BALTIMORE — Following their Jan. 19 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, new Auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore recalled the litany of the saints, during which they lay prostrate before the altar.
“I felt a lot of joy and a tremendous hope for what is to come in the future, and for the future of ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Parker said as he was whisked to the post-Mass reception.
“I was praying along with the litany,” Brennan said with a grin while obliging the camera-wielding faithful who had momentarily cornered him and his priest handler. “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, hear my prayer.”
Close to 2,000 gathered in the cathedral on an unusually sunny and mild January afternoon to witness and take part in the ceremony, led by principal celebrant and consecrator Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori.
The archbishop was joined by co-consecrators Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, where Brennan served as a parish priest before his elevation to the episcopacy; and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and former archbishop Baltimore, whom Parker had served as priest-secretary from 2007 to 2013.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York concelebrated the Mass; he was rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome while Parker studied there from 1995 to 2001. Brennan also studied at that college, from 1970 to 1974.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read the mandates from Pope Francis authorizing the ordinations, and drew laughter from the pews when he opted to begin with “the older one,” Brennan, who is 69. Parker is 45.
Lori also broached the age topic, referring in his homily to the first reading, which was from Jeremiah and read by Sister Maria Luz Ortiz of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. In it God steamrolls the young prophet’s fretting: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”
“So, Bishop Brennan, let no one take advantage of your youth and inexperience,” the archbishop quipped, adding on a more serious note: “After all, you know, Bishop Brennan and I, we’ve been in priestly ministry a little over 40 years -– we go way back.”
Lori shared some insight on the role of bishops.
“The greatest challenge in being a bishop is not administration; it’s not public relations; and it’s not fundraising,” he said. “The greatest challenge is to be always and everywhere an example for God’s people. This is how we become witnesses of hope; this is how we strive to be authentic shepherds.”
He exhorted Parker and Brennan to teach the faith “not as words to be followed but as words of spirit and life that transform us from the inside out and make us bearers of the peace of Christ in a world that is broken, a nation that is divided, and in communities that are in need of healing.”
After promising to uphold the faith and fulfill their duties, and after lying prostrate before the altar, Parker kneeled in reverence as Lori laid his hands on his head, a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, followed by Wuerl and O’Brien.
The archbishop and the two co-consecrators did the same for Brennan; then the other bishops present laid their hands on both men.
Ending the rite of ordination, Lori anointed Parker and Brennan with holy chrism and presented each with his Book of the Gospels, episcopal ring, crosier and miter.
“This is the day the Lord has made,” Parker said in his remarks at the end of Mass. “Let us rejoice and be glad.”
He thanked “the Lord for calling me to the priesthood and now giving me its fullness” as well as the people of the Baltimore Archdiocese for their prayers and “profound encouragement.”
He thanked Lori for ordaining him and O’Brien for his guidance and friendship. “You have changed my priesthood forever,” Parker told the cardinal.
Finally, he thanked his mother, Maureen Parker, who sat in the front row and was first to receive Communion from the new bishop.
“It was from you and Dad I first heard about Jesus Christ,” Parker told her, also acknowledging his father, George Parker, who died in 2012. “To you I owe gratitude for my life and my faith.”
Brennan thanked those who came before him in the succession begun with the Apostles.
“We stand today, all of us here, on the shoulders of giants,” he said.
He also acknowledged his parents, both deceased, who had taken him and his brother, Paul, who was present, to Mass and confession.
“They grounded us in the Catholic faith in a very simple and unpretentious way,” he said.
Brennan also noted that his elevation to the episcopacy was not the first unexpected change in his ministry. He said in the Washington Archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, then the archbishop there, “sent me from a nice little parish in Northwest Washington … to a huge, multicultural parish, St. Martin of Tours” in suburban Maryland. “It opened me up ever more to serving people who speak differently and look differently than I do.”
He also delivered remarks in Spanish and French, primary languages of the immigrants he served at St. Martin.
During the Mass Lori welcomed the “family of faith” and a diverse congregation that included members of various religious orders, including Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and Missionaries of Charity.
Lori reflected on his first time ordaining bishops.
“It was a very moving experience,” he told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet. “As the ceremony unfolded, it just took on a life of its own thanks to the Holy Spirit.”
Thinking of all the people in the Baltimore Archdiocese thankful for two new leaders to share the work, he said, “I’m at the top of that list.”
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Zygmont is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. George P. Matysek Jr. contributed to this story.