Nearly 1,000 people from the Diocese of Brooklyn, including priests, teachers, and donors, gathered at Russos on the Bay in Howard Beach to celebrate the Bishop’s Christmas Luncheon. The annual event raises money for Catholic Education in Brooklyn and Queens, and hands out awards to distinguished members of the Diocese community.
This year’s luncheon was particularly festive as it was the first overseen by Bishop Robert Brennan, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn who was installed in the position a week prior. Brennan, who previously served as the Bishop of Columbus in Ohio, succeeded Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who served as the Bishop of Brooklyn for 18 years.
“In the week since [my installation], I have been able to interact with so many people,” Bishop Brennan said at the luncheon. “This is a wonderful and warm diocese, and I was able to experience that warmth personally.”
During his remarks, the new Bishop spoke about his experience with Catholic education in Ohio and the ways in which the state’s policies on the matter differ from New York’s.
“One of the things that’s true over there is that parents have a little bit of a choice over the education of their children,” he said. “They are able to use a little of the money that they pay in taxes to go to [private] schools. We don’t have that here, so people like you who are here today make the difference. You make an enormous difference in the lives of so many children and family.”
Bishop Brennan is a product of Catholic education himself. Born and raised on Long Island, he attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Lindenhurst and St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. He later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and computer science from St. John’s University in Queens before completing his studies for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington.
Since arriving in Brooklyn, Brennan has already been impressed by the pedigree of Catholic education in the Diocese.
“When my appointment was announced, the first thing Bishop DiMarzio did was bring me to St. Savior. I was able to see the hallmarks of a catholic education first hand,” the new Bishop said. “Catholic education is only possible through a network of partnerships, between schools, between parishes, and between people who really believe in our children.”
The Luncheon continued with an award ceremony, recognizing the lifetime achievement of three members of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The Emma A. Daniel Benefactor’s Award was given to Ed Wilkinson, the longtime publisher of the Tablet (the official newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The Spirit of Hope Award was given to Robert Schirling, the Chairperson of Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Little Neck. Lastly, the St. John Paul II Distinguished Stewardship Award was given to Bishop DiMarzio for his years of service leading the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“I was nominated to become a bishop by Pope St. John Paul II, so it gives me such great pleasure to get an award in his name,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
“Bishop Brennan will be a great leader for us. He is enthusiastic, young, and has energy, all the things I was losing there for a while,” DiMarzio added with a chuckle.
The Diocese of Brooklyn is coordinating a number of fundraisers for Catholic education throughout the holiday season, including a forthcoming Christmas Concert at the recently renovated Emmaus Center of Brooklyn in Williamsburg.