1. Obituary 2. A Man For All Seasons, by Judie Brown, President of American Life League 3. It Is The Soldier, By Fr. Denis E. O'Brien, M.M. 4. Chaplain's Corner, You Asked For It, by Fr. Denis O'Brien, M.M. 5. By Those Who Knew Him 

Rev. Denis E. O'Brien was born on October 8, 1923. He was the son of Richard and Rose McGilligan O'Brien. Two of his fraternal uncles were priests in West Texas in the early 1900s.

In 1945 Father O'Brien entered Maryknoll Apostolic College and on January 3, 1946, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and his Master of Divinity degree at Maryknoll Seminary, Ossining, where he was ordained a priest on June 13, 1953.

After ordination, Fr. O' Brien was assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Musoma. Tanganyika, East Africa. In 1957 he was recalled back to the United States due to health reasons, and assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Mexico. In Mexico City he served as the national advisor to the Episcopal Conference for their pro-life campaign. Father O'Brien was the founder of Pastoral del Amor, an organization that serves mildly retarded children who study Christian Doctrine. He also sponsored a day-care center for profoundly retarded children and a hospice for incurable and abandoned retarded children.

In 1966 while on furlough home, Fr. O' 'Brien earned his Certificate in Theology of Papal Social Encyclicals at Loyola University. When he returned to Mexico he served as Director of the Cursillo Movement of the Maryknoll Mexco Region from 1968-1971.

In 1988 Father O' Brien returned to the United States and became a "Priest in Residence" at St. Pius X Parish in Dallas. He went on to serve as the Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Council 799, National Chaplain to the First Marine Division Association and local Chaplain to its Dallas Chapter, National Spiritual Director to the American Life League, and he worked tirelessly to protect human life from conception to natural death.

Father O' Brien died of cancer on August 29, 2002 at 8:00am, holding a first class relic of his Patron Saint, St. Bernadette of Lourdes. Father O' Brien was 78 years old and had been a Maryknoll priest for 49 years.

Semper Fi, my little Father!


Father Denis O’Brien, M.M.
Spiritual Director, American Life League
October 8, 1923 – August 29, 2002

Father Denis O'Brien, M.M.
A Man For All Seasons

The world is a lesser place because Father Denis O’Brien, M.M. has gone to his heavenly reward. But this humble priest touched many with his awesome example of God’s gracious love.

Father Denis O'Brien was born in Dallas on October 8, 1923, and entered the seminary in 1941. But when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he quickly volunteered for the Marine Corps.

He served in the Pacific, and often recalled the battle to take Peleliu as the bloodiest and most memorable — 1,336 Marines lost their lives and 6,032 were wounded. Later, as chaplain of the First Marine Division, he returned to Peleliu in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that battle and to pray for all who died there. They were, as he described them, his brothers and all Marines. He often said, “We never left anyone behind.”

He said it was on that battlefield that he felt God’s call stronger than before. After he left the military service, he went into God’s service by studying at the Maryknoll Seminary in New York.

Father Denis O’Brien went on to be a missionary to the poor, the needy, the terminally ill and the “unwanted” in East Africa and Mexico. Father O’Brien so impressed the leadership of the Mexican bishops’ conference that he was appointed respect life director, a job he performed remarkably for 25 years. He trained doctors, taught medical students, spoke to high school and college groups, trained parents, and did it with a love for human beings and respect for the magisterium of the Church.

There was no church document he could not quote, chapter and verse. He spent time with Mother Teresa, worked with Pope John Paul II’s key advisors, and attended the bishops’ synod in the 1980s. I remember going to Vatican meetings with Father O’Brien and being constantly amazed by his many friends and admirers.

In my mind, one of Father O’Brien’s greatest accomplishments was his work in Mexico that produced the first ever catechism for retarded children and adults. It was available in Spanish and in English, and made the teaching of basic Catholic truth come alive for retarded children.

Beyond that, Father O’Brien wished to establish a home for retarded and terminally ill children. He wanted a safe haven where abandoned children could be loved. So he put together a team of very special people in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico and established the first Pastoral Del Amor orphanage.

He became the spiritual director of American Life League at its founding in 1979. In fact, he cajoled us into starting ALL because he saw a need for a pro-life organization committed first and foremost to the Catholic Church and her teachings on the dignity of the human person.

When he first encountered cancer 15 years ago, he moved from Mexico back to Dallas where, he said, “the doctors helped me lick the disease.” Afterward, he made many trips back to Yucatan, taking the best doctors in America with him to help his children at Pastoral Del Amor.

In Dallas, Father O’Brien embraced and affirmed so many people at St. Pius X Parish. One family wrote this note on his 73rd birthday: “This man comes over to our home as often as his duties permit. He tells our five children to call him ‘grampa’ knowing they haven’t one around. He sometimes brings goodies and teaches the children to bless each other and their parents too! Then he is off to one of his many meetings and ministries. ‘No rest for this poor sinner,’ he waves as he runs out the door.”

Father Denis O’Brien affected his Marine Corps buddies in precisely the same way. When sorting through his emails, the following message was found:

“Father O’Brien, we have never met personally. I am one of many Marines that is a member of the First Marine Division Association, a Vietnam vet who didn’t know how the association would accept him when I joined six years ago. When I first heard you six years ago I knew then that I was home and back with my fellow Marines. You have been an inspiration to me and my wife. You are in our prayers daily. Keep up the fight and God bless you! Semper Fi, Skip.”

Father Denis O’Brien would not approve of this tribute I write on the occasion of his death. He would tell me that he does not want any credit for any of the things he ever did; he wants only to know that God approves. He would remind me that in living our daily lives we are to focus on Christ and never on ourselves. In his final days, he would say that being with the many men and women who helped care for him each day gave him a chance to work on their eternal salvation. And then he smiled. Always the sly one, he knew what he was about – and that was doing God’s work.

So many will miss him; so many will pray for the happy repose of his soul. But I have a sneaky feeling that he is going to be interceding for each of us in ways only God will ever know — and that is exactly the way Father Denis O’Brien would like it! 

Judie Brown


“O gentlest heart of Jesus, ever present in the Blessed Sacrament, ever consumed with burning love for the poor captive souls, have mercy on the soul of Thy departed servant, Father Denis O’Brien, M.M. Be not severe in Thy Judgment but let some drops of Thy Precious Blood fall upon the devouring flames, and do Thou, O Merciful Savior, send Thy Angels to conduct Thy departed servant to a place of refreshment, light and peace.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the
mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,

And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag. 

By: Father Denis Edward O'Brien M.M. USMC



Fr. Denis Edward O’Brien, M.M.,

Council Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus

 Dallas Council 799


“You Asked For It”


Written by: Fr. Denis E. O’Brien, M.M.


At my age, I am reminded of two old ladies who had a daily checker battle in the retirement home. One day, the eldest, a mere 90, beat the other lady six times. Miffed, the 89-year-old dowager thought of a way to get her aim back. “I forgot to tell you”, she said with a demonic leer, “I had an affair!” “Do tell”, came the riposte, “Who catered?”


I was born in old St. Paul’s on October 8, 1923 and I was baptized in danger of death. We lived in Holy Trinity Parish somewhere around Cole Avenue. When I was able to leave the hospital, my parents moved to Oak Cliff while escape was possible. I grew up in Blessed Sacrament Parish; we were poor but humble and we were clean. We had a tremendous Pastor, Fr. James F. Burns, who turned down an offer to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals because he wanted to be a priest. He inspired many vocations, among them, Father Joe Vann, Carl Vogel, John O’Rourke, John Ellis Mitchell, the Landermeyer twins, Pat Kock, SJ; (Pat and I lived on the same block), and myself. There were probably others later on including vocations when he started St. Elizabeth. More than one family scrimped to send their children to Our Lady of Good Counsel…tuition-$3.00 for a month, and the kids did very well later on. We had CCD on Sunday afternoon; I slept on Carl Vogel’s shoulder. The nuns despaired of Carl and me and offered Perpetual Novenas that God would take us before we were sent to the Penitentiary.


I went to W.H. Adamson High School, 1936-1940 and after graduation worked briefly at Neiman Marcus as a bellhop until I found work at Dallas Power and Light Company. In 1941 I went to St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in 1942 I was “gung ho” and joined the United States Marine Corps. After boot camp and basic training as an artillery forward observer I joined the First Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, in Melbourne. I was sent to division headquarters, in part because I had a year of college. I did nothing to write about, but I was at Cape Gloucester New Britain, Pelelin (where we lost two infantry regiments in a week), and Okinawa that cost more than 250,000 allied and innocent Okinawan lives; the Japanese used them as decoys. I almost went on to China but I knew if I didn’t go back to the seminary right away I would stay in. I’ve always been proud of the Marine Corps.


Fr. Burns had pointed me toward Maryknoll and after having seen some results of missionaries in the pacific, I thought he was right. I never regretted it so, Bishop James E. Walsh, M.M., the Superior General said, “Ok.” So I studied from 1946 to 1953. Bishop Walsh later spent twelve years in the Shanghai Hilton as a guest of Mao Tse Teung. He drove them mad and they gladly let him go twelve years later.


I spent 1953-57 in Tanganyika, E. Africa, near the Seregeli Plains. My usual transport was a motorcycle. Get home before dark because the lions are restless! One time I didn’t but my guardian angel took over. Another time I was going to turn into the Mission of Iramba and made the quickest stop ever; a mamba was looking straight at me, it’s head about ten feet above the ground. I sat there until it got bored. Another time I went outside to see some people; they were talking while they stood almost on top of a Cobra. Lucky Me! I stepped on it! The Olympic high jumpers would have envied me.


In 1957 I was called back to P.R. I cured them of that when I sent my map of the U.S. with the distances between cities clearly marked. In those days Yankees were not very familiar with maps.


In 1959 I was assigned to the Yucatan. “Where is the Yucatan?” I asked myself. It is a peninsula of Mexico, 500 miles south of New Orleans. It turned out to be Heaven on earth. The Mayas are fantastic! Maryknoll does not accept wealthy parishes so I lived in places with no running water and at times two days from the highway by horse or ten hours by jeep. In one place, Huhi, the people were dirt poor; (ask me about the Christmas apples sometime), the collection on Sunday from two Masses averaged $1.19 in U.S. dollars. I ate in a lot of very poor huts; the cost of my food was $4.00 per week…no cholesterol problems.


In 1971 I was exiled to Mexico City. The parish had 200,000 Catholics and all first class theologians. The first six weeks I had no assistant and I spent Sunday afternoon blessing houses. I was elected Mexico’s delegate to our General Chapter and I returned to Mexico City in 1972 to a less populated parish…only some 80,000 parishioners.


When abortion was legalized in the United States I sat down and tried to figure out how I could keep the horror from invading Mexico. Slowly I got information and on my next vacation while I stayed with Carl at Good Shepherd where he gave me what he had. One pamphlet, ‘WHO KILLED JR’? was a cartoon story of prenatal life so I sent it to Cardinal Miranda. He like it and his Vicar General and his education director translated it into grammatical but simple Spanish. Over the years we must have passed out thousands of these copies. My first film on abortion was, “Abortion, A Woman’s Decision”, in 8mm, produced and filmed by Fr. Bill Cogan of Chicago.


The Cardinal named me pro-life director for the archdiocese and I had lots of lay people who gladly hewed the wood and fetched the water; they made me ever look good and, I still had the parish.


Two interesting experiences: The Cardinal insisted that I act as Chaplain for the Pan American Games and there is where I met Sugar Ray Leonard. There was a World Congress of Women, which I studiously avoided but a refugee Cuban lawyer insisted that I help her talk with the Pope’s representative, Mother Teresa. I tried to stay away from such important company but I was subject to the French Proverb, “What a woman wants, God wants.” So, I spent an hour providing for the lawyer and also, “Surprise father!” for the society columnist of Mexico’s biggest paper, Excelsior. We were in the Hotel Geneva at a table next to the bar, which were the only seats in the hotel and Mother Teresa had everything in order. She told the columnist, “If you can’t see Jesus in the host, you will never see Him in your neighbor.” Truly words to live by!


From 1977-83, I was Pro Life Director for the Mexican Episcopal Conference and lived on airplanes and in nearly every Diocese more than once. The bishops, priests and laity were magnificent. I soon graduated from “preaching to the choir” and began to go to universities and public hospitals. I’d like to think it was my handsome and saintly face, but it wasn’t. I had scientific movies and the people saw for themselves that life began at fertilization.


In 1983 I had come to Dallas for health reasons; it turned out to be the gall bladder. After the operation I was told that I wasn’t supposed to be alive because the gall bladder was all gangrene.


When I returned to Mexico I was assigned to Merida, the Capital of Yucatan. I had seen that there was no professional preparation for retarded people to go to Communion. A lot of retarded people can learn when they receive proper instruction. Thanks to Maryknoll’s benefactors, I was able to study a little about genetics, mental retardation, and catechisms for the retarded; Chicago has a great program. I translated books into Spanish and as I expected, the people overwhelmed me with the desire to help. While in Mexico City I had done a little bit of this so, by God’s grace we started. We had to first convince the parents; by now we had some 90 people going to class every week. Some made their First Communion while others never will, and believe it or not, a few became catechism helpers. We have some 20 kids who are profoundly retarded in our day-care center, so more can do something for a while. We have some 10 kids who are incurable and they were abandoned. We do not sit in an office; we go out and look for them.


On December 1st we will have three nuns from Portugal to direct our center. The retarded won’t be retarded in Heaven. Lucky us, why save them now? Its money in the bank where rust and mold do not consume, nor thieves break in and steal. Our Lord never made it too easy for us, but He has always been doing the heavy lifting and we are most grateful; we have never lacked what we really require.


How did I get back to my native city? In 1988 I was diagnosed with having prostrate cancer. It was removed on August 25th. How am I? I don’t know about tomorrow but today is very nice. Final words in too long a story not worth telling, I learned that cancer is a grace. I use to think I was kind and self-giving to the sick, but now when I talk to cancer patients, I can tell them that I know where they are coming from.


Kiss your cross and join yourself to the Lord on His Cross for the Salvation of all men.


Fr. Denis O’Brien M.M.

written during the Lenten Season, 1997


Read Father Denis E. O'Brien's works entitled

 "The Garden",



Find out more about

 Pastoral del Amor,

a mission started in the Yucatan by Fr. O'Brien



By Those Who Knew Him 


Father Denis O'Brien touched the lives and hearts of many, some who knew him personally and some who never met him.



"Ask St. Bernadette"

by: Charles Blythe

Father O'Brien had a great sense of humor.  From the early to the mid 1990's I suffered from sleep apnea.  The apnea was so bad that I was developing heart problems and therefore was put on some prescription medication.  To make a long story short my meds, nicknamed, "Doctor Medicine," were literally killing me.  In desperation I turned to my longtime spiritual director and friend, Father Denis O'Brien.  Fr O'Brien immediately said that I should pray to Saint Bernadette.  I, of course, took his advice.  Within a week I had received some vitamins made from natural foods in the mail.  One year later I was nearly back to my old self.  The sleep apnea was almost completely gone.  For the next year I thanked Saint Bernadette for her most fruitful intercession yet I still thought that there was more that I could or should do to thank her. I again visited Father O'Brien and told him how I still felt that I needed to do more to thank Saint Bernadette.  Father O"Brien, in his usual humor, said, "Do you expect Saint Bernadette to write you a letter?"  I said, "Yeah." Father O'Brien then giggled as usual with his hehehaha..  He then told me to pray for people that have no one to pray for them.  I still don't know why Saint Bernadette did not just lead me to a book or something.  I guess she wanted me to ask Father O'Brien.  He had such a great devotion to Saint Bernadette.  Today I just talk with Saint Bernadette as if she were in the same room as me.  I tell her to tell Father O'Brien hello and that we miss him a lot.  Sometimes I really think that she is really with me....




"Father D Was A Great Man And A Wonderful Priest"

by: Ann Ball



I would have to search to find out exactly when I heard of Father D.  We had a correspondence of some years (after he had returned to Dallas) although we never met in person.  We did talk on the phone at least once and I think a few other times but mostly corresponded by mail and email.  Sadly, the emails aren't preserved.  I did, however, preserve something of his that one day I will use in some way, giving him credit.
Father was a big fan of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J., as am I.  I kind of think maybe he first contacted me in that regard.  He actually had met the man who was driving the car in the assassination attempt that Pro was accused of.  Unfortunately he even used an assumed name when he and Father D met.  Even the Jesuits do not know the man. 
While he was in Mexico, Father Denis began writing a manuscript about the Catholics during the time of the persecutions.  He continued working on it until nearly the time of his death.  It is absolutely fascinating and very well researched and documented.  As far as I know, I am the only person he copied it for.  My son scanned it for me and put it on a CD and I mailed one copy to the Jesuit postulation office in Rome, one copy to Pro's postulator in Mexico, and a copy to Maryknoll's archives.  When Father D. died, the Marynollers had thrown Father D's copy away!  They thought it was written by someone else!!!!!  In his humility, he had used a pen name when writing it.