Brother Joachim (Marion) Brignac, one of the Society of the Divine Word’s first missionaries of Cajun descent, died on March 29 at age 88.
Born in New Orleans in 1933, Marion Brignac was the younger of Alfred and Eva Marianne (nee O’Neill) Eshman’s two sons. Inspired by his mother, a public health nurse, he was drawn to a life of service. In later years, he often talked about walking with his mother to her assignments and the admiration that he had for her.
After graduating from high school in Abbeville, La., the young Marion Brignac became an adagio dancer—a form of dance characterized by slow, controlled and graceful movements.
However, after suffering a motorcycle accident and a career-ending injury, he found his life’s calling. He entered the Society of the Divine Word at Bay St. Louis, Miss., in 1953. Six years later, he professed vows, taking the religious name of Joachim.
Gifted with hands to repair and build edifices, Brother Joachim was assigned to Notre Dame parish in Martinsville, La., as a maintenance engineer. He took care of the property and its inhabitants for 14 years.
In 1979, his superiors assigned him to the Chicago Province. For the next 24 years, he made certain that buildings at the Divine Word Theologate in Chicago and Divine Word Residence in Bordentown, N.J., stayed in tip-top condition.
Brother Joachim put his heart into his work. One of his lasting accomplishments is the stage in the gym of St. Elizabeth School, a parochial school that served the African-American community in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The project took him four weeks to build and gave countless numbers of students and teachers satisfaction.
In 2003, he was reassigned to the Southern Province and moved to Bay St. Louis, but in 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked heavy damage on the Divine Word properties in Bay St. Louis and retired residents, including Brother Joachim, were sent to Techny.
Although Brother Joachim spent his entire missionary life in the United States, he found ways to serve his confreres abroad.
Brother Larry Camilleri SVD, who served as an airplane mechanic in New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea), had known Brother Joachim since novitiate. He commented on Brother Joachim’s contribution to the missionary work being done the South Pacific island nation.
“He would talk with others in the field [of maintenance engineering], and they would donate tools that he would send to me,” Brother Larry said. “He kept me supplied.”
Brother Joachim was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Alfred Brignac Jr. He is survived by nieces and nephews.
His funeral Mass was held on April 4 in the chapel of the Divine Word Residence at Techny, followed by buried in St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Brother Joachim can be made for the care of elderly and infirmed missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.