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Against All Odds

Brother Declan Brown was born on April 29, 1981, and he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ on May 21, 1995. He died on June 26, 1995.

Look at the dates again. It is a special story.

Declan was born and raised on a farm in Kansas and, at a very young age felt a strong attraction to the priesthood.

He was good in school, good in sports, a happy kid, and spiritually very sensitive. So when he had the opportunity to visit the Legion's high school for boys who are interested in the priesthood, he immediately felt right at home.

The school has a seventh and eighth grade, so Declan really wanted to join without having to wait until ninth, but circumstances beyond his control made that impossible. He didn't lose his good sense of humor, and quietly he began gathering the things he would need when the day finally came that he could enter the school.

God had other plans?

Declan began to suffer pains and was diagnosed with cancer. He was operated on, but the cancer spread. He always hoped he would get better and become a priest someday, but in time he realized that would not be.

Early in 1995 he got his mother to phone the Legionaries with a simple request: he wanted to die as a Legionary seminarian and to be buried dressed as one.

But you have to be at least seventeen to become a novice. The Legionaries told his mother. Shortly afterward they received news back from the Legion that the Holy See had granted a special permission to Declan to enter the novitiate, even though he was only fourteen.

He had been bedridden for months by then, but, in a private ceremony in his home, with his parents and brothers present around his bed, he took the promises that made him a novice. The strength of his voice as he made the promises surprised everyone.

Five weeks later, while seated at his side, Declan's father noticed that his son's breathing suddenly became irregular and labored. Declan's mother ran out and told the family, "Declan is dying. Come."

The whole family knelt around Declan's bed and began to pray the rosary. At the beginning, Declan continued to breath fairly often, but by the end of the rosary he had already died. He passed from this life quietly and quickly, surrounded by his family in prayer. For them, this final farewell could not have been better. Declan was buried shortly after, clothed in the uniform of a Legionary novice.

Declan's enthusiasm and patient suffering continues to be a great example to all. His determination to follow his calling at such a young age will forever be an inspiration to all Legionaries and to anyone who feels God's call in their own lives.

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