People, Places & Events


‘Texas Leprechaun’ honored for 50 years as priest
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Just a bit more than 50 years ago, a young priest immigrated to the United States (and to Texas) from Ireland.
In celebration of his 50 years of priesthood, the parishioners of St. Jude Catholic Church have planned a reception to honor Monsignor John A. Brennan.
Local dignitaries, members of the clergy, the parishioners, the public and many friends will help the popular and friendly Father Brennan celebrate his half-century in America from 5-7 p.m. Friday, June 9.
Starting with his first parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Wichita Falls, Brennan has been assigned to many Texas churches.
His assignments covered St. Andrews in Fort Worth (where the west begins) to other north Texas cities.
Many East Texans have probably not seen as much of Texas as has Father Brennan, which is one reason he refers to himself as “the Texas Leprechaun.”
It was his last assignment to “Bang-Bang City,” his pet name for Gun Barrel City, that has proved to be among the most colorful in a long list of Taxas communities.
As pastor, Brennan greets visitors to his church, and often surprises them by referring to their place of origin, no mater how far away they have come, as “an extended suburb of Gun Barrel City.”
Father Brennan is one of the best ambassadors Gun Barrel City could ever want.
On his last trip to the Vatican, he showed his locally famous business card to Pope John Paul II.
One can only imagine the Pontiff’s reaction to the little card with a rifle printed on it and Gun Barrel City’s slogan, “We Shoot Straight With You.”
Brennan said the Pope was very impressed with the card and kept repeating, “Gun Barrel City, Gun Barrel City.”
Brennan was honored by Pope John Paul II and made a domestic prelate (Monsignor).
Brennan had the privilege of meeting with Pope John Paul II on three different occasions,
The first was in the Pope’s private chapel at the Vatican; the second when John Paul II came to St. Louis to visit an old friend, now Cardinal Rigalli, and the third and last was during the Beatification of Blessed Mother Teresa.
Father Brennan began his adventures in Texas in Wichita Falls, moving from there to Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Garland, then to St. Augustine Catholic Church in Dallas.
Then he went to St. Paul in Fort Worth, later to St. Andrew’s in Fort Worth and on to Oak Cliff in Dallas.
Brennan’s first parish as a pastor was at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Denison, known in many years past as the “Gateway to Texas” and for a time Denison referred to itself as “Gate City,” because of its location on the Red River.
Denison is also the birthplace of Dwight David Eisenhower, World War II general and hero and later, president of the U.S.
Brennan spent 10 years as pastor of the parish in Denison, before he was transferred to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Grand Prairie.
Following his term in Grand Prairie, Brennan was again transferred, this time to St. Mary’s Church in Longview, where he said “his Heaven began.”
Brennan spent 12 happy years in Longview, during which time under his leadership, Martha’s Kitchen was established. The project to feed poor people is still in operation, and continually growing larger and stronger all the time.
He was then selected as the Vicar General of the Diocese of Tyler by Bishop Carmody.
For the next six years, Brennan served as assistant Chaplain at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler.
From there, Monsignor Brennan was assigned to be the pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church.
Brennan is a member of Rotary International and the local Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake.
He has never missed a Rotary meeting in his 36-year membership.
A friend of his has a 50-year record of perfect attendance.
“I only have 14 years to go,” Brennan quipped.


ETMC officer not alarmed by recent mumps outbreak
By Toni Garrard Clay
Special to The Monitor

ATHENS–By now, most of us know an outbreak of mumps is spreading across the Midwest.
Thirteen states have confirmed cases of the disease many believed had been virtually eradicated.
No known cases have reached as far as Texas, but with air travel, the potential is there.
“There is no reason for anyone to panic,” a registered nurse and the infection control officer at ETMC Athens Louise Graham said.
“Before mumps vaccinations became routine in 1967, mumps were as common as chicken pox, and it was rare anyone suffered severe effects from it,” she added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 3,200 confirmed, probable and suspected cases tied to the mumps outbreak.
To put that in perspective, until now the United States has averaged 265 cases a year since 2001.
And the Texas Department of Health indicates there have been no recorded cases of mumps in Henderson County in 13 years.
Iowa, where the outbreak got its start late last year, is by far the hardest-hit state with more than 1,600 cases.
Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania and South Dakota together account for better than another 1,300 cases.
The best defense against the virus is vaccination, said Graham.
Children 4 to 6 should have received the required two doses of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. The first dose is not administered before a child’s first birthday.
Parents of children 4 and up should look over immunization records.
In cases where only a single shot of the MMR vaccination was administered, a booster should be given. Many of the Iowa mumps cases are college students, some of whom didn’t receive both doses of the vaccine.
Adults born after 1957 who haven’t received two doses of the vaccine should get at least one injection.
Those born on or before 1957 are considered naturally immune, because the disease was so widespread before 1958.
“The vaccine won’t totally protect you,” said Graham. “But it’s the best defense we have.”
According to the CDC, about 10 percent of those who receive both MMR shots remain susceptible to the mumps.
Graham can sympathize with the thousands across the Midwest experiencing the disease. She’s had it herself.
“I was seven or eight. I remember how it hurt and how I was just so swollen through here,” she said, sliding her fingers over the sides of her jaw toward her throat. “Like most kids, I stayed home from school.”
The most telling characteristic of mumps is a painful swelling around the jaws.
Because mumps is a viral disease, once a person has contracted it, there’s little to do but stay home and let it run its course, which is typically about a week.
Like the flu or common cold, mumps can spread through coughing and sneezing, and sharing cups or utensils.
Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, headache and muscle aches – followed by swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears. More severe effects, such as hearing loss, meningitis and sterility, are rare.
A piece of good news about the outbreak is the fact that summer is on the way. Records indicate mumps cases typically decline from spring to summer.
Graham said she can’t recall a case of mumps at the hospital in her nearly 26-year career at ETMC Athens.
In any case, hospitalization due to complications from mumps is not common. There have been at least 20 hospitalizations associated with this outbreak, though no deaths so far.
“In the event that we did have to hospitalize someone with mumps,” Graham said, “there’s no doubt we are perfectly capable of handling it.”
For more information on the mumps outbreak, visit