The former Rockaway pastor who was acclaimed for organizing relief efforts following Superstorm Sandy has died.
Msgr. John J. Brown, former pastor of St. Francis de Sales parish, Belle Harbor, died March 3 at Maimonides Hospital, Borough Park, after a brief illness. He was 60 on Feb. 22 and had been currently serving as the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated March 10 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto was the main celebrant. Special concelebrants included Msgrs. Joseph Grimaldi, Andrew Vaccari and Fathers Paul Palmiotto, William Hoppe and Dwayne Davis.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated the Vigil Mass on the evening prior to the funeral. Msgr. Otto L. Garcia preached.
Born in Brooklyn, Msgr. Brown attended St. Michael’s School, Fourth Ave., Sunset Park; Cathedral Prep, Brooklyn; Cathedral College, Douglaston; and North American College, Rome. He did post-ordination studies at the Gregorian University, Rome.
He was ordained June 25, 1983 by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero in the chapel at Cathedral College, Douglaston.
He served as an assistant at St. Thomas Aquinas, 1983; St. Joseph, Astoria, 1983-89; and St. Clare, Rosedale, 1989-91.
After further studies at The Catholic University, Washington, D.C., he was named vice chancellor for the diocese in 1992 and served as director of the Office of Clergy Personnel from 1997 to 2006.
From 2003 to 2006, he also was temporary administrator of Queen of All Saints parish, Fort Greene.
He became pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, in 2006 and was pastor there when the Rockaway Peninsula was hard hit by Superstorm Sandy. He turned the parish auditorium into an emergency response center and the main center for relief efforts in the area. He was widely recognized by the media for that work and was named a finalist for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Award.
In 2013, he was presented the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Of course, he’ll be remembered for the national recognition that he received for his work in setting up the resource center after Sandy,” said Msgr. Noone. “He wanted to serve everyone, everybody in need.
“But he’ll also be remembered by his brother priests for his years in Priests Personnel. He dealt with our diocesan priests as well as international priests, always very eager to find the right assignments for them.
“He was a man of truth and sometimes he spoke the truth to challenge, but not to hurt people. In his work, he was kind to priests but he also helped them face the truth.”
Msgr. Noone also pointed out that Msgr. Brown helped reform an “archaic compensation system for priests,” so that priests were treated in a more equitable way.
“He had an inherent sense of the dignity of each person and wanted to make sure that everyone was treated in a fair and just way,” said Msgr. Noone.
Msgr. Brown also worked on the diocesan tribunal as an attorney and counselor. He was named a monsignor in 1999.
Msgr. Brown is survived by his brother James and his family who live in England.
Burial was in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village.