PROSPECT HEIGHTS — On the same day of the opening of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality in Rome, Bishop Robert Brennan formalized changes to the diocese’s leadership structure that were born out of the local synod process.
Bishop Brennan on Oct. 4 installed four new regional vicars, each of whom will lead half of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The change is an effort to improve the working relationship between parishes and increase the involvement of diocesan leaders at the local level.
The four regions are Brooklyn East, Brooklyn West, Queens East, and Queens West. The newly appointed leaders of these regions are:
- Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski, pastor of Holy Cross in Maspeth and vicar for the diocese’s Migrant and Ethnic Apostolates, will lead Brooklyn West.
- Father Joseph Hoffman, pastor of St. Barbara’s in Bushwick and a chaplain for the Fire Department of the City of New York, will lead Brooklyn East.
- Father Peter Purpura, pastor of Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village, will lead Queens West.
- Father John Costello, pastor of St. Luke’s in Whitestone, will lead Queens East.
In his homily at the Mass of the installation of the new regional vicars, Bishop Brennan highlighted that this new leadership structure responds to two of the most often mentioned needs parishioners expressed through the synod process: enhanced communication and collaboration.
“Tonight is a celebration,” Bishop Brennan said. “It means a continuing of that work of listening deeply, and also addressing two of those needs: communication and collaboration.
“Bishop Mroziewski, Father Hoffman, Father Purpura, and Father Costello, you will assist me not only in the day-to-day responsibility of caring for all of our parishes, collaborating, supporting our pastors, but as we strive to work together to meet the challenges that have come our way in the current day, your role will help to address these two needs.”
Prior to the Mass, Bishop Brennan told The Tablet that this new leadership structure is “expanding the ways that we’re able to serve,” at a time when the diocese wants to make sure it can adapt to what the local church needs.
Prior to the change, the diocese had one episcopal vicar for each borough.
Under the new structure, each of the regional vicars will oversee a number of groups of parishes — known as deaneries — depending on where they are located. The diocese has 22 deaneries.
In their new roles, the regional vicars will attend deanery meetings and meet individually with the deans in their vicariate a minimum of four times a year.
They will further support diocesan initiatives, install and assist new pastors in their region, investigate and address complaints made to Bishop Brennan and complaints of inappropriate conduct made to the diocese, as well as participate in the diocese’s pastoral planning.
With the appointment also comes a commitment to regularly meet with Bishop Brennan about their vicariate, seats on the Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Assignment Board, and the duty to represent Bishop Brennan at civic and religious functions.
Speaking about the new role, Bishop Mroziewski emphasized the importance of collaboration between parishes, to create “a partnership with the parishes, with the priests, with the laypeople.”
Father Purpura noted that in the past it has seemed like parishes are competing with one another. He too wants to place an emphasis on collaboration.
“One thing I’ve been trying to emphasize in the different parishes that I’ve been visiting, with the priests that I’ve been visiting with, is that we as priests and as parishes if we could try to not only cooperate but complement one another,” Father Purpura siad.
Meanwhile, Father Costello touched on making sure that laypeople have a seat at the table.
“We need to give people that respect to help us plan what the future is going to be,” he said.
Prior to this new leadership model, Bishop Mroziewski led the Queens region and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Neil Tiedemann led the Brooklyn region. However, Bishop Tiedemann retired earlier this year, which Bishop Brennan told The Tablet was part of the reason for the timing of the change.
Bishop Brennan also said each of the new regional vicars “brings particular gifts.” He said Bishop Mroziewski brings his experience of leading the whole diocese. Father Costello brings his experience having served on the diocese’s personnel board and being involved in formation. Father Purpura brings a canon law background. And Father Hoffman brings the experience of working with people from all different communities.
Together, Bishop Brennan said they all bring a “pastoral heart. They have good innovation, and positive ways of trying to strengthen parish life, and the other thing is all of them have the respect of the priests.”