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Pastor whose parish grew significantly mourned at funeral liturgies

BRIDGEWATER - "This Church stands as a monument that he helped build for Christ," Bishop James F. Checchio said at a funeral Mass March 28, which he celebrated for Father John L. Brundage. For 17 years, Father Brundage served as pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish. He died March 16 in in Marathon, Fla., where he lived after retiring in June 2013.

During his time as pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the current church was built. It was his wish to be buried from the parish and laid to rest in its cemetery.

Bishop Checchio began the Mass saying, "We gather to assist our brother John with our prayers to thank God for his life and ministry and ask now that the Lord usher him to his eternal reward." The bishop also expressed his gratitude for the good that Father Brundage did for so many in his priestly ministry.

In his homily, Father Joseph L. Desmond said, "Peace be with you. The words of Jesus are the words we confront today as we explore the mystery of life and death. They are the words that the Lord will greet John with as he passes through the birth canal of death to everlasting life."

He noted that Father Brundage was an introvert who did not like crowds but enjoyed bringing Communion to someone’s home where he would stay and listen to them. "We come today as people of faith knowing that John is destined for the kingdom of heaven," he said.

The night before the funeral Mass, Bishop Emeritus Paul G. Bootkoski presided at a Mass of Commemoration for Father Brundage. "We gather together on the eve of John’s funeral to pray for his soul. We gather in prayer to experience the love and the presence of God," the bishop said. He recalled how Father Brundage was an avid sailor and well loved by his people, saying his hope is that he was now sailing with the Lord in the heaven.

During the homily, Msgr. Randall J. Vashon, pastor, St. Bernard Clairvaux said, "I’m here today to tell you John’s greatest legacy was through the priesthood. His treasure and his heart were firmly planted in Christ Jesus. We pray that when he breathed his last, he heard those marvelous words, ‘Well done good and faithful servant. Come into the kingdom that God has prepared for you.’"

Father Brundage was born June 1944, to Jean and Robert Brundage. He was the second oldest of four children, with siblings Michael, Mary Ellen and Robert. Father Brundage attended Catholic elementary school and spent two years of high school at St. Rose in Belmar, before transferring to St. Thomas Minor Seminary, Bloomfield, Conn. There, he completed high school and his first two years of college, earning an associate of arts degree. He attended St. Mary Major Seminary, Baltimore, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Divinity degree. 

He was ordained a deacon at St. Mary Church, Roland Park, Md., May 30, 1969, and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Rose Church, Belmar, May 23, 1970, by Bishop George W. Ahr of Trenton.

Father Brundage served as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish, Perth Amboy, and St. Mary Parish, Deal. He was then released from parochial responsibilities and served on special assignment to the Marriage Encounter Movement until January 1981, when he became parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish, Bound Brook. During his 17 years as pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the parish grew from 400 families to more than 1,400 registered families.

He then worked in special ministry with Catholic Charities and as a prison chaplain before becoming parochial vicar at Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Old Bridge. He served as parochial vicar at St. Matthias Parish, Somerset, from June 2003 until March 2005, when he was installed as pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, South River.

During his retirement Father Brundage served at San Pablo Church in Marathon. He lived on his boat "The Eurphoric," but was welcomed into the rectory whenever the waters got too rough to stay on the boat.

Deacon Gerard C. Sims became a deacon during Father Brundage’s pastorate and still serves at St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He noted that Father Brundage designed the stained glass windows in the church. "They are dedicated to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and contain symbols of the seven sacraments and the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy," he said, then added, "Father Brundage was a great pastor, mentor and friend."