June 17, 1942 – Oct. 16, 2013
The Rev. Roderick M. Brown, founding pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo and a spiritual leader for many African-American Catholics, died unexpectedly Wednesday in Resurrection Hospital in Chicago. He was 71.
The Chicago native served as a priest in the Buffalo diocese for 14 years, and he coordinated the consolidation of several central city parishes into St. Martin de Porres in 1993, which led to the building of a new church on Northampton Street.
The structure was the first Catholic church in Buffalo to be built with features that reflect black culture and traditions.
Father Brown graduated from Corpus Christi High School in Chicago in 1960 and served as a U.S. Navy corpsman from 1960 to 1964.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University in 1974. He entered the novitiate of the Dominican Friars the same year.
He studied at St. Rose of Lima Priory in Dubuque, Iowa and the Aquinas Institute of Theology prior to his ordination to the priesthood in 1979 in Dubuque.
Father Brown did doctoral studies at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. In 1979, he was assigned to campus ministry at Texas Southern University in Houston.
He served as vicar for black ministry in the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., and was pastor of Christ the King Parish in Flint.
Later, he was part of team ministry at Visitation Parish in Chicago.
In 1988, Bishop Edward D. Head invited Father Brown to Buffalo, where he served as vicar of the Central Buffalo vicariate and pastor of St. Matthew and St. Bartholomew parishes.
Father Brown also was involved in interfaith efforts and broader community outreach, and he wrote a book, “A Gathering at the River,” which traced the history of African-American Catholics in the Buffalo diocese.
Father Brown moved back to Chicago following a 2002 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
“I’ve grown to love Buffalo and think of it as my home. I’m going to miss it very much,” he said in an interview at the time.
He returned to St. Pius V Priory in Chicago on limited service due to his health. He moved to Resurrection Life Center in Chicago in 2008.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Thursday in St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in River Forest, Ill.