The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, retired University of Notre Dame professor, author of many books on Catholicism and Essays in Theology columnist, has died following a long illness. He was born on August 19, 1936 to Thomas H. and Catherine (Botticelli) McBrien.

Fr. McBrien was a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut where he was ordained in 1962. He authored 25 books, among which the most widely circulated are Catholicism, Lives of the Saints, Lives of the Popes, and The Church. He also served as general editor of The Encyclopedia of Catholicism. He wrote a weekly column, Essays in Theology, for almost 50 years. This column appeared in many Catholic newspapers and is available online at

In 1980, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, brought McBrien to the University of Notre Dame, where he served as Chair of the Department of Theology until 1991, president of the Faculty Senate in 1994-1997 and remained as the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology until his retirement in 2013. Prior to Notre Dame, he taught at Pope John Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts and at Boston College where he was Director of its Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry (1975-1980). He was the first Visiting Fellow in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University during the 1975-1976 academic year. He was also a past President of the Catholic Theological Society of America (1973-1974) and was the recipient of the John Courtney Murray Award for distinguished achievement in theology in 1976.

Fr. McBrien served as a television commentator for Catholic events for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and several cable TV Stations. He also lectured extensively throughout the country, consistently teaching that action on behalf of justice was a constitutive dimension of the Gospel. This commitment to justice often got him labeled as "liberal" and/or an outspoken critic of the institutional Church. To the contrary, his love for and work in the Church was rooted in the vision of the Second Vatican Council and remained a focus in his life to the end.

Always eager to be of assistance to others, Fr. McBrien served on the Board of Overseers of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts and was the theological consultant for the movie The DaVinci Code.

Besides his parents, Fr. McBrien was predeceased by a sister, Catherine Berard of Maryland and Thomas McBrien of Scituate, Massachusetts. He is survived by his sister Mrs. Dorothy (Frank Heffernan) of Farmington, Connecticut and brother Harry (Barbara) of West Hartford, Connecticut along with many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his long-time friend, and most recently, his primary care-giver, Beverly Brazauskas. He also leaves behind many colleagues, friends and students who were recipients of his generosity. Fr. McBrien's voice of truth and compassion will be missed in the Church which he loved. He will be remembered by those who knew and loved him for his beautiful and angelic smile.

The family wishes to thank his doctors, especially Stephen Angus, MD, and the many care-givers who helped him along his journey. Among these are Rev. Gene Kilbride and Luke Lauretano who brought nostalgic joy to him during a weekly Communion Service and visit; McLean Home Care, especially Urszula Niemczycki and Ruth Lasota, RN; and Companions and Homemakers - Sharona Kravits, Fernanda Louro, David Riscassi and Milagros Metfess.

Calling hours will be at the Church of St. Helena's at 30 Echo Lane in West Hartford, Connecticut. Arrangements are being handled by Malloy Funeral Parlor of West Hartford.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in approximately one month.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to:

Leadership Conference of Women Religious
8808 Cameron Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910

The LCWR was at the center of Fr. McBrien's final "Essays in Theology" column of December 17, 2012.