Br Gerard O'Brien was born in 1940 and made his First Vows in 1987. He is a lay brother. Over the years he has lived in various fraternities assisted in various ministries associated with the fraternity. He has also gone to Indonesia twice for several months to help the young Indonesian friars in initial formation to learn some English. He is currently living in the fraternity at Wynnum, Brisbane and assists with the pastoral care of the residents of Nazareth House. The interview below took place in the mid-2000's.
During my 40 years, living in the Hunter Valley (NSW), I was almost half-way between the Redemptorists and the Marist Brothers. I had High school at Maitland and various Retreats, etc. at Mayfield. So, it was a very pleasant occurrence to meet Fr Ferdy Farer OFM at a St Vincent de Paul Meeting around 1965. He was most impressive. I guess, in a way, he was after funds for his Brisbane apostolate. My next Franciscan encounter was in the Holy Land in '76.
An American Conventual, Fr Godfrey, showed our Australian Pilgrimage around so well. I did not see any Australian friar till '84.
Since school, I had been 10 years or so in a Textile Factory Chemical Lab. and in State High School Teaching Music and assorted subjects, both full-time and part time. But, in '84, something very unusual happened.
Easter Vigil evening.
I normally would have been at the Vigil, but I was tired after lawn-mowing and sat in front of the TV news. It showed the Via Crucis in Jerusalem and , of course, Franciscan friars in the procession. My immediate reaction was to think that I really should find out more about them. Eventually, on May 25th, after Seeing 2 advertisements in the "Catholic Weekly" I wrote off for information. Within the week, I had a reply with suitable enquirer material.
I boldly saw myself as a Capuchin - or rather, in training within the year. Strangely, I was with the Irish Capuchins in Auckland within 9 months and had a wonderful Postulancy - to me - not that I had a real idea of what Postulancy really is. Then, to Wynnum in '86 and to Plumpton in '87 where I still am, by the grace of God, no doubt. Five years in Western Australia (Balcatta, Perth) was a great training ground for community and parish living.
Mine is just one instance. Surely, it could have been the administrative life – or some form of hermitage – or some other apostolate that kept me occupied. It really is one thing that is important – the charism and unique appeal of the man Francis. Surely, his spiritually, in its simple but all-embracing wonder, is what either 'got-me-in' or kept me in and continues to do the same to others.