Catholic priest Brock dies

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 9, 2010

NATCHEZ — When the Green Wave rolls onto the gridiron this season, their No. 1 fan won’t be firmly planted under the goal post.

The Rev. John Brock, former minister of Assumption Catholic Church and current Cathedral School sports chaplain, died Thursday. He was 73.

Brock reportedly died at his home, according to colleagues and friends.

Former Cathedral coach Ken Beesley Sr., learned of Brock’s death late Thursday afternoon. Beesley said Brock’s love for learning and athletics inspired the Green Wave faithful.

“He always made sure he was at each home game, and he would travel with us on the bus,” Beesley said. “He did that all the way up to this past year.

“He always gave the blessing before each game. He loved athletics, he loved the kids and he was there for me anytime I needed advice. It was a pleasure to have known him.”

Before each Cathedral game, Brock would give the blessing of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes. Brock said in a 2000 interview he researched the existence of such a blessing after becoming Cathedral’s sports chaplain. Brock was quick to say the blessing did not glorify winning.

“I simply say that most of us need all the help they can get, and this might help,” Brock said.

Former Cathedral athletic director Roy Garcia said Thursday he was stunned by Brock’s death.

“He and I were real close … it’s unreal,” Garcia said. “He was at all our ball games no matter what sport. His spot on the football field was underneath the goal post. He was a character.”

Prior to his move to Natchez, Brock taught high school Latin and band, studied in Rome and traveled throughout communist Europe. He continued to make regular trips to Europe, and led a group of 14 on a trip to Rome last November.

St. Mary Basilica business manager Mary Flowers said she considers herself lucky to have accompanied Brock on that trip.

“He was an amazing tour guide and his energy was amazing,” Flowers said. He lived and studied in Rome for six years, and for me, (the trip) was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of his knowledge and experience.

“In 10 days we packed in just about everything there is to see in Rome.”

Garcia also traveled to Rome with Brock, and remembers being in awe of Brock’s vast knowledge of faith and history.

“He was a genius,” Garcia said. “His greatest hobby was reading because he read more books than anybody I ever met.”

Brock especially enjoyed studying events surrounding World War II, specifically the Holocaust. In the same 2000 interview, Brock said he still did not understand how the Holocaust could have happened.

“I’ve visited all the major Holocaust sites in Europe, Brock said. “But it still fascinates me. The morality questions there are fantastic.”

Though most around Natchez remember Brock as an avid Cathedral fan and scholar, Flowers said Brock was a Catholic priest first.

“(Brock) was a convert to Catholicism, and I’m amazed of his knowledge of the Catholic faith,” Flowers said. “It was hard for me to believe he was not a lifelong Catholic.”

Garcia said he too will never forget Brock’s unyielding faith.

“He was a devout Catholic and he knew more about the Catholic religion than anybody I ever met,” Garcia said. “I will never forget him.”

Brock was currently filling in for the Rev. George Pookkattu, who is on sabbatical, at Our Lady Lourdes in Vidalia. Due to Brock’s death the church has now changed its Sunday Mass times for the next three weeks. Sunday Mass will begin at 11 a.m., July 11, 18 and 25. The Rev. Louis Sklar will lead the services. Saturday Mass times will stay the same.