Of Brothers Brennan, and Brothers McMullen

“I’m Coach Mac’s brother.”
When I introduced myself to Jason Brennan at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland Jan. 19, he carried his Uncle Mark’s crosier and a confused expression.
Back in December, I had spent a leisurely morning at the Frederick home of his parents, Paul and Patricia, gathering background for a feature on Bishop Mark Brennan’s roots. Paul is Bishop Brennan’s only sibling. We had already established a pretty good rapport when he mentioned that their three children, Jason, Lyn and John, had all played athletics at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick.
I noted that when my brother, Kevin, a career educator, took his calling in the 1990s from Anne Arundel County to Frederick County, his first coaching job there was the boys’ soccer team at TJ.
“I know your brother,” Paul Brennan said. “He coached Jason.”

A photo of the Brennan Brothers shows the future bishop on the right.

Much of the remainder of the interview kept returning to our shared interests and acquaintances. Paul spent about 30 seconds discussing his own professional career with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (his last 25 years there spent managing a wastewater treatment plant in Damascus), and was more eager to talk sports. The Brennan brothers attended St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C., where Paul played football and baseball.

The Brennan Brothers played baseball growing up.

“John Thompson was in his first year (1966-67) there when I was a senior,” Paul said, of the coach who would go on to become the first black man to lead an NCAA basketball champion, at Georgetown University in 1984.

The Brennan brothers are separated by 27 months. My brother, Kevin, is 22 months older than me. (We weren’t the closest bond of brothers in our house, incidentally, as Don and Tim are separated by 11 months, “Irish twins” born in January and December 1947). Paul Brennan described an idyllic youth with his big brother stretching out from the Glassmanor Apartments in Oxon Hill, along the border of our nation’s capital and Prince George’s County, of games of whiffle ball and two-hand touch. All of those happened at my home, which included one of the first regulation basketball hoops in Brooklyn Park. The photo below is from 1971, when I was called up to the Brooklyn Park High varsity for the District V tournament because I looked good in lay-up lines.

While the Bees came within just 47 points of winning the district final and playing at the state Class B semis in Cole Field House, Kevin and I rarely lost a game of 2-on-2 against the other family combos based at St. Rose of Lima Parish.

When I asked Paul Brennan his thoughts on his brother becoming a bishop, he got emotional and struggled to find words to describe their bond. I understand his sentiments. A young Father Mark Brennan baptized his nephews and niece, and now officiates at the weddings and the baptisms of their children. My brother, Kevin, was the Best Man at my wedding, 33 years ago. I am godfather to his oldest, Esther.
When I related my meeting with Paul Brennan to my brother, Kevin remembered Jason Brennan as a hard-nosed player and natural leader.
Like father, like son, like brothers.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.