Vatican names new Bishop to lead Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

The Associated Press
July 23, 2019

[with video]

The Latest on the leadership changes at West Virginia’s Roman Catholic diocese (all times local):

7News will be live streaming the official announcement of the new Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston at 9:00 a.m. on our Facebook page

8:03 a.m. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has released a statement regarding the announcement of Bishop Mark Brennan the leader of the Diocese

Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Mark E. Brennan, currently Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Bishop Brennan, 72, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington on May 15, 1976 by the then-Archbishop William W. Baum.

A Boston native, Bishop Brennan is the son of the late Edward Charles Brennan and Regina Claire Lonsway. He attended public schools in Massachusetts and Maryland before entering St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C. Bishop Brennan graduated from Brown University in 1969 with a degree in history, and then entered Christ the King Seminary in Alleghany, New York for a year of philosophy before attending the Pontifical North American College in Rome for his theological studies.

A parish priest for nearly his entire career, Bishop Brennan was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, MD, from 1976-81; St. Pius X Parish in Bowie, MD, from 1981-85; St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda, MD, from 1986-88; St. Thomas Apostle Parish in Washington, D.C., from 1998-2003; St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, MD from 2003-16. Bishop Brennan attended Spanish Language courses and Hispanic cultural studies in the Dominican Republic and in Colombia from 1985-86. From 1988 to 1998, Bishop Brennan was the Director of Priestly Vocations in the Archdiocese of Washington. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on Dec. 5, 2016, and ordained on Jan. 19, 2017.

“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,” said Bishop Brennan. “As my parents both retired to this great State a number of years ago, I am no stranger and, in fact, a great admirer of the beauty of its landscape and people. It will be my first priority to meet and get to know the good people across this diocese who are working each and every day to make lives better, to lift those who are suffering and in need of comfort, support and hope, and through their determined actions, living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 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. There is immense need which is matched by immense desire and determination to reinvigorate the Church here in West Virginia and across our nation. As your brother and servant, I look forward to soon being back with you and to the joy of living and working among you.”

Bishop Mark Brennan

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which includes nearly 75,000 Catholics, 95 parishes and 34 smaller missions and chapels, encompasses the entire state of West Virginia. Currently, there are approximately 250 diocesan and religious priests, women religious and religious brothers, in addition to 25 primary and secondary Catholic schools, serving roughly 7000 students. The Diocese also has one Catholic hospital (Wheeling Hospital) and one Catholic higher education institution (Wheeling University).

The formal installation of Bishop Brennan will take place on Thursday, August 22 at 2:00 p.m. in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling.

6:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has named Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan to lead the Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia diocese following a scandal over the former bishop’s sexual harassment of adults and lavish spending of church money.

The 72-year-old Brennan replaces Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned in September after a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Last week, Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese, while also warning that he will be forced to make amends “for some of the harm he caused.” Brennan will now help decide the extent of those reparations.

Coming on the heels of a new wave of sex abuse allegations in the U.S., the Bransfield scandal added to the credibility crisis in the U.S. hierarchy since several top churchmen received tens of thousands of dollars in church-funded personal gifts from Bransfield during his tenure in Wheeling-Charleston, which is located in one of the poorest U.S. states. 

A press conference was planned in Wheeling later Tuesday following the Vatican’s announcement.


1 a.m.

West Virginia’s Roman Catholic Diocese says it’s set to discuss its “future leadership,” 10 months after the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston says a news conference is scheduled Tuesday at the diocese offices in Wheeling. A diocese statement did not indicate whether a new bishop would be announced.

Bransfield resigned in September. An investigation authorized by Pope Francis found accusations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults were credible. It also found Bransfield misused church funds, spending them on dining, liquor, gifts and personal travel and luxury items.

Last week the pontiff issued disciplinary action against Bransfield, saying he cannot live within the diocese or participate in any public celebration of the liturgy, and must make amends “for some of the harm he caused.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has overseen the West Virginia diocese since Bransfield’s departure.


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