Nomination as auxiliary bishop took Monsignor Brennan by surprise

UPDATED 12/5/16: Corrected a typo in an earlier version on the date Bishop-designate Brennan’s service began at St. Martin of Tours.

By Christopher Gunty 

When Monsignor Mark E. Brennan got a call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who said Pope Francis had nominated the Gaithersburg priest as an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, he said it took him completely by surprise.

Bishop-designate Brennan, 69, serves at a parish known for welcoming people of many cultures and for direct outreach to the poor. He said much of that was in place, thanks to lay people and previous pastors, before he arrived at St. Martin of Tours Parish in 2003.

“We give out winter coats to people on the feast of St. Martin, who cut his cloak in half as a military officer and gave his cloak to a man who was freezing half to death. So we continue that here. I just try to stay out of the way and not stop stuff that’s good and where I can try to help out,” he told the Catholic Review a few days after he learned of his appointment.

Mark Edward Brennan was born Feb. 6, 1947, in Boston to Edward Charles Brennan and Regina Claire Lonsway, both of whom are deceased. His only sibling is Paul W. Brennan, married to Patricia Seebold since 1973; the couple are members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Frederick.

Bishop-designate Brennan attended public elementary and junior high schools before attending St. Anthony’s High School in Washington, D.C. He received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969 from Brown University in Providence, R.I.

He studied for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary, then in Allegany, N.Y., for one year before attending the Pontifical North American College in Rome, earning a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and a master’s in pastoral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained to the diaconate May 10, 1973, in Rome. He served diaconal assignments at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Washington, summer 1973; St. Aloysius Parish, Leonardtown, 1974-1975; and St. John Parish, Clinton, 1975-1976.  

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington by then-Archbishop William W. Baum May 15, 1976. 

He served as parochial vicar (associate pastor) at Our Lady of Mercy, Potomac, 1976-1981; St. Pius X, Bowie, 1981-1985; and St. Bartholomew, Bethesda, 1986-1988.

During that time, he spent 14 months in 1985 and 1986 studying Spanish language and culture, principally in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. He also speaks French.

Bishop-designate Brennan served for 10 years as director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Washington, from 1988 to 1998.

He then served as pastor at St. Thomas Apostle, Washington, 1998-2003, before taking on his current assignment at St. Martin of Tours in Gaithersburg in June 2003.

Bishop-designate Brennan said he is not a complicated person – what people see is what they get. “Through my parents I learned how to work hard. Thank God I’ve had the health and stamina so far to do it,” he said. “I try to be available to people and hopefully as time goes on I get to know the people better and I can be of more service to them.”

He said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has asked him to be work on strengthening Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese as auxiliary bishop.

“I’ll do what I can to strengthen that,” the bishop-designate said. “And the rest is to be filled in.” 


Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.