Babette Pascasio Photo
Bishop Brennan visits preschoolers at St. Francis de Sales School in Beckley Sept. 13.
By Babette Pascasio
Bishop Mark E. Brennan has been making visits to parishes, missions, and Catholic schools all over the state since his installation last month.
In Martinsburg, St. Joseph Parish church was packed Sept. 8 for one of the weekly Spanish Masses where they welcomed Bishop Brennan as the celebrant.
“I think it is important to point out that Bishop Brennan presided the Mass, and he preached… in perfect Spanish,” said Enid Roman de Jesus, diocesan director for Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, a few days after the Mass.
At the end of the Mass, congregants came to the front of the church and held up images of Our Lady under various titles which the bishop blessed. This was in recognition of Our Lady’s birthday Sept. 8.
“We are so lucky to have Bishop Brennan as our spiritual leader,” Roman de Jesus said. “I just had a brief conversation with him during this time at St. Joseph Parish, so many things I want to talk to him about, but I can see and feel that he is a true shepherd, who recognizes his sheep and comes to help heal their wounds. This shepherd hears them, and knows how to communicate with his flock, many times in English, sometimes in Spanish, other times without a word, he leads and comforts our hearts. To our Trinitarian God and to our Heavenly Mother, we ask them to bless and intercede for our Bishop, Mark Brennan, so he can lead our church in West Virginia with wisdom, courage and an abundance of love for his Catholic flock. We pray.”
After the Mass, Bishop Brennan stepped out to greet personally the parishioners and later went to the event hall where a fiesta featuring Hispanic food was held.
The bishop then visited Catholic churches in southern West Virginia. He celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Mission in Powhatan in McDowell County on Sept. 11 with Father Binny Mulackail, pastor, concelebrating. At the Mass, Bishop Brennan asked all to remember those who lost their lives and suffered from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.The bishop recalled that at the time of the attacks, he was a parish priest in Washington, D.C. One of his own parishioners worked at the Pentagon and survived, helping others to safety. His parish held a prayer service that evening for those in D.C., New York and Pennsylvania.
At the conclusion of Mass, the bishop thanked all the priests and deacons serving in southern West Virginia. After Mass, all attended a dinner with the people of McDowell County and neighboring areas. During a “Meet & Greet” luncheon at St. Peter Parish in Welch, Bishop Brennan encouraged the people to live out their faith and the Catholic spiritual life. “Even if it’s a small community… it doesn’t have to mean you cease community life,” he said.
The next day, Bishop Brennan visited Sacred Heart Parish in Rainelle, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in White Sulphur Springs, and St. Louis King of France Chapel in Lewisburg. He ended the day celebrating Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Ronceverte.
In his homily at St. Catherine’s, Bishop Brennan spoke about forgiveness, stating that it is a petition in the Lord’s prayer. “We have to forgive … do not respond to violence with violence,” he said. Citing an example: he spoke about one woman’s act of forgiveness when her daughter was harmed and her life taken away by a young man. The mother chose to forgive: pray, write letters, and even visit him in prison. The bishop also referred to the late Pope John Paul II, when he forgave the person who took an attempt at his life.
After Mass, the bishop attended a dinner with parishioners from Ronceverte and surrounding areas. Rosemarie and Harold Brown, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary the day of Bishop Brennan’s visit, were very happy to meet him. “I thought the bishop was very nice … like the guy next door,” Rosemarie said.
On Sept. 13, Mass was celebrated by Bishop Brennan at St. Francis de Sales Church in Beckley. What was special about this Mass was students from St. Francis de Sales School filled the front pews, closest to the altar. Parents, grandparents, family members, friends were there with them. The bishop shared with all parishioner’s the meaning of the shepherd’s staff, crosier, and mitre. The bishop talked to the children about the saints and their good example. “They really followed God and loved their neighbor,” he said to them. After Mass, he toured St. Francis de Sales School greeting and blessing all the children, and speaking to them and their teachers. The students of a preschool class sang to him “This Land is Your Land”.
Later that day, he visited St. Patrick Parish in Hinton, were the people joyfully welcomed him with a dinner in the parish hall.
The next day, Bishop Brennan celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Bluefield. Addressing the young people, the bishop said that one of them might enter priesthood or religious life. Seminarian Phillip Szabo took part in the Mass; he served this parish and neighboring counties just last year.
When asked a few questions for The Catholic Spirit, during earlier tours in the state, the bishop said his parents were true believers of the Catholic faith and brought him and his brother to Mass, teaching them to pray. To this day, he and his brother are faithful to Sunday Mass. He said his call to the priesthood was a gradual development from high school to college, feeling a need to stand up and talk about God. His influences were from the witnesses of priests and Benedictine Sisters.
Bishop Brennan also celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Princeton on Sept. 15. All were joyful, appreciative, and honored to meet him on his last day of the visits before returning to Wheeling. At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Brennan told the congregation of his happiness in meeting everyone. “God willing I can return many more times,” he said.
Upon his return to Wheeling, he celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Wheeling University. The bishop was back on the road the next day traveling to Star City Sept. 18 for Mass and the dedication of the new altar at St. Mary Parish.