A philosopher at heart – Fr Brendan Purcell
Fr Brendan Purcell is an Assistant Priest at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Fr Brendan has held the position since September 2010, and before that he was teaching philosophy at the University College in Dublin, Ireland.
This 75-year-old priest with the lilting Irish accent says his greatest satisfaction comes from hearing confessions.
“I love hearing confessions and during the 2016 Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, we were busier than usual. This is always very satisfying as a priest.”
Fr Brendan says that the Cathedral is an unusual venue in that many people come to confession rather than visit their own church. Cathedrals, he says, are always like that as they are a bit more anonymous.
“We also get people here who have been away from the church for a long time. Once I had someone who had been away for 50 years. We make them very welcome, and that is very satisfying.
“As a Cathedral you get people from all over who like to drop by and there are also many tourists passing through.”
Fr Brendan’s other great love is philosophy. He fills in as an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame and also counsels masters students. He has written several philosophy books and has another one on the way.
“With my background, I went for a philosophy lectureship at the local University College Dublin. I told the Archbishop that I didn’t become a priest to teach philosophy and he replied ‘You might find it is God’s will for you’ and as it was I taught there for 35 years!”
Fr Brendan says he loves meeting people who just arrive at the Cathedral door with their many questions.
“They are not always Christians and they are not always Catholics, they just come to the Cathedral – it’s like a lightning rod for people. They come here to see a priest and they like that we are available.”
While saying Mass and hearing Confession is satisfying for a priest, he says meeting people is a very special part of his role.