Rejoicing Accompanies Brennan
“It’s a new day.”
“He’s a breath of fresh air.”
“He’s ‘the real deal.'”
Those were just some of the joyous and heartfelt sentiments expressed by laity and clergy Thursday as they welcomed the Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan as the ninth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
A religious brother remarked that the diocese was emerging from the “tomb time” of the past year, when clergy, staff members and the laity began to process the shock, hurt and anger that followed revelations about the previous bishop’s misdeeds. The brother compared the periof of mourning and processing past events to the “tomb time” of Holy Saturday, midway between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Observers at Thursday’s celebration commented favorably on Brennan’s soft-spoken, humble and gentle manner and his genuine interest in people. After the installation, he spent extra time greeting people outside the Cathedral of St. Joseph, then chatted with more well-wishers during a reception at WesBanco Arena. The bishop shook hands, talked and posed for photos with a long line of guests on the arena’s main floor.
Even though the entire service lasted two hours, the installation was slightly shorter than similar ceremonies. An ordination or consecration of a bishop wasn’t required since Brennan was already an ordained bishop of the Catholic Church.
When a couple of minor glitches occurred, Brennan responded with a light-hearted “oh, well” attitude and the service continued as planned.
The mood inside the cathedral for the occasion was joyous. Uplifting, celebratory music was offered by a choir, accompanied by organ, brass and timpani.
Multi-cultural aspects were evident in the service. During the Liturgy of the Word, lessons were read alternately in English and Spanish.
The program contained the text of the scriptures, with the printed version appearing in the language opposite of what was being spoken.
A universal prayer’s passages were delivered in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish (representing Mexico), Shona (Zimbabwe), Malayalam (India) and Tagalog (Philippines).
The installation and the Mass featured the necessary pomp and festive ritual, yet the event remained relatively low-key. For example, participants were attired formally, but without flashy elements.
Brennan and diocesan priests, as well as the Most Rev. William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore, wore matching chasubles for the service. The tasteful, but understated, vestments were cream colored with light blue brocade trim.
In similar fashion, visiting bishops from other dioceses had cream-colored chasubles, adorned with small insignias, and they wore plain white mitres.
Participants from Catholic fraternal organizations were attired in traditional, albeit understated, style. There were no plumes or elaborate ornamentation on display.
Invited guests for the service included leaders of Catholic institutions and organizations, members of religious communities and congregations, parish representatives and ecumenical leaders. Members of the general public were seated in the cathedral’s side balconies with a bird’s-eye view of the proceedings.
Refreshingly, the event was devoid of political distractions. No grandstanding politicians or elected officials were visible in the crowd.
Near the end of the Mass, as Brennan acknowledged some of the participants and guests, he inquired of the audience, “Any public officials? Any mayors?” When no one stood or waved a hand, he reacted with a muffled response that drew laughter from some of the people seated in the front pews.
The reception honoring Brennan at WesBanco Arena was lovely, but also low-key.
Guests were treated to a tasty spread of chicken salad sliders, pasta, meatballs, breadsticks, salad and fruit, accompanied by iced tea, lemonade, water and coffee as the beverage choices.
The atmosphere inside the arena was like that of a homecoming as family, friends and former parishioners greeted Brennan, while other guests renewed acquaintance and talked with priests and deacons in attendance.
Relatives, friends and former parishioners traveled from several states to witness the new diocesan bishop’s installation. Among those in attendance were couples who had been married by Brennan when he was a parish priest.
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org