Just five days after his formal installation as the eighth Bishop of Brooklyn, NY, His Excellency, the Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan ’84C, will return to alma mater to celebrate his first Sunday Mass as prelate of the diocese. Bishop Brennan will celebrate the weekly 5:30 p.m. student liturgy at St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus of St. John’s University on Sunday, December 5, the second Sunday of Advent.
Some may interpret the location of the milestone liturgy as a sentimental choice considering Bishop Brennan spent his formative college years at St. John’s earning an undergraduate degree in mathematics in 1984. But in a diocese where there are 177 parishes in more than 200 churches serving the expansive boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the symbolic selection of a college campus to launch his episcopacy may foreshadow some of Bishop Brennan’s many priorities—Catholic education, youth ministry, preaching to a diverse congregation—as his metropolitan ministry begins.
Bishop Brennan told The Tablet, the newspaper of the Brooklyn diocese, that he requested to celebrate the liturgy at St. John’s due to the impact that the University, sponsored by the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), had on his vocation journey. “I appreciate all that I had learned there and I’m proud to go back to St. John’s.”
Established in 1870 at the request of the Right Rev. John Loughlin, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn, St. John’s opened its doors to 47 students and six faculty. Today, the University has 1,410 full-time and part-time faculty, 15,452 undergraduate students, and 4,206 graduate students who come from 48 states and 118 countries to live and learn in the “World’s Borough.”
Bishop Brennan, 59, a Bronx, NY, native, was raised on Long Island; he attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Lindenhurst, NY, and St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, NY. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, in 1989 and an Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre in 2012. He served as Bishop of Columbus, OH, from March 2019 until last month. Fluent in Spanish and a longtime champion of immigrant rights, Bishop Brennan was a member of a delegation of US bishops who traveled to the Diocese of Brownsville, TX, to learn more about the detention of Central American immigrants at the US–Mexican border.
With a multicultural and diverse population throughout the Brooklyn diocese, Masses are regularly held in 33 different languages. The boroughs’ combined population stands at more than 4.9 million, of which 1.5 million identify as Catholics. A variety of 26 ethnic ministries promote cultural events and provide an opportunity for immigrants to belong to the larger community while preserving and sharing their uniqueness and traditions. The diocese is home to the seventh-largest Catholic school network in the United States, with 70 elementary schools and academies that educate 19,174 students.
“How fitting that Bishop Brennan, a proud St. John’s graduate and the seventh successor to the visionary Bishop Loughlin, now leads the Brooklyn diocese—a diocese of immigrants. He is the very embodiment of the founding and enduring mission of St. John’s,” stated Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President. “Bishop Brennan will always have a home at St. John’s and his pastoral outreach to our students is most welcome.”