Parish to commemorate half-century of priesthood for Msgr. Edward T. Bromley
It’s the late 1940s and a young lad is arguing with his mother in the tiny, isolated fishing community of Conche on the Northern Peninsula.
The mother, frustrated at her son’s intransigence, warns her offspring that if he continues to misbehave, his guardian angel will bring him harm.
Intrigued by such a suggestion, and not one to accept things at face value, the boy deliberately gets up to more mischief.
He escapes the wrath of his “angel,” but not the continued irritation of his mother.
It was an early sign that Edward Thomas Bromley was not a follower, and was destined for something more than a life in the fishery.
His mother, the late Mary (Bartlett) Bromley, would often comment that her son was aptly named, and regularly called him “Doubting Thomas,” after the apostle who doubted Jesus’ resurrection.
“I guess I was somewhat of a rebel in those days,” Bromley, the parish priest for the historic St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Parish in Carbonear, recalled during an expansive and wide ranging interview last week.
Many years later, that young maverick is a noted and highly educated leader in the Roman Catholic church in this province. He is lauded by his peers and followers for what they say is a brilliant mind, a mastery of the English language, a unique charm and wit, and a devotion to the church and its teachings that has remained steadfast through some challenging and difficult times.
Monsignor Bromley, to use his formal title, is also getting plenty of attention these days for his longevity, since this month marks the 50th anniversary, or golden jubilee, of his ordination to the priesthood. It’s a rare milestone in any profession, but in his trademark understated and silver-tongued fashion, the man at the centre of all the attention is not taking it too seriously.
He plans to retire in late August, and admitted the time has come for a new chapter in his life.
“I’ll be happy to retire,” he offered. “I won’t have to worry about roofs leaking or basements being flooded.”
However, he will miss the spiritual aspect of parish work, especially performing weddings and baptisms. And he’s always felt a privilege at being able to conduct a funeral service.
He plans to move to St. John’s, and has been tapped to minister to the Presentation Sisters.
“I’ll do that for as long as I’m reasonably
healthy,” he said.
Msgr. Bromley has a deep connection to many areas of the province, having ministered in numerous regions (see fact box). In addition to being a priest, he’s also served as a teacher of philosophy and religious studies, an RC chaplain and as the administrator and vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. John’s.
He’s travelled extensively, studied at some prestigious institutions, and met one-on-one with the late Pope John Paul II, whom many describe as the strongest modern day leader of the church.
“I had great admiration for John Paul. So actually sitting with him was a great delight,” Bromley noted.
He’s conducted countless church services, been a spiritual leader to many thousands of parishioners, and some might say defied the odds by even becoming a priest.
Early in his quest to become a priest, some church leaders, including the late Bishop John Michael O’Neill of Harbour Grace, questioned whether Bromley was priest material.
“I didn’t always accept things he did, and I told him so,” Bromley said of his “ultra-conservative” superior.
Just like his mother, some felt he was too much of a free spirit.
“We’ve obviously proved them wrong,” Bromley quipped.
Msgr. Bromley seemed much happier when he blazed his own path, and was not always prone to conformity. During his days as a teacher and chaplain at Memorial University, for example, he became a volunteer broadcaster with VOWR radio, which is owned by the United Church of Canada.