Alberto Fogolin, Chairperson of the St Francis Care Centre in Boksburg, South Africa, spoke at the funeral of Fr Stan Brennan, OFM, on 12 July.
On behalf of all who worked with Father Stan Brennan and on behalf of his brother Andrew, I would like to thank you for showing your respect and sympathy by joining us here today, to celebrate the life of an astonishing man. A man who was a friend, mentor, and beacon of hope for thousands; a man who made a huge impact on everyone he met.
For the last 30 years I have had the honour and privilege to be associated with what I consider to be one of the great men of our times. Father Stan Brennan is, without any shadow of a doubt, the most impressive human being I have met and who through his life – for me – gave true meaning to the phrase, ‘Man of God.’ It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we mourn Father Stan’s passing, but it is also tinged with joy at having had the opportunity to share part of his life with him.
When it came to identifying the needs of the downtrodden and the projects that would change their lives, Father Stan was without equal. He seemed instinctively to know what was required and how to achieve it. He was also untouchable when it came to manipulating and cajoling people into financing his causes. If raising money had been an Olympic event, Father Stan would definitely have finished on the podium. Almost to a fault, and more often than his staff and friends care to remember, Father Stan could not refuse anyone, anything. The number of times he arrived with waifs and strays in tow or offered non-existent accommodation to people in distress, was probably only exceeded by the number of times he forgave those who wronged him.
If ever someone walked his talk and lived true to the word of God as we know it, Father Stan did. He made it easy for anyone who knew him, to be a Christian, because he so obviously believed in God and conducted his life accordingly. A large, but gentle man, Father Stan impressed all he met with his easy going nature. But his friends knew it belied an iron will and a steely determination, which took many an adversary by surprise. On hearing of his passing, one of his regular opponents from the local Boksburg council said with affectionate admiration, ‘Sadly, the wily old fox has gone…’
Father Stan hadn’t been well for a while, but he never complained and almost seemed to resent it when help or care was forced on him. One of the great mysteries of his life was that so many people loved him and wanted to help him. ’Why is it that they love me so much?’ he asked from his sick bed, on more than one occasion. ‘All I did was what I had to do.’ Perhaps, like Father Stan, if more people did what they had to do, the world would be an infinitely better place.
A list of Father’s accomplishments would take a long time to fully describe. But for the record, his major achievements included founding St Anthony’s Adult Education Centre in Reiger Park, through which thousands of graduates have passed to become proud members of every profession. He founded the House of Mercy a multi-racial drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre; he created Mercy Haven for abused women and children and the St Francis’ Centre for people suffering from HIV/Aids. As I speak there are 43 Aids orphans being cared for at the Centre.
But perhaps a better way of illustrating his achievements is to mention the astonishing fact that Father Stan received over 50 awards from various governments and International agencies that recognised his outstanding contribution to humanitarian causes in this country. As recently as two weeks ago the Ambassador of Japan, YUTAKA YOSHIZAWA presented Father Stan with an award conferred on him by his majesty the Emperor of Japan, for his outstanding contribution to promoting co-operation with Japan in activities to help those affected with HIV/Aids in South Africa.
I would like to quote from the ambassador’s letter of condolence:‘While the passing of Father Brennan is mourned with immeasurable grief; his life, love for his fellow man, selfless achievements and the legacy left by him are to be celebrated. In particular, the founding of the St Francis Care Centre to help those affected by HIV/Aids is one of his most remarkable accomplishments. He touched countless lives – the parents, care-givers, volunteers and everyone who came into contact with him – were blessed to have known him. We mourn the passing of a great man.’
I have lost a friend and mentor, we have all lost an amazing man; the only consolation we can take from his passing is that he is now after a long and fruitful life with his Maker, may his soul rest in peace.