A diocese that has been “called back to the shore” to come and follow Jesus more closely, as Bishop Robert Brennan put it in his installation Mass homily, can expect an invigorating mix of comforting familiarity and surprising change. The Diocese of Brooklyn is blessed with a new shepherd who has experienced and embraced this combination of stability and readiness to “go forth” as a community.
Bishop Brennan, who also became The Tablet’s new publisher on Tuesday, has already encouraged us to let change and new encounters deepen our faith and trust. He knows about life’s curveballs.
“I loved these last three years in Ohio,” he said in the homily. “I loved the variety of life, especially coming to know and love rural life … I was ready to spend my life there and, quite honestly, kicked and screamed a little when I learned I needed to move. I met wonderful people and worked with heroic and holy priests.”
But Bishop Brennan added that he looked at his assignment as a return to local shores connecting two boroughs of New York City and two suburban counties. There, each new wave or ripple in the waters provides a new experience as well as a clean slate.
His story is our story.
His flock is experiencing change after 18 years of being well served by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. Meanwhile, we are fortunate to welcome a new shepherd with a superb record of priestly ministry, pastoral care, and wise diocesan administration.
Life’s disruptions can help make us humble. That is one meaning of the motto on Bishop Brennan’s coat of arms: “Thy will be done.” In other words, Let it be done unto us.
But, in his pre-installation news conference, he also noted that the motto has a more active meaning: “It’s a reminder of what we need to do,” he said.
We need to be at work within life’s breaking news, often helping to create constructive change, so that we can strive to have the life we ultimately know we want. This requires the ability to reach out to our brothers and sisters, to listen and learn as the Lord acts through them and through the surprises we bring to each other.
In that news conference, Bishop Brennan also explained how he is not prone to jumping into change for the sake of change, nor to simply impose a Brennan way.
In upcoming synodal meetings and other venues, he wants to meet with people and, in a sense, simply ask them, “What’s new? How are things going?”
That’s an opportunity for everyone in Brooklyn and Queens — a chance for conversation, for asking questions we must keep posing to each other, especially when the Church provides a familiar and fulfilling context for understanding the value found in life’s ongoing newness.
Here we are on the shores with our new ordinary. God has brought us together through a combination of tradition, history, embracing the present, and preparing for the future.
We need to move out as pilgrims to pursue “the rest of the story” so that we can learn more and become more familiar with the connections God wants to show us — and build up among us.
May we grow in our trust in the will of God for our lives.