Archbishop William E. Lori thanked Pope Francis for "an early Christmas gift" Monday as he introduced the two men the pontiff has appointed auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Monsignor Mark E. Brennan, 68, who recently celebrated his 40th year of service to the Archdiocese of Washington, and Monsignor Adam J. Parker, 44, currently the vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Baltimore archdiocese, will assume their new roles at an ordination service in Baltimore next month.
Brennan and Parker will succeed Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who left in 2014 to become Bishop of Springfield, Mass., and Bishop Denis J. Madden, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted Monday.
Madden, who has served in Baltimore since 2005, was required by canon law to submit his letter of resignation to the pope when he turned 75 last year. Lori said Madden would continue to serve the archdiocese "as our beloved auxiliary bishop emeritus."
The appointments will restore to the nation's oldest diocese its usual complement of two auxiliary bishops.
Brennan and Parker will help Lori meet the pastoral needs of the area's more than 500,000 Catholics. At a news conference Monday at the Catholic Center, the archbishop praised the bishops-elect for their decades of service to the church and their open-hearted personalities. He made a point of singling each out for his "pastoral sensitivity" — a quality Pope Francis has repeatedly said he looks for in candidates for bishop.
Brennan and Parker both said they were surprised to receive the call last week from Papal Nuncio Christophe Pierre, the pope's official representative to the United States, with news of their appointments.
Brennan said he'd expected to stay in the Washington archdiocese either through his retirement or "until the Lord calls me home," but added that he has "always tried to say 'yes' to the church, whatever it has asked of me."
The call from Pierre, he said, came as "a shock — a total shock. … As you might gather, Pope Francis is a little different."
Parker said he was aware his name was among those being considered for the position, but the news still "stunned" him.
"It just goes to show: Sometimes the rumors are actually true," he said, drawing laughter from those in attendance.
Lori said Brennan and Parker each bring qualities that meet specific needs in the archdiocese. Brennan has spent decades working with immigrants, including Spanish speakers. Lori said Parker has a pastor's heart and exceptional administrative skills.
Those are areas on which the pontiff has asked church leaders to place special emphasis.
Brennan is currently pastor of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Gaithersburg. The multilingual parish, one of the largest in the Archdiocese of Washington, includes sizable contingents of Hispanics and French-speaking African immigrants
A native of Boston, he spent nearly 20 years celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments in English and Spanish at parishes in the Washington archdiocese. At St. Martin of Tours, which he has served since 2003, Brennan introduced French-language services that are now celebrated weekly.
Lori has asked him to make use of his experience in the Baltimore archdiocese, where Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the Catholic population.
"His depth of experience, his pastoral sensitivity to the need for increasing outreach to our Spanish-speaking Catholics, will be a boon as we seek to reach out and draw in our Hispanic Catholics to the heart of our church," Lori said.
Brennan vowed to do just that.
"Immigrants add so much to our country and to our church," he said. "They bring energy, enthusiasm, a great love for the Lord and a love for family life.
"We must reach out to them, and they deserve our support and our love, and our defense when they are attacked."
Lori also pointed to the 10 years Brennan spent as director of vocations in the Washington archdiocese, useful experience at a time when the church is confronted by declining numbers in its priestly ranks.
Parker, as vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Baltimore archdiocese — a dual position likened to that of a chief operating officer — is, in Lori's words, "a wonderful, affable human being with a tremendous capacity for friendship," a priest with "great pastoral skills and sensitivities," and a man who "brings to his mission very strong administrative abilities."
Parker has deep roots in the area.
Born in Cleveland in 1972, he grew up in Severna Park and attended Severna Park High School, the University of Maryland and St. Mary's Seminary & University in Baltimore.
He served as an associate pastor at two parishes in Western Maryland and as pastor of the Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine in Halethorpe.
In 2007, Cardinal William H. Keeler appointed Parker priest-secretary to Lori's predecessor, Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, whom Parker regards as a mentor.
He held that position until 2011, and then followed O'Brien to Rome when O'Brien was appointed Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Parker will become the nation's second-youngest Catholic bishop.
"Pope Francis has constantly encouraged us to accompany others along the path to discipleship, to encounter people where they are and invite them to Jesus by walking the path together," Parker said. "So as I have the blessing of accompanying you as a bishop, I ask that you likewise accompany me."
Both bishops-elect said they found it significant that the announcement came early in Advent, the season of anticipation before Christmas.
"This truly is a season of hope and anticipation," Parker said. "I have to say that those two words — hope and anticipation — describe fully the feelings that I have right now as I look forward to ordination day."
Brennan and Parker each addressed the news conference briefly in Spanish.
Lori said it's hard to get accurate figures on the growth of the local Spanish-speaking Catholic population, but the archdiocese has been working with a private company to "do a fairly deep demographic dive" into the matter.
"I can say that we know where the Spanish-speaking population is located and what parishes they are in, and we're finding growth all over the archdiocese," he said.
The selection process for auxiliary bishops begins when area priests put names forward.
The archdiocese vets those names, Lori said, and forwards them to the apostolic nuncio, who then sends them to the Vatican Congregation of Bishops.
The cardinals in that congregation vote on which candidates to recommend to the pope, who makes the final call.
Lori said Francis keeps close tabs on the process and researches the candidates carefully.
"He's very attentive, I believe, to the bishops whom he appoints, and I think he's especially looking for pastoral experience," Lori said.
Brennan has never lived in the Baltimore area, but said he is familiar with it through his love of the historic Basilica of the Assumption, which he called "that wonderful, wonderful church," as well as his through his respect for the history of the diocese, and even his fondness for the Orioles.
Brennan said he became an O's fan when the team was still playing at Memorial Stadium — and they remained his American League favorite even after the Nationals got their start in Washington.
He asked church leaders and members for prayers and support as he attempts to familiarize himself with the area in the coming years.
"If there's anything I need to know about Baltimore," the bishop-elect said, "please tell me."
Brennan and Parker are to be ordained as bishops during a service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Jan. 19.