He may not have known that Bishop Robert Brennan would become an auxiliary bishop for the diocese, but Msgr. James McDonald says he knew Bishop Brennan would become a priest within the first minute of meeting him.
“I saw faith, sincerity, and kindness in him,” noted Msgr. McDonald, pastor of St. Aidan’s Church in Williston Park. “Those are the things that have marked his life — absolute faith, absolute sincerity, and absolute kindness.”
“I’ve known him since he was in high school,” he explained. “I met him in October 1978 when I had just come to Lindenhurst” to serve the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Bishop Brennan was a parishioner. “He had just started to work there as a sacristan and as a helper in the rectory.” The pastor at the time thought they would get along “so he introduced us. We used to run holy hours for the altar boys together.”
“He comes from a wonderful family,” Msgr. McDonald added. “All of the Brennan family except for one worked for me. His parents should give advice on how to raise wonderful children.”
He said there was no question Bishop Robert Brennan would become a priest, but he tried to nudge him toward his vocation when he could. “I took him to the seminary for the first time.”
When he found out then-Msgr. Brennan was going to be ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Msgr. McDonald, who served as rector of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington from 2006-2009, said he was “overjoyed.” He wasn’t surprised Bishop Brennan was chosen because he has already served the diocese for years in a leadership role.
“He’s been the vicar general these past 10 years. I think most of the people in the diocese don’t appreciate the role of the vicar general because they don’t understand it. It’s second only to the bishop. It’s like being the vice president.”
Bishop Brennan “has only one fault,” Msgr. McDonald said with a laugh. “He wants to go to bed at 10 at night. He doesn’t want to stay up and talk. I want to stay up and talk but he wants to be up at 5 in the morning.”
Even though their paths have taken them in different directions around Long Island, “we’ve stayed very close friends,” Msgr. McDonald continued. “He will be a wonderful bishop. He will exude charity and absolute fidelity to the Church. When you see him, you see somebody who is truly like Jesus Christ, who tries as much as he can to be like Jesus Christ. That’s what he was like then and that’s what he’s like now.”
Msgr. James McDonald