Fr. Bernard O'Brien, the fourth Parish Priest of St. Paul's, was born in Chelmsford, Essex, on 28th. January 1939, shortly before the war. He was third in a family of six children. His father, William, came from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, and his mother, Elizabeth, from Linz-am-Rhein, Germany. Both were Catholics, and active in their church, Our Lady of Lourdes, Leigh-on-Sea, and the family life revolved around it.
Aged 14, he went to Junior Seminary, St. Hugh's College, Tollerton, Nottingham. And from there to Senior Seminary, the English College, Lisbon. Ordination took place on 6th. June 1963; the same time and place as Fr. Pat Murphy.
His first curacy was to SS. Peter and Paul's, Ilford, in Brentwood Diocese. After 6 years he went to Colchester, but after a year, back to the East End, to Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead. From there he was appointed to his first parish, St. Thomas', Grays, on the Thames. Three years later, it was back to Colchester, this time as Parish Priest; he worked there for 13 years. The next change, in 1988, was to Leigh, his 'home' parish! After five years, he joined the Prison Service.
At that time a new prison was being built in Doncaster, a private prison on the American model. He took up a part-time post there, but within a year moved into the state sector, with a full-time post in HMP. Lindholme and HMP Moorland. He stayed for 10 years, before handing his keys in, aged 65.
Bishop John appointed him in 2004 to St. Pauls, to take charge following the retirement of Fr. Pat Murphy; and also to be his representative to the Prison Service in the Diocese. He is still happily in post.
Over the years, as well as parish work, he has served as a Dean, the Diocesan Representative on Essex Education Committee, Diocesan Chair of Justice and Peace, and Coordinating Chaplain of the Yorkshire Group of Prisons.
Father Bernard retired on 28th January 2019 - his 80th Birthday and currently resides in Bessacarr and remains our Pastor Emeritus.