Diocesan News

Bishop Brennan Looks Back On His 10 Years of Episcopacy

Moments after his ordination 10 years ago, new Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brennan walks in procession around St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. (Photos: Courtesy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Of all the many memories of his episcopal ordination, the one that stands out to Bishop Robert Brennan is the traditional singing of the Litany of the Saints as he lay prostrate in the sanctuary of St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.

“I really had a sense of that communion of saints — certainly the saints whose names are being called, but a lot of people who I’ve known through the years who are in heaven,” he told Currents News in a recent interview. “And so I felt a certain closeness to a lot of people — both there in the cathedral and in that communion of saints.”

Bishop Brennan, 60, is marking the 10th anniversary of his ordination as bishop and is looking back over the past decade while looking toward the future.

He was ordained an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on July 25, 2012. Seven years later, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, and served there for two years before being named Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Back in 2012, he was shocked to receive the news from the apostolic nuncio (the pope’s U.S. representative) that he was appointed auxiliary bishop.

“Well, it’s funny. He had a little bit of a job trying to track me down that day, and got me the next morning,” he recalled. “I had been at Mass and came back. He had left messages in my office and in the rectory.”

The first thing he did after getting the news was to go to church, kneel, and pray, “filled with emotion.”

Reflecting on his episcopacy, he is grateful for the variety of experiences he has enjoyed. Serving in Rockville Centre, where he had grown up, he felt at home. Then he was sent from Long Island to Columbus. “It was my first real urban experience. And that was a real eye-opening experience,” he recalled.

He admitted that he thought he would be in Columbus for years to come but said, “God surprised me.” He was sent to the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2021. “And here I am in Brooklyn, with a whole new experience in terms of urban life, in terms of the multicultural feel and the vibrancy of life in a faith that I’m experiencing,” he said.

The idea of becoming Bishop of Brooklyn had never occurred to him.

“I never thought that when I was in the seminary (Immaculate Conception on Long Island); I thought Brooklyn was another world, and I didn’t see it,” he remembered.

Bishop Brennan does have ties to two other boroughs. He was born in the Bronx, and his father, also named Robert, was a police officer in Queens.

Bishop Brennan looked from afar at events like the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, never imagining he would lead them.

“Those were things I had always read about. Never, never did I imagine I’d be leading the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on Good Friday,” he said, adding that he is “amazed” to have the honor.

If there is a common thread throughout his work in Rockville Centre, Columbus, and now in Brooklyn, it’s education. “I’m always learning about the goodness of God’s people,” he said. “I’m just overwhelmed by the goodness of people and the way people manage to carry burdens and do so with great faith with tremendous hope and love.” 

He says The best part of being a bishop is being out among the faithful — visiting churches and talking to parishioners.

“I have a front row seat to all the good things that are happening all around us,” he said. “So there are those great happy events where you’re celebrating things, and I’m right there in the thick of it.”

Conversely, the hardest part is not being able to do more. “I wish I could answer every need, and sometimes it’s difficult,” he said, adding he believes in doing “the best you can with what you have.”

As he looks forward to the next 10 years, he wants to “continue to build on all of the good that’s been here.”