ALLOUEZ — Fr. Charlie Brooks, a priest known for his support of pro-life causes and his chaplain work died Oct. 15. He was 82.
Charles R. Brooks was born on May 9, 1937, in the Town of Holland, Wis., to Henry and Mary (Brocktrup) Brooks. He was the 13th of 16 children. He attended Saint Nazianz Seminary in St. Nazianz; Sacred Heart Seminary in Oneida; and St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Ind. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona on May 25, 1965, (Compass correction – ordained on May 29, 1965) at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.
Fr. Brooks’ first assignment was as assistant pastor of St. John Nepomucene Parish, Little Chute. The parish had both a grade school and a high school, and he was assigned to teach classes in the high school and grades three through five.
“I was the last man in the world that should go into teaching,” he recalled to The Compass at his 50th jubilee in 2015. In 1966, he was appointed assistant pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, Neenah.
The following summer, Fr. Brooks was assigned as a temporary chaplain at Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc. There he found the love of his priesthood.
“My best years of priesthood were definitely in hospital work,” he told The Compass. “I gave every ounce of energy I had and went to bed dead tired, but I slept well.”
That assignment later led to full-time chaplaincy at Holy Family Memorial (1969-72), St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton (1972-76) and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah (1980-1985). He also served part time as chaplain at St. Joseph Residence in New London (1976-79) and St. Elizabeth Hospital (1977-79), while serving as pastor at St. Patrick Parish, Lebanon. In 1985, he became pastor of St. Boniface Parish, De Pere, and, in 1993, temporary administrator at St. Joseph Parish, De Pere. (Both are now part of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.) His final appointment as pastor was in 1995 at St. Edward Parish, Mackville, where he had asked to be assigned because he knew they were building a church. That $1.7 million project fit Fr. Brook’s love of construction, which he learned from his brother, who had been a carpenter in the Army. He later became skilled at masonry and plumbing.
His classmate at Sacred Heart Seminary, Fr. Robert Karuhn, recalled Fr. Brooks’ love of hands-on work.
“Even in the seminary,” Fr. Karuhn said, “he was one of those who did a lot of outside work for the seminary. There was a group called the ‘beelers’ and they did a lot of the lawn, cutting wood and things like that.”
Fr. Brooks retired to senior priest status in 2007. While his health allowed, he continued to help with liturgical services at St. Edward, as well as at St. Denis in Shiocton, St. Patrick in Stephensville and SS. Joseph and Edward, Walsh, near where he had a retirement cabin he renovated himself.
His chaplaincy work led to his involvement in pro-life issues.
“I mainly got my attitude for pro-life from the neo-natal intensive care,” he said. “I’d see some kids, not even a pound, trying to survive. A couple of them did.”
Fr. Brooks joined protest lines at abortion facilities and spoke at pro-life rallies. He was even arrested for blocking entrances to facilities in Green Bay and Appleton, serving jail time and paying fines.
Msgr John Schuh, a classmate and friend, spoke of Fr. Brooks’ approach to life: “He had an adventurous spirit and a deep faith and trust in our Lord. Priesthood meant a good deal to him and he had tremendous love of and for people. May he now live in that love of the Lord.”
Fr. Brooks came up with a creative pro-life fundraiser in 1985, based on his love of snowmobiles. He called it the “Enduro for Life.” He had owned snowmobiles since 1959.
The Enduros — run on snowmobiles — were held in January, near the anniversary of the Roe v Wade anniversary that legalized abortion in the United States. Each Enduro lasted 24 hours, with Fr. Brooks riding a track for hundreds of miles for pledges. In 1987, he tallied up 1,409 miles, a United States Snowmobile Association world record for continuous miles logged on a snowmobile. The Enduros continued for eight years — for the last two years, they became a summer Enduro, first on a jet-ski and then a motorcycle.
“Fr. Charlie lived life with a bigness and a boldness in his personality, in his priesthood and in his passion to be pro-life,” said Fr. Dan Felton, vicar general for the Diocese of Green Bay. Fr. Felton served as pastor at St. Edward after Fr. Brooks’ retirement.
A visitation will be held Oct. 18, 4 p.m., at Ryan Funeral Home, 305 N. 10th St. in De Pere. A second visitation will be held 9-10:15 a.m. on Oct. 19 at St. Edward Church in Mackville. The funeral liturgy will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. by Bishop David Ricken at St. Edward. Fr. Felton is the homilist. Burial will follow in St. Patrick Cemetery, Askeaton.
Fr. Brooks is survived by his siblings; Janet (Jacob) Huber, Betty (Marv) Rademacher, Roger “Duke” (Alice) Brooks, sister-in-law Judie Brooks, goddaughter Debbie Meyer, nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
(Jeff Kurowski contributed to this story.)