Sister Nancy Brennan, CSJ

Sister Nancy Brennan, CSJ

(Sr. Ann Richard)

May 13, 1939 – March 5, 2023

We remember her

in the blowing of the wind

and the chill of winter


I have trusted You, Holy One, and waited for You. You put a song in my heart and work in my hands. I praise You.

Psalm 40: 1, 4.

Nancy selected this verse from scripture for her service today. How perfect! “You put a song in my heart and work in my hands.”

The song in Nancy’s heart was a love song, planted first by her loving family. Nancy was the daughter of John and Mary Brennan, and the sister of John, Richard, Robert, James and Janice. As part of the Brennan clan of South Boston, Nancy grew up with strong connections to the family, neighborhood, and “the Gate” – Gate of Heaven parish.

If anyone ever “flew below the radar”, it was Nancy Brennan! The original founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph exhorted them to be a “hidden design,” so Nancy was merely following that guideline. What she was able to accomplish “below the radar” was remarkable. Nancy truly lived our mission of love of the dear neighbor.

Described as lighthearted, resourceful and never ruffled, Nancy did not back down from a challenge. Her ministry history is replete with examples of how she touched the lives of others. Nancy’s ministry began with food service, first at St. John’s, Quincy and then at Marian, Framingham. While she was at Marian, Nancy requested permission to take courses at Framingham State. That led to a bachelor’s degree in history and later a master’s in the same subject.

With a bachelor’s degree in hand, Nancy began her teaching career at Pope John XIII High School in Everett. Here she quickly earned a reputation as a tough teacher. One student remarked that Sister Nancy never gave out a grade of one hundred. The highest grade issued was ninety-nine because “a comma was missed” or similar comment. Just as Nancy had done herself, the students learned the subject and, thus, were well prepared for the next step in their education.

During her time at Pope John, Nancy became the Dean of Students, a position for which she was uniquely suited. Growing up in Southie had prepared her to read people in an uncanny manner. She saw in her students, potential that they realized only later in life. Among the items on the memory table, you may have noticed a testimonial from a student, who credited “this Irish nun from Southie” with giving him both a challenge to which he rose and the encouragement to achieve his goals.

Growing up in Southie, Nancy developed multiple athletic skills, which qualified her to coach sports. Nancy accumulated an impressive list of coaching experiences at Pope John with twenty-five years in cross-country, twenty years in softball, five years in girls’ track and four years in girls’ basketball to her credit. In 1998, Nancy was inducted into the Pope John Hall of Fame.

Nancy was a force to be reckoned with, calling forth excellence, whether in the classroom or in the sports arena.
When Nancy transitioned to Cathedral High School, she became a utility player, serving as a substitute teacher, a library assistant and any other task that she believed she could accomplish. At one time, the head cook of the cafeteria was absent. Nancy stepped in, organized the kitchen, and never missed a beat in the food service to students and staff.

Each day, on her way home, Nancy stopped at a beach – Revere or Castle Island – and took a walk to clear her head and to keep her perspective. Her even disposition was obvious in treating everyone with respect, avoiding gossip, and never having a bad word to say about others. We can readily understand how Nancy was loved by so many.

In recent weeks, Nancy often remarked to her sister, Janice, “I’ve had a good life.” Indeed, that was true. Nancy‘s life was a life lived well, a life lived for others.

Nancy, we thank our God for the years of your presence among us. We pray that you now enjoy the reward for the work of your hands with the song resonating loudly in your heart!

Given by Sister Judith Costello
March 9, 2023