LA’s New Auxiliary Bishops Answer the Call to Be the Light of Christ

Pope Francis and Archbishop Gomez encouraged the prelates to serve the Church well, as did installation Mass attendees.

Bishops Joseph Brennan, Robert Barron and David O'Connell (l to r) were ordained as auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Sept. 8 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Bishops Joseph Brennan, Robert Barron and David O'Connell (l to r) were ordained as auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Sept. 8 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. (photo: John Rueda of The Tidings)

LOS ANGELES — Who are L.A.’s newest shepherds?

Bishop Joseph Brennan and Bishop David O’Connell are local priests from Los Angeles. Bishop Robert Barron, well-known for his Word on Fire Ministries — which evangelizes to millions worldwide using social media, blogs, videos and the popular Catholicism series — is a Chicago native.

On Tuesday, the three new auxiliary bishops were ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

Three letters from Pope Francis — who chose all three bishops in July, after the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, who had reached the retirement age of 75 — were read by the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, one for each bishop. A common theme in all three letters was a call to serve the community.

In a moving ordination Mass, hundreds of priests and bishops were in attendance. Archbishop Jose Gomez, in his homily, said that all three auxiliary bishops were answering the call to be the light of Christ, reflecting on the passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” 

As it was the feast day of the Nativity of Mary, Archbishop Gomez said that the three men will need to rely on Mary to complete their work as bishops, calling them to “intensify and deepen your love for Mary.”

The cathedral was packed, and hundreds lined up after Mass for a couple of hours in order to receive a blessing from the newly ordained bishops.

Many attendees were in awe of the installation’s significance.

“During the liturgical rite, I couldn’t help but stand in awe at the immense reality of the succession these holy men are a part of, going all the way back to the apostles themselves. Continually reminded throughout that they are servants of the people of God, it leaves you with great pride in this incredible faith founded by Jesus Christ,” attendee Jared Zimmerer told the Register.

“The ordination was a viscerally powerful reminder of the truth and beauty of apostolic succession,” Jon Kearney of Word on Fire shared with the Register. “Anyone in attendance could not help but feel the Holy Spirit’s presence during the laying on of hands. Veni Sancte Spiritus!”

The archdiocese is equally excited.

“For Archbishop Gomez, it’s very exciting to have these three men as his auxiliaries,” Father Michael Barrett, theological adviser to the archbishop of Los Angeles, told the Register. “It affects the whole archdiocese in significant ways, which affects the whole Church in America, when you get right down to it.”

For Bishop Brennan, becoming bishop was not a goal of his, but he answers the call with a big heart. “Bishop Brennan is an extremely pastoral man. He has a big heart, he loves people, [and] he loves to be a pastor,” Father Barrett said. “His whole dream was to finish his time as vicar general and go back to being pastor of a small parish in his older age and live happily ever after. It’s not going to happen, but that was his dream.”

Father Edward Benioff, director of the Office for the New Evangelization, said of the new auxiliary, “Bishop Brennan will radiate God’s love for our local Church,” as reported at AngelusNews.com.

Bishop O’Connell, who is originally from County Cork, Ireland, works with gangs and police officers. 

“He’s worked with the toughest neighborhoods you can think of in the last 26 years,” Father Barrett said. “The police all know him; the sheriffs all know him — they work together and are a good team. He’s known all these people for years. And they are trying to change the environment through the Church. His parish is a block or two away from the street where the most murders occur in Los Angeles.”

“He has a great sense of humor — he’s a stand-up comic — that’s one of his hobbies,” added Father Barrett. Indeed, at the post-ordination reception honoring the new bishops, Bishop O’Connell had the audience roaring with laughter.

“He’s a simple, loving person,” Kieran O’Connell, who came from Ireland for the Mass, said of his brother at AngelusNews.com. “He’s a man of God — he has a profound love for God and for people. He’s always wanted to be a priest.”

Bishop Barron will carry on that ministry while serving as bishop. He “will have to enter the pastoral world as bishop, which is great, because we need all these things together,” Father Barrett said. “He will continue to do the things he’s been doing, overall.”

Added Zimmerer, “Watching Bishop Barron, one of my heroes and a dear friend, receive this great honor and calling of deepening his mission to set the world on fire with the word of God was more than a privilege; it was a true blessing. His holiness, intelligence and prudence will be a gift to the Church through his leadership and full grasp of the New Evangelization.”

“L.A. and the universal Church has gained a holy, humble, evangelical bishop. Bishop Barron has been at the forefront of the New Evangelization and brings many gifts to his new role of auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles,” Sean Lee of Word on Fire told the Register.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is excited about the ordination of these new auxiliary bishops, who will help to serve the massive population of Los Angeles County.

As Father Barrett stated, “These three men have the same vision [as the archbishop] of reaching out to people in a pastoral sense. … It’s going to help the archbishop to have these men to lean on.”

 

Emily Brandenburg attended the installation Mass in Los Angeles.

Mathias Grünewald, “Meeting of St. Erasmus and St. Maurice,” ca. 1522

St. Erasmus, ‘Dauntless Bishop and Martyr’

“Grant us through the intercession of thy dauntless bishop and martyr Erasmus, who so valiantly confessed the Faith, that we may learn the doctrine of this faith, practice its precepts and thereby be made worthy to attain its promises. Amen.” —Prayer to St. Erasmus