Father Philip Breen, former pastor of St. Ann Church Catholic Church in Nashville and a priest of 50 years, died Monday, according to the Catholic Charities of Tennessee. He was 77.
The organization posted on Facebook about the passing of Breen, saying he had been a long-time supporter of the organization and a servant to people in need.
Breen served on the organization's Board of Trustees and was honored with the organization's Spirit of Service Award at its Celebration of Mission to Service.
"Our prayers are with his family, friends, and those he pastored," the post read. "May he rest in peace."
A notice was also sent out to parishioners from the Diocese of Nashville with news of Breen's passing, asking for prayers for his family.
Breen led St. Ann Catholic Church from 1990 to 2015. He also served three years there as associate pastor in the 1970s.Breen was the youngest of nine children, including his brother Father Joseph "Joe Pat" Breen, formerly at St. Edward. Breen was a 1957 graduate of Father Ryan High School. A post in memory of Breen was written on the school's website late Monday.
"As a student at Father Ryan and as a priest of our Diocese for more than 50 years, Fr. Breen championed the less fortunate, supported those in need and celebrated the beauty to be found in Christ's message of love," the post said. "A tireless pastor and Catholic educator, he reveled in the successes of the students in his parish. He was proud to be at Father Ryan as our school and this nation integrated, and he remained in the forefront of the fight for equal rights throughout his life. But what we will always remember is that he did all of this for all of us with unmatched humility and constant grace. May God bless him and all the Breen family."
Breen completed St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore and was ordained at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville in 1965. He plunged into life as a pastor and parochial school teacher in Memphis and served in parishes around Tennessee before his final placement at St. Ann in 1990.
Bobby Campbell, a friend of Breen's and a parishioner at St. Ann, told The Tennessean Monday night that he has known the priest since 1970 and that Breen is one of the reasons he has remained Catholic.
"He was a doer," Campbell said. "We lost a son 10 years ago, and he had a funeral for our son and has helped with all of our children. He was like a brother. He was a great friend to anybody and everybody. I converted to Catholicism in 1963, and he's kept me on board ever since."
Metro Nashville General Sessions Court Judge Melissa Blackburn also posted on Facebook about the priest's passing.
"Gary and I join the entire community in noting the passing of Father Philip Breen," she wrote. "His passing is a tremendous loss for Nashville. Father Breen's spirit of compassion and selflessness will be an example and inspiration for years to come."