Fr. John Francis Brandes died one year ago, on January 10th, 2023. John was a long-time supporter of the Friends of San Lucas and the San Lucas Mission. At this one year anniversary of his death, we are remembering him and his tireless commitment to the people of San Lucas.
John knew from the time he was in fifth grade at St. Bridget Catholic School in North Minneapolis that being a priest would be his life’s work. He entered Nazareth Hall in 1940 as a ninth grader and was ordained June 2, 1951.
After his retirement from serving in numerous Twin Cities parishes, Padre Juan Francisco, as he was known in Guatemala, served at the San Lucas Mission from 1993 to 2004, and then continued to return to the Mission each November, from 2005 to 2014.
While in Guatemala, he spent much of his time serving the communities outside of San Lucas. In 1993, the bishop of the Diocese of Solola, Guatemala asked Fr. Greg to find a way to help serve a very remote area of Guatemala called Chui-Solis – Panimache. As Fr. Greg put it, ”The rugged beauty of Panimache is but a glance on the way by. It is an area of Guatemala so isolated, alone and way too often forgotten”. Fr. John Francis responded to this request with enthusiasm and traveled many miles to celebrate Mass and the Sacraments.
At the time, Fr. Greg stated, “Fr. Brandes’ care for the people reached beyond the celebration of Mass and the sacraments. He arranged to have medical teams go with him to these very remote locations to bring quality medical care to the people who never dreamed it possible to receive such care. Padre Juan helped build chapels in those remote mountainous gullies, and helped many families put new roofs on their homes. He taught the local farmers new ways to fertilize their crops.”
John always loved being a priest (these 71+ years) and took great pleasure in celebrating the Eucharist and giving homilies. His homilies were always topical, relatable, poignant, and engaging. John was a peace activist who strongly believed in making sacrifices for justice through civil disobedience. He believed people should live their faith, and he was a great model of that.
In addition to being a spiritual inspiration to so many, John initiated or strengthened our ties to the natural world as an outdoorsman. He took many of his nieces and nephews and their children on canoe trips and skiing. He took his last trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness at age 77 and was downhill skiing until age 93.
John was known by many for his wit and humor. He was deeply loved and will be sorely missed by all who knew him because he loved unconditionally and inclusively. He died at age 96. May he rest in peace.