Ceremony, Mass in Southern Tier honor Father Lewis Brown - Catholic Courier
Memorial Father Lewis Brown was memorialized during a Sept. 11 ceremony at Tri-County First Responders Honor Park in Gang Mills. The horseshoe walkway around “The Lifesaver Statue” was dedicated for what will be a permanent memorial to Father Brown. (Photo courtesy of Charlette Smith)

Ceremony, Mass in Southern Tier honor Father Lewis Brown

Memories of Father Lewis Brown remain vivid in the Southern Tier a year after his passing, as evidenced by two events this past Sept. 11.

“It still does not seem real that he is no longer with us. If you are like me, this is a daily struggle that you have to cope with,” Father Matthew Jones told a large congregation during the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at Corning’s St. Mary Church.

“When we lose someone so dearly beloved and precious to us, it seems almost impossible to wrap our hearts and minds around our new reality,” added Father Jones, pastor of All Saints Parish.

Father Lewis Brown

The liturgy served as a memorial event for Father Brown, who ministered at All Saints from 2008 until his death on Sept. 5, 2020, at age 79. It also provided an opportunity for a sizable gathering to honor the priest, since attendance at his funeral Mass last year was greatly limited by COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Earlier on Sept. 11, Father Brown’s lengthy tenure as a United States Navy chaplain was noted during a late-morning ceremony at the Tri-County First Responders Honor Park in Gang Mills. There, he was recognized as an honorary founding partner of the park. The horseshoe walkway around “The Lifesaver Statue” — an image of a firefighter rescuing a child from a burning building — was dedicated for what will be a permanent memorial to Father Brown.

The first responders’ park opened in 2015, with Father Brown giving the invocation at the original dedication event and going on to serve as its chaplain. An annual remembrance ceremony, such as the one just held, takes place at the park on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The park honors all types of first responders from Steuben, Chemung and Schuyler counties — police, fire, medical and rescue — whether they’re active or retired, living or deceased.

Father Brown, a Chemung County native, grew up in Elmira’s St. Mary Southside Parish and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rochester in 1967. In 1985, following several parish assignments, he began 22-year, full-time Navy chaplaincy commitment, reaching the rank of captain and serving in such settings as Okinawa, the USS Nimitz, Arlington National Cemetery and a Chicago recruitment base.

He retired from active military duty in 2007 and settled in the Corning/Painted Post area, becoming parochial vicar at All Saints Parish in 2008. Father Brown continued to be involved in the parish community after reaching senior-priest status in 2012, also assisting at the Bath VA Medical Center and enjoying affiliations with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Among those in attendance at Father Brown’s memorial Mass on Sept. 11 were several fellow Navy chaplains as well as civic leaders and Knights of Columbus. A spaghetti supper followed the liturgy.

“He did so much for us as a parish, as individuals, and our community. ‘Always faithful, always present’ is a term you could equate with Father Brown,” Father Jones remarked during his homily.

Father David Holloway, a retired Navy chaplain and priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., added that Father Brown’s positive influence on the Steuben County area was evident when he would come to town to visit his military buddy.

“And it was not surprising to me, because in the (naval) service, Lew left a big impact,” Father Holloway told the gathering after Communion. “He was one who was able to impart the goodness of God to a brand-new recruit or to a four-star (Navy admiral) wherever he was, and everyone in between … he was, I must tell you, deeply loved.”

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