BROOKLYN, New York — Members of the student orchestra of St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, New York, Bishop Robert J. Brennan’s alma mater, played holiday music outside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn as people arrived to witness the installation Mass of Brooklyn’s eight bishop Nov. 30.
Brennan, 59, previously the bishop of Columbus, Ohio, succeeds Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, 77, whose retirement became effective Sept. 29, the day Pope Francis named Brennan to lead the diocese. DiMarzio was Brooklyn’s shepherd for 18 years.
“I must admit, coming back this way, there is something familiar, even comfortable,” Brennan told reporters ahead of his installation.
He is a native New Yorker who was born in the borough of the Bronx and raised in Lindenhurst, New York, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, where he was an auxiliary bishop from 2012 until his appointment to Columbus in 2019.
“The whole world is found here in Brooklyn and in Queens,” said the new shepherd of a diocese with more than 1.3 million Catholics. “Every language, every nationality. We are truly the diocese of immigrants.”
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the U.S., and DiMarzio concelebrated the Mass with Brennan in front of a congregation of 1,800, including his parents, Patricia and Robert, who is a retired NYPD officer, and other family members.
His nephew Tom Brennan told New York’s CBS2 that seeing his uncle installed in Brooklyn was “a very special opportunity” because the family has seen him “become a priest, and then a monsignor, then an auxiliary bishop and now he’s the bishop of Brooklyn.”
Bishop Brennan, whose episcopal motto is “Thy Will Be Done,” has pledged to strengthen the Catholic schools and academies in Brooklyn and Queens, and work with and support the immigrant communities. He does speak Spanish.
The prelate also said he wants to focus on evangelizing Catholics through various means of communication and social media.
Among the highlights of his time in Columbus was the institution of the diocesan-wide “Real Presence, Real Future” evangelization and planning initiative, a two-year process involving clergy, lay ecclesial ministers, parish volunteers and the faithful. He also traveled regularly to meet and engage people in that diocese’s 23 counties.
When Pope Francis named him to head the Brooklyn Diocese, he said he was “ready and eager to embrace the people of Brooklyn and Queens as their pastor. Knowing we are loved by Jesus, we will strive to show others his face, bearing the joy of the Gospel and the splendor of truth.”
On the national level, Brennan has served as a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee as well as a member of the bishops’ Catholic education and priorities and plans committees.
When his successor was named, DiMarzio called the appointment “a historic moment for the Diocese of Brooklyn which is a very active diocese, and Bishop Brennan’s energy makes him a perfect choice.”
“I ask for God’s blessings on this transition,” he said, “so that the work of God, in service to his people, can effectively continue” for the Catholics of Brooklyn and Queens, the two New York boroughs that make up the diocese.
Writing his last column for The Tablet. Brooklyn’s diocesan newspaper, the now-retired bishop said: “As my journey comes to an end as the seventh bishop of Brooklyn, I am filled with thankfulness in all we have accomplished together during these past 18 years.”
“Still, we need to continue to put out into the deep and not be afraid. Continue fishing for that encounter with Jesus, despite day-to-day routine as well as our sufferings,” he said in the Nov. 27 column. “We should continue to focus our lives around him, use our God-given gifts in service to others, and live the Gospel. In doing so, he will never abandon us.
“Please know that I will remember each and every one of you in daily prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist.”