The Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, was appointed the 12th Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus on January 31, 2019, by Pope Francis. Bishop Brennan replaces Bishop Frederick F. Campbell who submitted his resignation to the Vatican following his 75th birthday in August, according to the church’s Code of Canon Law. Campbell will continue to lead the Diocese of Columbus as the Apostolic Administrator until Brennan’s installation on March 29, at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Downtown Columbus.
Bishop Brennan was born on June 7, 1962, in the Bronx, New York, and was raised in Lindenhurst, NY, where his parents still reside. He is the oldest of 5 siblings, and has 14 nieces and nephews. During his introduction in Columbus, he noted that he was named after St. Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit scholar and reformer of the 16th century, whom he described as “a man of great wisdom in troubled times who had the ability to make people look deeper into questions, rather than just have knee-jerk reactions.” The bishop said other favorite saints of his were St. Agnes, after whom the cathedral of his diocese is named, and St. Oscar Romero, the bishop and martyr from El Salvador, whose recent canonization was celebrated with enthusiasm by the large Salvadoran community in the Rockville Centre diocese.
Prior to joining the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, Brennan earned degrees in mathematics and computer science from St. John’s University, in Queens. He was ordained a priest of the Rockville Centre Diocese on May 27, 1989. He was first assigned to St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, NY, and in 1994, he was appointed Secretary to the Bishop and served late Bishop John R. McGann, late Bishop James T. McHugh, and Bishop William Murphy, during his tenure that lasted through 2002. He was selected as Honorary Prelate to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, with the title of monsignor, in 1996.
When asked about how his background prepared him to become a bishop, he said, “I have been very fortunate in close to 30 years as a priest to have such a wide variety of pastoral experiences inside church administration and at the parish level. I think I’ve been just about everywhere and enjoyed it all. Being a priest is such a wonderful adventure.” Bishop Brennan speaks Spanish and has worked closely with the Latino community on Long Island, which consists of about 400,000 Catholics, and often celebrates Mass in Spanish, including Mass in the Nassau County Correctional Facility and other jails in the diocese.
In regards to vocations, Bishop Brennan said “Vocations will be a very important focus…We have some very fine priests, some of whom I’ve already met and who are encouraging, inviting, inspiring others to become priests. To those seminarians and to those who are considering the priesthood, I give a lot of credit.” He continued, “If the Lord is stirring your heart, there is probably something to it.”
Bishop Brennan has never had been to Columbus until now, however, he is clearly a quick study, as he immediately followed this admission with the ever-present “O-H-I-O” cheer of The Ohio State University. It seems he is more than ready to adapt to his new role, and his new diocese.