PARK SLOPE — Students from St. Saviour High School welcomed Bishop-designate Robert Brennan to their church the best way they knew how — treating him to a joyful rendition of the gospel song “Awesome God.”
The performance took place in St. Saviour Church on Sept. 29, just a few hours after Bishop Brennan was named the new bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn by Pope Francis.
Bishop Brennan spent much of the day getting to know the Diocese of Brooklyn—making several stops, including St. Saviour, where he was greeted by students from the high school and the Catholic Academy.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio suggested that Bishop-designate Brennan make St. Saviour his first stop, and he accompanied his successor to the Park Slope church.
Bishop Brennan enjoyed performances by the high school’s gospel choir and the St. Saviour Catholic Academy Chorus, telling them afterward, “Thank you for that marvelous welcome. I’m overwhelmed by it.”
He used the occasion to reiterate his commitment to Catholic education. School is a way to “encounter God in the world around you,” he said.
Bishop Brennan said his commitment to Catholic education carries with it a belief in providing more opportunities for students to attend Catholic schools.
That includes working with groups like Futures in Education, the organization that offers scholarships to students who can’t afford Catholic school tuition.
“There are a lot of people who believe in you,” he told the students. “They’re making an investment.”
That was music to the ears of Msgr. David Cassato, the diocesan vicar for Catholic schools, who said such scholarships are essential.
“We need more aggressive campaigning for funding for children that don’t have the money — the biggest issue,” he said. “People would be in our schools if we had more financial assistance.”
Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of schools for the diocese, who also attended the event at St. Saviour, said there are other areas in Catholic education also in need of a financial boost.
“I think we need to look at teachers’ salaries, principals’ salaries, finding new ways to bring money into the academies, grants, development — things we have been working on,” he said.
Calling Catholic education “a series of partnerships,” Bishop Brennan talked about the importance of the partnership between students and teachers and between schools and parish communities.
While this first meeting between the Bishop-designate and students took place in a church, Bishop Brennan assured the students that he would be back — the next time in their classrooms.
The students were happy to meet the man who will soon be leading the diocese.
“I feel very honored that he chose to come to my school first,” said freshman Clare Rhatigan. “And I loved hearing what he had to say about religion and how he’s so happy to be here. I thought he was a really nice guy. I think he can do a lot for the religious community.”
Nathaniel DeRoy, an eighth-grader at the academy, said he was impressed by Bishop Brennan’s talk of his love for Catholic schools.
“I liked how he had a little sense of humor as well,” he added. “I’m really excited for the new bishop.”
The students didn’t let the bishop leave empty-handed, presenting him with flowers and a St. Saviour sweatshirt.
Sixth-grader Maryjoel Guarquila, who said she too was excited to meet the bishop-designate, offered support for the big burden he will carry as Bishop of Brooklyn: “I want him to know that we’re all here for him, and whenever he has a bad moment or like he feels like he needs some help, he could just come to us and talk and feel better with us.”