Meet Reverend Andrea Brennan
By Mary Giuliano
Christ Church Anglican has a new priest, Reverend Andrea Brennan, BA (Hons), MDiv.
Rev. Brennan was born in London, Ontario and raised in Sudbury where her father was employed as a teacher. She attended Laurentian University and afterwards spent the next 20 years working with health charities organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society.
She was baptized in historical St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Dorchester, Ontario and years later was ordained in the same church. She became aware of the significance when she went into the Baptistery to photocopy her baptismal certificate.
Rev. Brennan was raised Anglican but after the family moved church attendance lapsed however she enjoyed participating in the junior choir. When her mother was told by the resident priest that in order for her to continue in the choir the family had to participate in tithing, that ended that church involvement.
When older and working in Timmins she returned to church but back in the day if you weren’t born and raised in the town you were considered a guest and in church the focus was always on her as a stranger. Through work at the Health Unit undertaking cancer prevention and education she became acquainted with First Nations and that proved a positive experience.
Her next position was administration work at the Brantford Mall and it was throughout this time she began experiencing a spiritual yearning. The feeling intensified when on entering St. Mark’s Church the greeter, Mary Derrick, reached for her hand and said, “welcome home.”
On moving to Cambridge she attended St. James Church where she explored becoming a lay reader. On speaking with the priest he responded, “Yes, I will train you as a lay reader but why don’t you consider the priesthood instead?”
Andrea’s reaction was to laugh; but the priest had noticed that she had a caring presence and was good with seniors.
Andrea spent a week of prayer with the Sisters of St. John to consider whether she truly was called to the priesthood. She was terrified of the idea, wasn’t ready to surrender to this huge change and couldn’t grasp God really had that plan for her.
On the grounds of the Convent there were grottos depicting different saints. The first afternoon she strolled to the grotto of St. Joseph and the Christ child, sat beneath the statue, closed her eyes and nearly jumped out of her skin when a loud male voice said, “Andrea you will serve me.” She looked around saw no one and ran to ask the Sister if any male guest or groundskeeper was about and was told no.
Shook up, she continued her routine and after evening prayer went for a walk passing the statue but not stopping again. What had happened seemed illogical, confusing, and frightening. The next day she went to the statue sat down and again heard the same voice saying, “Andrea you will serve me.” This time she ran to the Mother Superior for advice.
It was too implausible that she might have heard the voice of God.
The next day was spent in meditation, thinking “if God thinks I’m worthy perhaps I should pursue this.” On the last day she went again to the statue but before departing she stood and said, “I surrender, if you want me I’m yours. I don’t know what or how to do this.” At this point she heard her name called again.
On arrival home she called her priest, called home and told her dad of her experience. His response was, “It’s not a bad gig, you only work one day a week.” That was his way of saying “Amen,” Andrea said.
Adding that one day a comment was made to her dad that she was supposed to be a teacher and her father responded, “she is teaching but from a different book.”
Andrea served as Legion padre at Donnybrook Legion for several years and when her father died on his request she conducted the service. She was stoic until the flag was brought down and then up again and that brought the flow of tears. “As Christians we tell our stories, we honour them,” she says.
After years in one church she though it was time for a change, talked it over with her Bishop to see whether there was a possibility of moving within the Diocese of Huron and he recommend that she “cast your net wide.”
Checking online she discovered the Diocese of Kootenay was looking for a priest. She read the description and the letter addressed to a possible applicant describing who they were, where they were going; and there was the invitation to go on the journey with them. The words were hope filled and touched her. She thought this is where I need to go.
She quotes a saying; “A preacher is meant to preach with a Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other. Homilies need to be relevant,” she said, adding, “you need to know what is going on in the present.”
Andrea began her first Homily with an apology. “I’m new, I don’t know western culture, but I am learning and I’m going to say things you don’t like; I’m going to do things you won’t like but I need you to tell me, not everybody else but me. We’re all vulnerable, but we need to communicate with love especially when anyone is unhappy at what I do. I’m overjoyed to be here, everyone I have encountered in town has been friendly and welcoming, they want me to stay as long as I like and I plan to do so.”
Welcome to Fernie Reverend Andrea Brennan.