Msgr. John Brady, a priest chaplain for Scouting for six decades who was called the “father of Catholic Scouting” in the Archdiocese of Washington, died on Sept. 9 at the age of 92.

“It (Scouting) is really a vocations program,” he said in an interview. “It helps young people determine what they should do with their life.”

Over the years, Msgr. Brady celebrated Masses for Scouts in campouts and retreats besides lakes, rivers, forests and near mountains, and he had the honor of being a chaplain at National Jamborees.

Each year, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Youth Ministry honors someone for their outstanding service in Catholic Scouting by presenting them with the Msgr. John Brady Award named for the priest. 

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1955, five years later he was appointed as a chaplain for Scouting, and in 1971 he was appointed as the archdiocesan chaplain for Scouting. His service in that ministry included 49 years as a chaplain at the Goshen Scout camp in Virginia.

Growing up, he had thought about being a priest since he was a second grader at St. Ann’s Parish on Tenley Circle in Washington. As he youth, he became active in the Scouts and eventually became an Eagle Scout. While majoring in physics at Georgetown University, he served as a scoutmaster. After college, he was leaning toward joining the military, when a New York priest saw him at a Scouting jamboree and encouraged him to enter the seminary.

“I knew he was right. That (the priesthood) is what I was called to,” said Msgr. Brady, who later said, “I wouldn’t have been a priest if it wouldn’t have been for the Scouts.” 

At the time of his death, Msgr. Brady was the oldest and longest serving priest for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, following his ordination 66 years ago at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. In recent years, he had been living in retirement at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clinton, Maryland.

That parish hosted a party for him on his 92nd birthday on May 7, 2021. Addressing the people there, Msgr. Brady joked that when he was ordained in 1955 at the age of 26, “I was the youngest priest… Now all of a sudden, I’m 92 and the oldest priest of the archdiocese!”

A special highlight of his priesthood over the years was serving as a pastor for more than three decades in Southern Maryland, from 1974 to 1985 at St. Joseph in Pomfret, then until 1994 as pastor of St. John Vianney in Prince Frederick, then at Holy Angels in Avenue until his retirement in 2005.

At Holy Angels, he led a parish near St. Clement’s Island in Maryland, where Jesuit Father Andrew White celebrated the first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies in 1634.

“It’s a great honor to be where it (the Catholic faith) began” in this part of the United States, the priest said, adding, “I really felt close to God here.”

Msgr. Brady studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore prior to his ordination. After becoming a priest, his first assignment was as a parochial vicar at Holy Redeemer Parish in Kensington. While there, he began serving as a Scouting chaplain and was also a chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. From 1966 to 1971, he served as a parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington.

Just before his 92nd birthday party, Msgr. Brady was asked about the greatest blessing of his priesthood, and he said it was “the realization this is what God wanted me to be, a priest, and the fact he’s allowed me to live for 92 years, and he’s given me so many opportunities to serve other people.”

Reflecting on his life as a priest, he said, “It’s very fulfilling when you spend your life helping other people.”

At St. John’s in Clinton, the priest, although he was having trouble walking, continued to celebrate daily Mass, and he was learning Spanish to serve that community there. At his birthday party, he encouraged people to reflect Christ in the way they lived their lives and in how they treated other people.

“If all of us did that, the world would be transformed,” he said.

The vigil for Msgr. Brady will be held on Thursday Sept. 16 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Clinton from 3 to 7 p.m., followed by a Vigil Mass at 7:30 p.m. Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory will celebrate the Funeral Mass for Msgr. Brady at St. Bartholomew Church in Bethesda on Friday Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.