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Fr. Robert Brown, longtime pastor of St. John Neumann, dies

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Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Robert A. Brown, longtime pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Reston, died Dec. 27 from complications of pneumonia. He was 78 years old.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated Jan. 5 at St. John Neumann Church, 11900 Lawyers Road, Reston, at 10:30 a.m. A wake will precede the Mass beginning at 9 a.m., and interment will follow at 3:30 p.m. at the Oblate Cemetery, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, Md.

"Father Brown was a remarkable priest, known for his commitment to those who were poor and marginalized and for his gentle approach to anyone he served," said Father James J. Greenfield, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales provincial. "I think that people appreciated his big-hearted approach to everything, from building a new church to counseling someone in need."

Father Brown, son of the late and Anne R. (Cannon) and James F. Brown Sr., was born in Allentown, Pa., in 1934, the youngest of eight children. He graduated from St. Catherine of Siena Grade School and Allentown Central Catholic High School in 1952. He attended Muhlenberg College and graduated from Niagara University in 1961, receiving an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. infantry. In 1961, he entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, making his first profession of vows in 1963.

He continued his theological studies at De Sales Hall School of Theology in Hyattsville, Md., and was ordained to the priesthood by Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Gerald McDevitt Oct. 21, 1967, at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Father Brown completed graduate degrees at Catholic University in Washington and Temple University in Philadelphia in politics and social work, respectively.

Father Brown taught at Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., from 1968 to 1971, and from 1969 to 1972 he served as an inner-city counselor for Glen Mills Schools. While in the Philadelphia area, he founded and directed three group homes for troubled teens. From 1972 to 1983, he was the founding director of Some Other Place Inc. for court-committed youths.

As a parish priest, Father Brown served as parochial vicar of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, Fla., (1984-86) and later as pastor (1986-91), during which time he directed the expansion of the church. In 1991, he became pastor of St. John Neumann, where he served until 2005. While pastor of the Reston community, he managed the completion of a new church and religious education facility for 1,400 children. During that time, the parish grew from 1,700 to 3,600 families. From 2005 to 2006, he was parochial vicar of Blessed Pope John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. From 2006 until the time of his death, he was pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Parish in Buxton, N.C.

In addition to the members of his Oblate religious community, Father Brown is survived by his sister Susan Reinhold of Covington, La., and many nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by his brothers, James and Hugh; and sisters Kathleen and Grace Brown, Mary Moleseed, and Anne Iobst.

Donations in memory of Father Brown may be sent to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 2200 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, DE 19806.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013