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New bishop of Wheeling-Charleston installed

The Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan

WHEELING — Seeking God’s light to illumine the world’s darkness, the Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan was installed Thursday as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

His installation was part of a festive Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. The two-hour afternoon service was attended by priests, deacons and laity from the diocese, leaders from other dioceses, invited guests and the general public.

Brennan, who had served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 2017, was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston on July 23. He succeeds the now-disgraced former bishop, Michael J. Bransfield, who resigned last September and later was barred from ministry by Pope Francis.

In his homily, Brennan called on West Virginia Catholics to approach the state of the diocese “with open eyes and determined spirits to bring about lasting change.”

Through Jesus Christ, “God is active to bring us out of sin and darkness into light,” he said, adding, “I hope that I will reflect some of the Lord’s light as the moon reflects the sun.”

Noting the continuing faith and service of parents, parish priests, charity workers, teachers and the diocesan chancery staff, Brennan said, “Christ’s light has been shining in the darkness through all of them. I thank God for these faithful West Virginia Catholics.”

He said the Gospel message is “good news too good to keep to ourselves.” He then called on West Virginia Catholics “to cherish your faith and the holy church that has nurtured it.”

The new diocesan bishop acknowledged problems, difficulties and obstacles facing the Mountain State, including the opioid epidemic, great poverty, “power exercised by some big businesses that act like schoolyard bullies,” the need for robust education and the hopelessness that some young people experience.

He also decried “extreme individualism in this country that denies our common humanity and leads only to isolation.”

Brennan said he asks people who have stopped going to Mass or praying “to consider the example of West Virginians of an earlier era.” When “the dark clouds of secession” appeared in the spring of 1861, residents of western Virginia “would not break their bonds of unity,” but remained part of the Union and sought statehood, he said.

The service began with Brennan knocking ceremoniously on the front doors of the cathedral.

The Most Rev. William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore — who served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for the past 11 months — greeted Brennan, saying, “You are the Lord’s answer to our prayers — no pressure there.”

Lori, who has known Brennan since they were seminarians, told the audience, “I can attest he is ‘the real deal.’ He is the strong, loving, wise shepherd we’ve all been praying for.”

The archbishop thanked the diocesan staff and others in the diocese for their service over the past year. “A lot of people did a lot of hard work under challenging circumstances,” Lori said.

Msgr. Walter Erbi, representative of the apostolic nuncio, read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis. The official document was handed to Brennan, who held it aloft.

After being installed in the cathedra (the bishop’s seat) and receiving a large wooden crozier, Brennan was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd.

The new diocesan leader also was greeted by ecumenical representatives, including Rabbi Joshua Lief of Temple Shalom, Wheeling; the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia; the Rev. Joseph Hazar, dean of St. George Cathedral (Eastern Orthodox) in Charleston; and the Rev. Jeffrey Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Council of Churches.

Major concelebrants of the Mass were bishops from the Catholic dioceses of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Richmond, Virginia; the archdioceses of Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and military services; the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Serving as concelebrants were priests of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and from the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Also participating in the service were deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and members of the Catholic Daughters of America, Knights of Columbus and Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

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