HUNDREDS of people, including Cardinal George Pell, packed into St Michael’s Cathedral yesterday to farewell a man whose presence spread itself across the region and all walks of life.
Representatives from Catholic schools across the Wagga Diocese were part of the mass of Christian Burial, with a marquee set up outside for those who couldn’t get a seat and an internet live stream of the service available for those further afield.
Inside, it was standing room only as mourners of all ages paid tribute to Bishop William Brennan and his quest for decency and justice.
Bishop Brennan, the fourth Bishop of Wagga for almost 20 years, died on Saturday at the age of 75 after a long battle with illness.
Celebrant and Catholic Diocese of Wagga, Bishop Gerard Hanna, spoke of a valiant man and a faithful soldier of the cross who promoted progress in the community.
“He filled with distinction whatever post the church, national and local, asked him to serve,” Bishop Hanna told the gathering.
“Those who visited our brother in Christ over the years were surely struck by the realisation that, regardless of one’s physical condition, faith transcends all.
“William Brennan was able to live defiantly in the face of physical deterioration.”
Bishop Hanna cited scriptures speaking of a godly person, likened to a tree.
He said many vanish as small plants but, if by chance one survives, it is rooted to withstand whatever comes.
“It takes years to accomplish this, so it is with the godly person and so it has been with our brother William,” he said.
“William Brennan was once a young man and his friends no doubt have memories of those days.
“But, as colourful as those memories might be they hardly compare to the example of this man’s life, which for years spread its roots into the soil of the community and this church.”
Communion hymns soon echoed through the building as, one by one, mourners approached Bishop Brennan’s coffin – a chance to acknowledge a man who clearly impacted the lives of many.
The bells then rang out and the crowd fell silent as he was carried to the Cathedral Crypt for internment to the sounds of the Salve Regina.
Bishop Hanna was joined by concelebrants Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, Apostolic Nuncio, Most Reverend Paul Gallagher, Archbishop of Melbourne, Most Reverend Denis Hart and Emeritus Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn Diocese and former Bishop of Wagga, Most Reverend Francis Carroll.
Priests from across the Wagga Diocese were also present.