By Paula Katinas
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — It was a big day at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James on July 25 as three milestones were celebrated at the noon Mass.
Monday marked not only the Feast of St. James but the 200th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of St. James Church (later cathedral) and the 10th anniversary of Bishop Robert Brennan’s episcopal ordination.
Bishop Brennan was joined by Bishop Emeritus William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre as he celebrated Mass at the cathedral.
“I think the Lord was with us in a very special way 10 years ago,” said Bishop Murphy, who ordained Bishop Brennan 10 years ago to the day. He added that Bishop Brennan “will continue to be an extraordinary bishop.”
Two hundred years ago to the day — July 25, 1822 — the cornerstone was laid to construct the church in downtown Brooklyn that would eventually become a cathedral and the seat of the bishop.
St. James Church was established after a group of people led by Peter Turner petitioned the Catholic Church to build a church in the Village of Brooklyn. The petitioners had grown weary of traveling to Manhattan to attend church and wanted to worship closer to home.
St. James Church was the first Catholic church built on Long Island.
Both milestones — the cathedral’s anniversary and the bishop’s ordination to the episcopacy — coincided with the Feast of St. James. St. James, the first of Jesus’s Apostles to be martyred, is the patron saint of pilgrims.
St. James, the first of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles to be martyred, is the patron saint of pilgrims. He is also the patron saint of Spain, and it is believed that his remains are buried at the site of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain. The cathedral is the final destination for the Camino de Santiago, an annual pilgrimage.
In his homily, Bishop Brennan touched upon the theme of pilgrims and urged parishioners to trust in Jesus Christ as they travel through life. “We need to follow where Jesus takes us on this pilgrimage,” he said.
Bishop Brennan told The Tablet about another connection he has to St. James. On the day in May 2012 when the Apostolic Nuncio called him and told him he was to become an auxiliary bishop, a Scripture passage about the saint was the designated reading at Masses.
Bishop Brennan served as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre from 2012 until 2019, when he was named Bishop of Columbus, Ohio. He became Bishop of Brooklyn in 2021.
“St. James has always meant a lot to me,” Bishop Brennan said after the Mass. “I’ve always looked to him for protection, you might say. And here I am as the bishop of Brooklyn under the patronage of St. James.”
Churchgoers sitting in the pews on Monday were excited to be sharing the day with the bishop.
“I have seen him on television. This is the first time I will see him in person,” said Mireille Senat.
Camille Ferdinand, who was selling books, bags, prayer cards, and other souvenirs at a table in the back to help celebrate the cathedral’s bicentennial, said the bishop might be relatively new to Brooklyn, but “he seems like part of our family already.”