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Bishop Brennan named to Wheeling-Charleston

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Pope Francis named Bishop Mark E. Brennan as bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which encompasses the state of West Virginia. The July 23 announcement was publicized in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Brennan, 72, was a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington until his appointment in December 2016 as an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. He was ordained a bishop Jan. 19, 2017, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.

He will become the ninth bishop of the diocese, which had been the Diocese of Wheeling from its founding in 1850 until 1962, when it became the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His installation Mass will be celebrated Aug. 22 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who has been apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston since September 2018, praised the appointment.

“I offer my deepest gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the naming of Bishop Mark Brennan as the new bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” Archbishop Lori said. “The Archdiocese of Baltimore has been blessed these past two years by his service as auxiliary bishop. During that time, I have witnessed his pastoral love for the people of God, who have accepted and embraced him for his kindness, humility and joyful witness to the faith.

“These gifts and so many others will bring healing and hope to the church in West Virginia, which deserves a shepherd who bears so many of the qualities possessed by Bishop Brennan. While we are saddened to lose him here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we extend our gratitude and prayers to him in his new role,” the archbishop said.

Bishop Brennan said, “I am deeply honored to be appointed the new bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese and am grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his confidence in me to now lead the Catholic faithful here in West Virginia in a spirit of true Christian service.”

He noted that his parents, now deceased, retired to the state, so “I am no stranger and, in fact, a great admirer of the beauty of its landscape and people.

“Even as we work toward bringing about true healing and renewal here in this local church – work begun so well by Archbishop William Lori – I am full of hope and confidence for what we can accomplish together,” he said.

Bishop Brennan said he was “very, very surprised” upon hearing the news from Archbishop Pierre that he had been selected for the post.

He said, “My reaction was: I grew up thinking lightning never struck twice in the same place.” But for him it did. “Once was an old dog like me being made a bishop. But it happened again. Bishop of a diocese? Who can believe it?”

He said he asked the nuncio if he was sure that he was the choice, and the archbishop confirmed it.

Bishop Brennan will face important issues as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He acknowledged that West Virginia is an epicenter of the nation’s fight against opioid addiction. It is also home to some of the poorest people in the country.

The bishop said he understands that Catholic Charities in West Virginia is doing something to address the opioid crisis, “but I think our Baltimore Catholic Charities probably is doing more. I’d like to see if Baltimore could give us some kind of assistance in developing a robust plan to do whatever the church can do to assist people afflicted with this terrible problem,” he told the Catholic Review.

Bishop Brennan also follows Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who resigned in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual harassment and financial malfeasance.

Archbishop Lori announced in March that a preliminary investigation into the allegations against Bishop Bransfield had been sent to the Vatican.

As a result of that investigation, the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States sent a communique to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston that was posted July 19 on the diocese’s website noting that based on the findings of the investigation into Bishop Bransfield, Pope Francis has decided disciplinary actions for the bishop.

Bishop Bransfield will be prohibited from living in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and prohibited from presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of the liturgy.

The communique also said Bishop Bransfield would be obligated “to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused; the nature and extent of the amends to be decided in consultation with the future bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston.”

Bishop Brennan understands that an important part of his ministry will be healing.

“I hope I can be a bishop who listens to people and tries to help them make sense of their experience and honors what they’ve gone through, and who works with them to try to get to a better place,” he said.

“Can I personally bring healing? I don’t know -- and I believe God’s the one who brings healing -- but can I be an instrument in doing that? I hope and pray I can.”

A priest in Washington

Bishop Brennan was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington May 15, 1976. He served in three parishes as parochial vicar (associate pastor), 1976-1988.

During that time, he spent 14 months in 1985 and 1986 studying Spanish language and culture, principally in the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

Bishop Brennan served as director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Washington from 1988 to 1998.

He served as pastor at St. Thomas Apostle, Washington, 1998-2003, before taking on his assignment as pastor of St. Martin of Tours in Gaithersburg in June 2003.





© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019