Father Joseph Breen dies after extended illness at age 87

Father Joseph Breen died on May 21, 2022, at the age of 87 after an extended illness.
Father Joseph Breen died on May 21, 2022, at the age of 87 after an extended illness.(Diocese of Nashville)
Published: May. 22, 2022 at 12:17 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Father Joseph Breen, one of the most well-known priests in the Nashville diocese, passed away Saturday after an extended illness. He was 87.

Breen celebrated the ordination of his 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on Dec. 20, 2021.

“Late this afternoon, Fr. Joe Pat Breen passed away at age 87 after an extended illness. Let us pray for the repose of Fr. Breen’s soul and the comfort and consolation of his family,” the Diocese of Nashville said in a statement. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

He was a native of Nashville and grew up in Christ the King Church and graduated from the parish school and Father Ryan High School in 1954 before leaving for the seminary in Iowa. He completed his seminary studies at the North American College in Rome and was ordained on Dec. 20, 1961, at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

After returning to the States, Breen served at churches and taught in the Memphis and Chattanooga areas. From 1974-85, he was pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro. That assignment was followed by 30 years as the pastor of St. Edward Church in Nashville until his retirement in 2014.

According to an article in Tennessee Register, Breen was instrumental in the founding of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Nolensville Road in Nashville, the diocese’s first parish for Spanish-speaking Catholics.

Breen has also been an ardent supporter of Catholic education.

St. Edward has established the Father Breen Scholarship Program and was the first donor to the program.

He has also been trying to help the diocese’s new school, St. Michael Academy in Nolensville, which will be built on property that will also be the site of the new parish, Mother Teresa Church. Groundbreaking for the school will be held May 31 and is expected to open in Fall 2024.

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