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November 25, 2007

He brought World Series Win for Sox!

By Dolores Madlener



Father Daniel J. Brandt, pastor Nativity of Our Lord Church. Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Daniel J. Brandt, pastor, Nativity of Our Lord Church in Bridgeport. Born 1970; ordained in 1999. Has two older brothers and two older sisters.

Priesthood on his mind from Grade 3: “That’s something I always thought about. I played Mass as a kid. There were my older brothers serving Mass for me! Wasn’t that funny?”

Served Mass at Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Niles: “I never went to Quigley. It was Maine South High School, Park Ridge. I didn’t forget about being a priest, but figured I could do it down the road.”

Car-a-holic: “When I was 10 or 12 I used to love checking the oil on my folks’ older car. I’d sleep over at my grandparents’ so I could wash theirs. My first car was a 1980 Plymouth Tourismo. Later I drove a diesel station wagon for years held together with duct tape. Now I drive an unmarked police car, helping [the CPD’s Catholic chaplain] Father Tom Nangle on Thursday nights.

Worked while at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb: “My folks had a deal with all five of us kids — if we got lower than As and Bs they wouldn’t pay our tuition.” So he kept his grades up. “I got my degree in business and worked full time as office manager of a CPA and law firm in Lombard.”

Road to priesthood: “I saw very happy, holy, effective priests at our parish — Father Tom Bishop, and Father Ed Pollack, for instance. Through their example I just got turned on to it.”

Sports as connection: “I kept in touch with Father Tom. He taught me to play racquetball. I was 20 — he was 40-something, yet he could out-run and out-shoot me. He was a big influence on my vocation.”

Taking the leap: “Father Dick Miller’s program ‘InSearch’ brought me to priesthood. It’s on Tuesday nights for an hour or so at the cathedral for about 10 months.” It was a chance for discernment. “It’s a lot of guys in the 9-to-5 world thinking priesthood. It’s perfect for exploring if you don’t want to make a big commitment right away. There’s also a program at Mundelein — a year of discernment and formation called ‘Pre- Theology.’ I did that next, which made the leap easier.”

An average day for this pastor: “People tease me, ‘Oh you only work on Sundays.’ I never worked as hard and put in as many hours at the CPA firm during tax season as I put in now. Sunday is the easiest day because school’s not in session, there are no meetings, usually no appointments, no wedding rehearsals.

Preparing the homily: “I do it Sunday nights. (I get on my treadmill almost every day, usually in the evening. That’s when I read my newspaper and breviary.) I look at the next Sunday’s readings. It never fails, something happens during the week I wouldn’t be cognizant of if I hadn’t seen the readings. There’s my homily! Or it’s something I’ll include.”

How he fosters vocations: “We have a parish school with a waiting list, and a big religious ed program.” He often eats lunch with the kids. “I’d love to be in the classroom every day, but I try at least to walk through the halls. On Tuesday nights, I walk in and say hello to the religious ed kids.”

Most moving experience in his priesthood: “In October 2001, Father Paul Kalchik and I went to Ground Zero in Manhattan. Priests and rescue workers came from all over. We worked at the site and the morgue on 30th Street for a week, basically performing a ministry of presence.” They ministered to recovery workers and were on hand to bless bodies or body parts when families came to claim them. “If it was a member of the fire or police, everything stopped in respect for their brother or sister and we’d have a prayer service right there.” He made life-long friends. “I’ve seen so much good come out of such an evil thing.”

Favorite scripture verse: “Luke 15. Three stories of God’s mercy: lost coin, lost sheep, lost son. I usually assign reading that chapter to people who have been away from confession a long time. I have cheapy Bibles handy to give them.”

Nativity is a unique parish assignment: “The mayor comes back here for wakes and special occasions. A friend of mine from Brussels, a national policeman, came in town the other day. His dream has been to meet Mayor Daley. I made the appointment a month in advance and we spent a half-hour with him.”

Legend in his own time: “I converted to becoming a Sox fan when I came here.” He has some parishioners brainwashed into believing he has mojo: “I tell them, ‘When I came here in 2005 I brought a World Series win for the Sox! Did any of your other pastors ever do that?’”