Drennan, 57, served in the United States Marine Corps for 30 years before entering the seminary. He attended a Franciscan high school in Buffalo, New York where he grew up and felt that the Franciscans laid the foundation for his vocation. But when he turned 18, he decided to become a Marine instead.
After his first four years as a Marine Drennan continued to hear the call to the priesthood. So at age 22, he left the Marine Corps and entered a novitiate for the Franciscan Conventual where he became a novice for six months. He re-enlisted into the Marine Corps when he realized that the religious life wasn’t the right fit for him at that time.
Drennan eventually married and had two children who are now 26 and 28. He served in several armed conflicts as a Marine including Beirut in 1982, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991, two tours in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005, and he concluded another year in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. His marriage ultimately ended in divorce and annulment. While in the military he continued to find ways to serve the Church. He served as a lay leader in Iraq where he held communion services for Marines that were in different bases due to the shortage of chaplains. He retired from the Marine Corps in June 2011 as Master Gunnery Sergeant E9 and entered the seminary in August of the same year.
“I always joke that 30 years in the Marine Corps prepared me for the seminary,” he says. “I don’t find many things difficult. I think the only thing I struggled with in the beginning was I worthy enough.”
During his internship at Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Winchester, he realized that many things he had learned as a Marine would benefit him as a priest.
“I think we come to the seminary to learn the tools and the knowledge to be a priest, but we don’t learn how to be priest,” Drennan said. “The people of God teach us how to be a priest.
“I think as you move up in rank in the Marine Corps, you learn how to take care of your Marines and how to put them first and think of them before thinking of yourself. It’s the same way a priest would do when he serves in his parish. He puts the people of God, the parish ahead of himself and always looks out for the people in his parish.”
From football to hockey to soccer, Drennan enjoys watching sports in his free time. He is a fan of his hometown football team, the Buffalo Bills, and enjoys spending time with his family as well. His home parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 palms.
Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.