Funeral homily: Fr. Dick Bresnahan — wise counselor, extraordinary parish priest

Father Richard Bresnahan

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catholic Post publishes excerpts, when available, from the homilies given at funeral Masses for priests of the Diocese of Peoria. Following is the homily from the July 8 funeral Mass at Christ the King Church in Moline for Father Richard Bresnahan. (See obituary here.) The homilist was Msgr. Doug Hennessy, and the Scripture readings included Isaiah 43:1-4; Ephesians 4:1-3; and John 11:17-27

Condolences to Mary, Rita, Jerry, nieces and nephews and his many friends and parishioners.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. . . . you are precious in my eyes and glorious and . . . I love you.”  (Isaiah 43:1b,4a)

I believe Father Dick Bresnahan absorbed that truth early in his life and spent the rest of his life living out of this truth and helping us all appreciate the truth of these words more and more deeply.  We mourn this morning the death of a good friend, a wise counselor, a great priest.

I first met Dick when I returned to Peoria in 1968. In that tumultuous time, it quickly became clear to me that Dick was someone from whom I could learn a great deal and be supported with his steady grace and faith. It was there that we became good friends and I observed firsthand what an extraordinary parish priest Dick was. He cared for people with sensitivity and warmth, with a gentle sense of humor and with deep concern.

He worked with Msgr. Middleton and the Sisters in an uncommon collaborative spirit. These same gifts he brought to every parish where he served from Woodhull to Christ the King and Coal Valley. Thus, he helped many of us to realize gifts we hardly knew we possessed.


Dick was always looking for ways in which he could help people know and love Christ and include and help the vulnerable among us more and more generously. He was an innovator. I believe Dick was the priest who brought Christ Renews His Parish to the diocese, a program which injected new life and energy into the parishes which implemented it.

He cared for people with sensitivity and warmth, with a gentle sense of humor and with deep concern.

Later he was the priest who introduced JustFaith to the diocese, another program whose effects still impact the diocese. This program reflected his strong commitment to help the church both know and live its rich tradition of social justice teachings. He was always looking for ways to work together, reaching beyond parish and denominational lines “to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

All this flowed from his unassuming but very deep spirituality and faith in the Lord Jesus. He continually sought to grow deeper in faith, hope and love and encouraged others to grow with him.  And he was always eager to learn from others. More than I know went to him for spiritual direction or accompaniment. I do know he rehabilitated spiritual direction for me, after my seminary experience had trivialized it.


As Dick’s strength and energy diminished over these past few years, he remained a presence of humility and gentleness and patience. Like Barnabas in Acts, Dick remained always a son of encouragement. He continued to draw strength from the Lord in the gift of the Eucharist.  The words of Jesus were deep in his heart. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live.”

None of us would begrudge Dick his rest, his eternal rest. We are saddened by his death, but more importantly, we are grateful that we were touched by his life. We are joyful that the promise of our baptism is now fulfilled fully and finally for Father Dick Bresnahan. Paul tells us “We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.  .  .  . so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. . . . with him.”  This morning we commend Dick to the grace and mercy of God whom he served so generously and well, trusting that the Lord is true to His Word and will give him rest and peace and glory.

With grateful hearts we pray for ourselves, too, that we might continue on the road to glory, grateful that Dick was with us on part of our journeys and knowing that Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, is with us. It is the Lord whom we celebrate and share this morning. In His grace and mercy we find the strength to continue our journey home to glory and reason to celebrate Dick’s homecoming.

He cared for people with sensitivity and warmth, with a gentle sense of humor and with deep concern.


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