Father Brad: NDA’s Chaplain, Music Man, & Friend

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Nicholas Messerschmidt & Kassie Baeten, Staff Writers, Journalism

Being the new guy in school isn’t always the easiest task. But Father Brad Vanden Branden, the chaplain for Notre Dame Academy, keeps a positive outlook on his future here at NDA.

Father Brad’s main mission is to further this Catholic school community with love and connection. First, he plans to get to know Notre Dame from its staff to its students.

Vanden Branden says he’s “anxious about getting to know people well.” He feels the need to establish a good relationship with NDA’s students in order to get a better feel for its community.

Vanden Branden has been around the Catholic faith practically his whole life. He longed to be a nun before the second grade. That was until he realized a boy can’t be a nun but will be a priest!

Growing up, Vanden Branden attended West De Pere High School. He had an interest in musical theatre, which may explain the beautiful singing voice NDA students hear at mass.

Father Brad said what he’s looking forward to most at NDA is “becoming better acquainted with the community and reaching outside of Notre Dame Academy walls to parents and alumni.”

He says that meeting the new people has been awkward at times but then adds, “Notre Dame has been very welcoming.”

He likes playing piano along with singing.  Although a priest is different to many other careers, Vanden Branden claims he’s like any other guy “reading blogs and grabbing coffee with friends.”

Vanden Branden has been helping in other ways at NDA, not just in ministry. Due to his musical background, he has been teaching choir in the absence of Mrs. Salerno.

Concert Choir member Anabelle Xiong said, “Father Brad is so funny. He has been making the class lots of fun, and he’s an amazing singer.”

Not a lot of people really get to know the priest they see preach at mass. Often people leave as mass finishes, not thinking twice about getting to know the man behind the service.

However, Vanden Branden encourages students to come talk and get to know him. When pressed, Vanden Branden says his friends would describe him as “funny, outgoing, caring and compassionate.”

Vanden Branden’s main goal is to help NDA’s community “get to know Jesus better” and he’s willing to help Notre Dame in any way possible to make that happen.

New staff members at Notre Dame Academy don’t always have the easiest transition into their new “home away from home.” However, Father Brad, who was a student teacher at NDA, has actually just come home.

TAKE TWO:  Kassie Baeten Offers Another Look at Father Brad 

“I wanted to be a nun until the second grade, and then I realized boys can only be priests, so I decided to be a Norbertine priest.”  

Father Brad Vanden Branden grew up in West DePere.  He attended West DePere High School  and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.  Even though he grew up a West DePere Phantom, he is excited to represent the Green and Blue Tritions.  Father Brad has one sister.  He was ordained this past summer at the Abbey.  

The Ordination was described as a “beautiful event” by people witnessing it.  He is a musician who enjoys “playing piano and singing.”   

He has always had a love for Christ and has known his calling since a young age. He described his Norbertine order as “a group of people who have a desire to build a community and build each other up insteading of bringing each other down.”  He admits others have described him “as funny and outgoing.”

Father Brad has worked at schools before. In fact, he did his student teaching at Notre Dame.  He has been surprised by “how friendly people are,” and says “while it is kind of awkward to meet new people, it has been good. Everyone has been so nice.”

He is especially excited to reach out to all the students as well as going outside of the academy walls to parents and alumni.  

Senior Marina Frechette and Madison Kaster, who have gotten to know Father Brad, said the new chaplain “has a great positive energy and a light-hearted sense of humor and will be a great addition to our home away from home.”