Diocesan News

The Ritual That Will Formally Welcome the New Bishop of Brooklyn

Bishop Robert J. Brennan (above in 2019, the year he was installed as the prelate of Columbus, Ohio) will experience the pomp and pageantry again on Nov. 30 when he is installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn. (Photo: Gregory A. Shemitz, via CNS)

Currents News and NET-TV will provide live coverage of Bishop Brennan’s installation starting at 10:30 a.m. with a press conference. A documentary on the life and legacy of Bishop DiMarzio will lead into the ceremony and Mass. To watch the live coverage: click here.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Three loud knocks outside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Nov. 30 will signal a new era for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The sound will come from Bishop-designate Robert J. Brennan rapping on the church doors with a wooden mallet — part of a centuries-old ritual. He will succeed Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who is retiring after 18 years.

The historic moments to follow will be the fourth time in half a century for the welcoming of a new shepherd. Bishop Francis Mugavero served 1968-1990; Bishop Thomas Daily served 1990-2003; Bishop DiMarzio began his current ministry in 2003.

Making All Things New

“The Church provides us with a ritual that, while it is not written in concrete, it is the aspiration that we follow,” explained Father John O’Connor, director of the office of Diocesan Liturgy, who has planned the ceremony. 

“It goes back to when bishops showed up in ancient times with just a letter to say, ‘I am your new bishop.’ ” 

Since Bishop Brennan is already a bishop, there will be no ordination. 

This ceremony is for his installation as shepherd of the Diocese of Brooklyn — with approximately 1.5 million Roman Catholics in nearly 200 Catholic parishes across the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. 

The installation, which is invitation-only, is expected to span about two hours. It will begin at 1:30 p.m. with priests, deacons, laity, and clergy of other faiths entering in procession.

A select group of priests called the College of Consultors will be poised for a special duty, ceremoniously examining the apostolic letter in which Pope Francis declares he has selected Bishop Brennan to lead the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Rites at the Doors

But it all begins with the “rites at the door,” in which Bishop Brennan will be welcomed into the co-cathedral’s vestibule and greeted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York. 

He is the metropolitan of the province of New York state. 

Cardinal Dolan will introduce Bishop Brennan to Bishop DiMarzio and Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Chappetto, Neil Tiedemann, Paul Sanchez, James Massa, Witold Mroziewski, and Retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros.

Then, Bishop Chappetto, who is the senior bishop and vicar general, will present Bishop Brennan with a crucifix. 

“It is a reminder of our salvation in Christ, and how the ministry of both shepherd and sheep is devoted to the ministry of the one who came before us, Jesus himself,” Father O’Connor said.

The crucifix is a gift from the diocese, and Bishop Brennan will kiss it. 

Bishop Tiedemann, who is the next most-senior bishop, will present Bishop Brennan with the aspergillum, the implement for sprinkling holy water. 

“Bishop Brennan will sprinkle all those around him at the back of the church with holy water,” Father O’Connor said. 

The act, he added, reminds Catholics that, “in the midst of this pomp and pageantry, it’s all founded on our baptismal commitment in Christ.”

After that’s done, there will be a procession to the altar, which will include at least 36 bishops. 

“We will have a good number of the bishops of New York, if not all of them, coming,” he said. “I would suspect there also will be a good number of bishops from Ohio coming,” where Bishop Brennan served as the ordinary of the Diocese of Columbus since 2019.

Father O’Connor also noted that Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia will attend. He is a longtime friend of Bishop Brennan from their days as auxiliary bishops in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. 

Also, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark has confirmed his attendance.

Letter from the Pope

When all members of the procession have reached their places and the opening remarks and prayers have been concluded, Cardinal Dolan will introduce the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who will read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis.

“It’s a beautiful letter,” Father O’Connor said, adding that it was written in calligraphy on special parchment, and marked with the Holy Father’s seal.

“It’s also beautiful in content,” he added. “It will talk about Bishop Brennan’s ministry and the reason why he has been chosen to be the eighth Bishop of Brooklyn. 

“Bishop Brennan will then show it to the College of Consultors to say that, yeah, this isn’t a fake: I’m the new shepherd.’ ”

Further, Bishop Brennan will hold the letter high and carry it throughout the church to show the congregation. When Bishop Brennan returns to the altar sanctuary area, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Pierre will lead him to the cathedra — commonly known as the bishop’s chair.

“Then they will hand him the pastoral staff which is symbolic of his ministry in the diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens,” Father O’Connor said.

‘Gather Us In’

At that point, the new bishop will greet community leaders, elected officials, and clergy of other faiths, who will all approach him from the center aisle. 

Representatives of the Diocese of Brooklyn will also fill the center aisle to greet Bishop Brennan, contributing to a scene that represents great size and diversity, Father O’Connor said.

It will include diocesan school and faith formation children, people with special needs, senior citizens, priests, seminarians, deacons, and more.

Laity will include pastoral associates, directors of education, and the coordinators of various cultural apostolates, along with some of their members in traditional attire from homelands in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Europe.

“We’ll try to have the whole gamut of who’s who in the diocese,” Father O’Connor said. “And then once he finishes with that, Bishop Brennan will return to the chair, and then the “Gloria” will be sung.”

The Mass will offer Bishop Brennan the opportunity to give his first homily as Bishop of Brooklyn.

Following Mass, attendees in the co-cathedral will empty out to Pacific Street, where even more people will welcome him.

Those invited to attend are advised to arrive early. Face masks will be mandatory for anyone participating in the processions, Father O’Connor said. All other COVID-19 protocols for Mass will be observed.

“Our expectation is there will not be a vacancy,” he said.