Father Brian Coogan – 70th Anniversary of his Ordination

Congratulations to Father who celebrates the 70th anniversary of his Ordination to the Holy Priesthood on 6th July, 2007. Very few priests achieve this milestone; and, on top of this, at the grand age of 93, he is still active as a priest, assisting at Sacred Heart Church in Shanklin. Fr. Brian was born in St. Helen’s, Lancashire. At the age of 10 he won a place at St. Bede’s Grammar School where many of the teachers were priests. He enjoyed his schooldays. The school had a Scout troop and the boys were taken camping all over Yorkshire. There were lots of sports including swimming -still enjoyed today – football and cricket and his father taught him how to skate on the frozen ponds and lakes of Yorkshire. He was an altar server both at the parish church and St. Bede’s school chapel.

In 1940 during the early days of the Second World War, aged 15, he made the decision to join the Junior Seminary of the Mill Hill Missionaries at Freshfield, in Formby, Lancashire. Here he gained his Higher School Certificate in French, Latin and English. He also enjoyed tennis, cricket and football but was only too aware of the German Luftwaffe’s bombing raids on nearby Liverpool.

As part of his clerical formation he learnt Philosophy for two years at Mill Hill House in Durham and then spent a further two years studying Theology in Scotland. In 1945 he became one of the 150 students at St Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, in London. Here he led a monastic existence studying further Theology and in July 1947, following the completion of his studies he was ordained a missionary priest at the early age of 23 by special dispensation from his Holiness Pope Pius XII.

In the same year, Father Brian then went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge to study Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Latin). He also learnt how to row on the River Cam. He graduated with BA honours, which was then translated to MA (Cantab). In 1951, he took a postgraduate teaching certificate, at London University. He was then sent to undertake missionary duties in North Borneo leaving from Southampton on a P & O Liner. He had a wonderful trip to Singapore, lasting three weeks, visiting en route Algeria, Suez Canal, Aden, Bombay, Colombia in Ceylon, and Penang in West Malaya. He then spent a week with the Redemptorist Fathers learning Chinese in Singapore after which he took another boat to North Borneo and arrived at Jesselton, now known as Kota Kinabalu, on Christmas Eve.

He joined the Mill Hill Mission in Borneo and his first job was to hear Christmas Confessions. Jesselton had been completely destroyed by the Japanese occupation in the Second World War but the Missionaries had founded a school where Father Brian taught.

In 1960, after eight years, Father Brian was given home leave by the MHM Superior General and didn’t return to Borneo. He was sent to St. Peter’s College, Freshfield to teach French and Latin. The priests there were encouraged to study the findings of the Second Vatican Council and assist with the introduction of the English vernacular Mass in 1965/6. Father Brian then moved to Portsmouth Diocese in 1972 where he initially spent 14 years in the Group Ministry at St. Joseph’s Basingstoke combining study with parish work.

In 1982 he was able to celebrate his parents’ Diamond Jubilee Wedding Mass. Four years later he moved to St. David’s, East Cowes. In 1997 he celebrated his Golden Jubilee of his Ordination with Masses in both East Cowes and in North Borneo, now known as Sabah, with his many old boys, family, friends and parishioners. He went on to visit, not only Sabah, but also China and the Philippines. In 2011 after completing 25 years as Parish Priest of St. David’s, East Cowes, the parish duly celebrated with a luncheon in his honour. At the time Father was one of the oldest priests in the country still running a parish.

Even now in retirement in South Wight, he is still active in his priestly ministry. A Mass of celebration for Fr. Brian’s priestly ministry was offered at Ventnor on 8th July, 2017. We give thanks to Almighty God for Father’s long ministry and we wish him good health.