Father Bonaventure Brown, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1847-1900)

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Born James Brown in Providence, Rhode Island on January 11, 1847 he was the son of Eli Brown and Lucy Williams who were of Puritan heritage and Unitarian religion. When James was eighteen years old he was associated with many Catholics and was impressed by their example. He attended a Passionist parish mission in Providence and decided to enter the Catholic faith despite some strong opposition. He was baptized at the close of the mission on March 25, 1866. This led him to be disowned by his family, but the poor Irish who predominated the area welcomed him with open arms and he actually took on a great many of their mannerisms and speech. Still he tried to remain on good terms with his family and one of his brothers, Artemus, eventually entered the Catholic faith. In 1868 James entered the Passionist novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On March 1, 1869 he professed his vows and received the name Bonaventure. On February 28, 1874 he was ordained a priest. Father Brown’s intellect was noticed during sacred eloquence so after ordination he was chosen for missionary work as a catechist. To be successful in this effort he learned to read French and Italian and gained a knowledge of the Fathers of the Church. His skill as a catechist was recognized by fellow priests and bishops. As the years went on he suffered from rheumatism but that did not deter him from getting to the mission platform and preaching from a chair! In 1895 he contracted Bright’s disease yet he still continued to give missions in Texas and Florida though he came home a confirmed invalid. Just before his death he was sent to St. Mary’s, Dunkirk, New York.