High School.

His brother said he began thinking about the vocations in high school.

After graduation he entered St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and received his bachelor's degree in philosophy at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont.

He continued theological studies at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Norwood, Ohio, and was ordained in 1955. He celebrated his first Mass at his home parish, Gesu Church.

He was assistant pastor at St. Joseph Church, Maumee, from 1955 to 1962 and St. Francis de Sales Church, downtown Toledo, from 1962 to 1966. He was pastor of St. Thomas More university parish, Bowling Green, from 1968 to 1972; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Bono, from 1970 to 1972; Immaculate Conception Church, Broadway and Western Avenue, from 1972 to 1979, and St. Charles Borromeo Church, from 1972 to 1981.

The Rev. Michael Ricker, who attended the seminary in Indiana with Father O'Brien and shares the same year of ordination, said he had a great sense of humor and was proud of his Irish heritage.

He said Father O'Brien had served on the diocesan tribunal, which deals with marriage annulment, and was elected to the National Federation of Priests' Councils, representing the Toledo diocese. "He was very generous with his time and gifted enough to do those things," Father Ricker said.

From 1966 to 1968, Father O'Brien was director of the diocese curcillo movement, a program for lay Catholics to gather for weekend retreats to talk about their faith. He also was chaplain of the Corda Club from 1981 to 1982, a social group for single and widowed Catholics.

Mr. O'Brien said his brother was assigned to parishes that needed his skills and expertise in raising funds for repairs and addressing other issues.

He said that while at Immaculate Conception Church in Toledo, Father O'Brien revived the parish school, and accepted no salary, only enough funds to pay for food and gas to put in his car.

"That was probably his crowning achievement ...," he said.

Surviving is his brother, Richard O'Brien.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today in Resurrection Chapel at Sacred Heart Home, 930 S. Wynn Rd., Oregon. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday in Gesu Catholic Church, where Father O'Brien will lie in state beginning at 10 a.m. Hoeflinger-Bolander Funeral Home, Oregon, handled arrangements.

Tributes are suggested to Sacred Heart Home, Little Sisters of the Poor.

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