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Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Brennan named to head West Virginia diocese

Bishop Brennan acknowledges need to facilitate healing after resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield

Bp. Brennan
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore to head the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia.

A native of Boston, Bishop Brennan, 72, has been a Baltimore auxiliary since his episcopal ordination Jan. 19, 2017.

In West Virginia, he fills the vacancy left by the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield last September; he turned 75 Sept. 8, 2018, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. When Pope Francis accepted his resignation Sept. 13, 2018, he left under a cloud of allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. The same day, Pope Francis named Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori apostolic administrator of the statewide diocese.

Bishop Brennan’s appointment was announced July 23 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

He will become the ninth bishop of the diocese, which had been the Diocese of Wheeling from its founding in 1850 until 1962, when it became the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. His installation Mass will be celebrated Aug. 22 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling.

Bishop Brennan said, “I am deeply honored to be appointed the new bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese and am grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his confidence in me to now lead the Catholic faithful here in West Virginia in a spirit of true Christian service.”

“Even as we work toward bringing about true healing and renewal here in this local Church — work begun so well by Archbishop William Lori — I am full of hope and confidence for what we can accomplish together,” he said.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has about 78,000 Catholics, or 4% of a total state population of over 1.8 million people.

Bishop Brennan will face important issues as the diocese’s bishop. He acknowledged that West Virginia is an epicenter of the nation’s fight against opioid addiction. It also is home to some of the poorest people in the country.

In addition, he follows Bishop Bransfield, who will be prohibited from living in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and prohibited from presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of the liturgy. He also is obligated “to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused; the nature and extent of the amends to be decided in consultation with the future bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.”

These disciplinary actions were imposed by Pope Francis and announced July 19; they were based on the findings of the investigation into Bishop Bransfield overseen by Archbishop Lori as apostolic administrator.

Bishop Brennan understands that an important part of his ministry will be healing.

“I hope I can be a bishop who listens to people and tries to help them make sense of their experience and honors what they’ve gone through, and who works with them to try to get to a better place,” he told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet.

“Can I personally bring healing? I don’t know — and I believe God’s the one who brings healing — but can I be an instrument in doing that? I hope and pray I can,” he added.

Bishop Brennan earned a bachelor of arts degree from Brown University in Providence, R.I., in 1969. He pursued seminary studies at Christ the King Seminary in Albany, N.Y., 1969-1970. In 1972, he received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; he also earned a graduate degree from the Gregorian in 1974. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington May 15, 1976.


Des Moines bishop retires; priest of Dubuque named successor

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and named as his successor Father William M. Joensen, a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.

The resignation and appointment were announced July 18 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Joensen’s episcopal ordination and installation will be celebrated Sept. 27.

Bishop-designate Joensen, who turned 59 July 8, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and was ordained a priest in the Dubuque Archdiocese in 1989.

He attended seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and holds a doctorate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America.

Bishop Pates, 76, turned 75 in February 2018, and as required by canon law submitted his resignation letter to the pope then, but he continued serving the Des Moines Diocese. He is a former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and since leaving that position has taken a leading role in advocacy for the environment.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Pates the ninth bishop of Des Moines. Eight years earlier, he became an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1968 in the Minnesota archdiocese, where he was born Feb. 12, 1943.

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