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William MacBeath Brown (1940-1984)

BROWN, William MacBeath, priest, was born on 14 June 1940 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of William MacBeath Brown and Margaret Emma Bell. He died in Montreal, Quebec, on 12 October 1984, and is buried in the Basilian plot of Holy Cross Cemetery, Thornhill, Ontario.

‘Mac’ Brown attended Kerrisdale Grade School and Lord Byng Junior and Senior High School, Vancouver. In 1958 he enrolled at the University of British Columbia (B.A., 1962), and entered St Basil’s Novitiate, Erindale, Ontario, making first profession on 15 September 1963. During the academic year 1963–4 he studied philosophy while living at St Basil’s Seminary, Toronto. In 1964 he taught at St Joseph’s High School, Ottawa, while concurrently taking courses at the Ontario College of Education (high school teacher certification, 1965). In 1966 he studied theology at St Basil’s Seminary, Toronto, but was then appointed to the Maison Saint-Basile, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, where he continued theological studies. After completing his second year of theology at the Séminaire Saint-Sulpice, he transferred to the Institut catholique de Paris, where he studied for the next three years, receiving a licence en théologie in 1970. He received the diaconate on 18 June 1969 in the cathedral at Versailles (Yvelines), and was ordained to the priesthood on 18 July 1970 in Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver, by Archbishop James Carney.

In 1970, while continuing his doctoral studies in Paris, Father Brown took up residence at the parish of Saint-Séverin in the heart of the Latin Quarter, where he functioned as an assistant and youth minister. He earned diplomas in Greek and Hebrew in 1971. From 1971 to 1973 he was an élève titulaire in the Ecole pratique des hautes études in the Université de Paris, and from 1973 to 1975 he was both lecturer and director of weekly conference-seminars, ‘The Origins of Institutions in the Early Church,’ in the Religious Studies section of that institution. He continued to give periodic lectures there from 1975 to 1978.

In 1976 he joined the Secretariat for Non-Believers in Paris and took up residence at the parish of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. He remained with the secretariat for four years, during which time he also served as chaplain and tour guide on pilgrimages to Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece for the Service international des pèlerinages, Paris. In 1980 he returned to Canada to work at the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal as associate director, and from 1982 to 1984 he acted as co-ordinator for the Montreal Chapter of the World Conference of Religious for Peace, in addition to serving as liaison for the Centre to numerous peace and justice groups and activities. His premature death from a blood condition cut short a vibrant and promising work in the Church.

Mac Brown had a gift for friendship and hospitality. Passionately attached to the cause of ecumenism, he dreamed of a united Christendom by the year 2000. He spoke frequently and worked tirelessly for the cause of peace. He wrote in the journal Ecumenism, ‘Every moment we turn our attention to the depths of our being, to our good energies in communion with those of the whole cosmos, every time we stop, everything, for three minutes or thirty minutes each day, every time we overcome feelings of violence, aggression within us, we will become a little more peace-full, and thereby more efficient and fruitful peacemakers.’

From the Dictionary of Basilian Biography, 2nd ed. (2005)