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Family, friends celebrate the life of Father Joseph Breen

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Posted at 3:44 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 21:06:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Family, friends and people from across the city came together to celebrate the life of one of Nashville's best-known Catholic priests.

A visitation and funeral mass were held Friday afternoon at Christ the King Catholic Church to honor Father Joseph Patrick Breen.

Father Breen died last weekend at the age of 87, after an extended illness.

Reverend J. Mark Spalding, Bishop of Nashville, presided over the service, which included hymns, prayer and stories about Father Breen's life.

"Joe Pat loved everyone, and was so authentic," said Mary Helen Breen, Father Breen's niece. "I've heard so many stories about how he has touched so many people's lives."

"Everything you hear about Father Breen is about his love for people and how much they loved him," said Hannah Breen, Father Breen's niece. "He wanted the world to feel the love he felt."

Father Breen was also known for his sense of humor, and his progressive views on same-sex marriage, immigration and women becoming priests. Father Breen's criticism of church policy earned him three formal reprimands from church leaders, but family members said that was just who he was.

"He didn't mind getting reprimanded," said Bill Breen, Father Breen's nephew. "He wanted the Catholic Church to be better."

Father Breen also helped establish the area's first Spanish-speaking Catholic parish.

"People knew he cared," said Lety Perez, a parishioner. "That was the thing I heard the most. They were drawn to him and his goodness, and he is accepting of everybody, everybody."

Donations in Father Breen's memory can be made to the Ladies of Charity, 2216 State Street, Nashville, TN 37203.

There are also two scholarship funds set up in his name: The Father Breen Scholarship Fund at St. Edwards School, 188 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37211, and The Father Joe Pat and Philip Breen Scholarship Fund at Father Ryan High School, 700 Norwood Drive, Nashville, TN 37204.