By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Fr. Eugene Brown, chaplain at St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted, was only 13 years old when he thought he might want to become a priest.
He entered Nazareth Hall minor seminary in St. Paul to complete four years of high school and two years of junior college. Then, he entered the St. Paul Seminary for an additional six years, studying philosophy and theology.
He was ordained to the priesthood in Sleepy Eye, Feb. 21, 1960.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of his ordination and he has chosen to celebrate it on the same date he was ordained, Sunday, Feb. 21.
The day will start with a 10:30 a.m. Mass, with Bishop LeVoir as principal concelebrant and homilist, at Holy Trinity Church in Winsted.
For all of those attending the morning service, a luncheon will be served in the church social hall after Mass.
In the afternoon, an open house will take place at St. Mary’s Care Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Alice Nowak of Silver Lake will play her accordion at 2 p.m., and the Mid-Minnesota Concert Band will play at 3 p.m.
Brown has been chaplain at St. Mary’s Care Center since April 2007.
Administrator/CEO of St. Mary’s Care Center Andy Opsahl said, “St. Mary’s is extremely fortunate to be blessed with Fr. Brown’s presence and selfless dedication to serving the spiritual needs of our residents, tenants, and guests.”
“The service he provides is an important part of St. Mary’s mission,” Opsahl said.
An unusual coincidence pointed out by Opsahl is that St. Mary’s Hospital and Home (the original name) accepted its first patient and began its service to the Winsted community the same month and year that Brown became a priest.
The care center is a good fit for Brown, 75, who said his future plans are “to continue on as I have at St. Mary’s for as long as I can still do the work.”
He celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s chapel every day at 10:30 a.m., except Monday and Wednesday. He also says Mass at Linden Wood Apartments Saturdays at 4 p.m.
Because of his ability to speak the Spanish language, he is also available to help at area churches who need a priest to say Mass and give a homily in Spanish.
Viewing the world from a camera’s lens
It is obvious to those who know Brown that he has a love of photography.
He enjoys taking pictures of people, events, landscapes, and buildings, and then, sharing his favorite photos with others.
He has been taking pictures since he was in high school, using his mother’s box camera, and then he graduated to more sophisticated equipment in college and after ordination.
At St. Mary’s, Brown has a studio set up for taking photos of residents, staff, and volunteers. Brown estimates he has taken at least 400 portraits since coming to St. Mary’s.
His photos can be seen throughout St. Mary’s some with ladies wearing fancy hats, and the gentlemen all dressed up, others in more casual attire. The photos hang outside the rooms of the residents, giving the hallways a personal touch.
Brown is critical of his own photos, explaining that others might think a portrait is alright because it looks like the person, but he has a whole list of criteria he uses to judge if a photo is a good one or not.
“I can think of at least 20 different things you should have right and, if they are not, then the picture isn’t as good as it could be,” he said.
One thing he especially likes about today’s digital cameras is the speed at which the photo is ready.
“For many years I did black-and-white developing and printing. I have found it (photography) a thousand times easier today,” Brown said. “I would have to send film into the professional color lab in Minneapolis and the proofs would be back in four days. Then, I would have to call people back to look at the proofs. I also had to pay for the film and the processing.”
Now, Brown shoots a dozen pictures, and allows the subject to choose the one he or she likes. One-half hour later, he is ready to print the final photo.
Years ago, when Brown was pastor of smaller parishes, he would perform the wedding and take the wedding photos, as well.
He doesn’t do wedding photos anymore, except for family weddings. Besides taking portrait photos for St. Mary’s, he also takes photos for special events at the care center and for the Diocese of New Ulm.
Some of his favorite photos will be on display at his reception at St. Mary’s.
Originally from Montevideo, he is the son of James and Mathilda Brown, and one of six children.
He has family that is coming to celebrate his anniversary from as far away as New Jersey and Arizona, and he is hoping for good weather.
However, from a friend of his, he learned that a priest, “is in sales, not in management.”
As a priest, Brown has served many parishes
Following his ordination, Brown began serving throughout the New Ulm Diocese.
• 1960-61, he was assistant in Bird Island under Father Mark Otto.
• 1961-63, he was an assistant at St. Mary’s in Sleepy Eye.
• 1963-68, he served at St. John’s in Appleton and St. Joseph’s in Holloway.
• 1968-71, he was parish priest at Clements. When the Catholic school with eight grades closed, the next two years he taught at the Catholic high school at St. Anne’s in Wabasso. Priests from five surrounding towns taught religion classes at St. Anne’s there at the time.
• 1971-73, when St. Anne’s high school closed, he was assigned to St. Leo in St. Leo.
1973-77, he was back in Appleton and Holloway.
• 1978-81, Brown was at St. Mary’s in Cottonwood.
• January to June of 1981, he had a five-month sabbatical in Alberquerque, NM with the Servants of the Paracletes.
• 1981-1985, he was assigned to St. Michaels in Madison and St. James in Dawson.
• 1985-89, Brown was given permission by the bishop to do some work as an associate editor with a religious publishing house in New Rochelle, NY with the Salesian of Don Bosco.
• 1989-93, he returned to the Diocese of New Ulm and served the parishes of Nicollet, Swan Lake and Middle Lake. The latter two parishes closed in 1989 and 1990.
• 1993-98, was a senior associate at St. Mary’s in New Ulm where he helped priests on the weekends plus spent one week a month visiting the home bound of the parish, which included visiting 12 different nursing homes.
• 1998-2004, was stationed at Holy Redeemer in Marshall, where he said the Mass and homily in Spanish and assisted with the Spanish program there.
• 2004-07, took a position at Divine Providence Health Center of Ivanoe until the hospital closed.
• 2007-present, when Brown learned Fr. Martin, chaplain of St. Mary’s was retiring, he applied for the position and got it. He serves there today.