Aug 12, 2014

Installation of Bishop Rozanski is celebrated with applause, hope



Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

SPRINGFIELD -- It would be difficult to say who received more applause: the newly installed Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski -- or his parents, Alfred and Jean.

The parents of the Springfield Diocese's first Polish-American bishop were recognized at the beginning of the Installation Mass, which was held at 2 p.m. at St. Michael's Cathedral, here.

In giving the introductory remarks before the liturgy, recently retired Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell acknowledged the many special guests in the cathedral, including cardinals, archbishops, bishops, diocesan priests and deacons, and clergy from faith communities throughout Springfield.

"I also welcome two people without whom this day would not have come to be," Bishop McDonnell said, "his parents."

This remark drew sustained applause from the more than 900 people who had come to the cathedral to celebrate the installation of  the ninth bishop of the Springfield Diocese. "That tells you how welcomed you are by everyone in this diocese," Bishop McDonnell said, adding jokingly, "especially me!"

The Rite of Installation formally began with a greeting from Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston and the metropolitan archbishop presiding over all Roman Catholic dioceses in Massachusetts.

Addressing Bishop Rozanski, Cardinal O'Malley said, "Please tell the Holy Father how gratefully and enthusiastically the people of Springfield have welcomed their new bishop."

Cardinal O'Malley also acknowledged the leadership of Bishop McDonnell over the last 10 years and said, "We wish you joy in the next chapter of your ministry."

Turning his attention back to Bishop Rozanski, Cardinal O'Malley told him, "Springfield is a great diocese... The faith and enthusiasm of the people will continue to grow under your leadership."

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio, a papal representative, spoke briefly before formally reading Pope Francis' letter of appointment of Bishop Rozanski. The congregation applauded with great enthusiasm after the letter was read.

Bishop Rozanski's homily focused on the theme of God as shepherd, as described in the liturgy's first reading, Ezekiel 34:11-16. In doing so, the new bishop made a special point of acknowledging "two wonderful shepherds of God's people, Bishop Joseph Maguire, the fifth bishop of Springfield, and Cardinal William Keeler, the 14th archbishop of  Baltimore. Both of them are watching this Mass from their respective residences."

Bishop Rozanski also acknowledged the example of Pope Francis who, he said, "reminds us of the joy of the Gospel, that we are all called to follow the example of the shepherd, reaching out to those who for any reason have become alienated from God and the church and welcoming them by our compassion, joy and witness to the love of God at work in our world."

Bishop Rozanksi delivered subsequent passages of his homily in Spanish and Polish. Many in the congregation applauded at the conclusion of the Polish comments.

Speaking again in English as he concluded his homily, Bishop Rozanski said, "I am both humbled and honored to serve as your bishop."      

Speaking to reporters immediately after the Mass, Bishop Rozanski called the liturgy a "wonderful celebration" and added, "I am so blessed to be called as the shepherd here."

Bishop Rozanski said he will begin his ministry by getting to know the people in the parishes of western Massachusetts, and striving to live out his personal episcopal motto, "Serve the Lord with Gladness."

Those who spoke to iobserve both before and after the Installation Mass praised the new bishop's approachability and experience, as well as their hopes for the future of the Springfield Diocese.

Father Gary M. Dailey, diocesan director of vocations, said, "Seminarians will find in Bishop Rozanski a man who is down-to-earth," which, along with "his sense of humility and his ability to listen" will be a model for men aspiring to priesthood.   

Father William Pomerleau, who serves as diocesan vicar for foreign clergy and who has worked with immigrant and refugee populations, said of the new bishop, "He is a man from a big city which is very diverse" and has had experience with a large African-American community, Hispanic ministry and refugees.

Archbishop Timothy Paul, president of the Council of Churches of Western Mass., also noted Bishop Rozanski's experience in a diverse city. "His experience in Baltimore gives me great hope," he said. "He has an understanding of the ecumenical community, especially communities of color."

Archbishop Paul said he looks forward to working with Bishop Rozanski on social issues affecting the local communities.    

Patrice Parke, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Wilbraham, said the 56-year-old Bishop Rozanski also brings a special quality to his episcopacy. "I think his youth will attract a lot of people," she said. "We need to constantly be rebuilding the church."

Marion Johnson, a parishioner of St. Michael's Cathedral Parish, also expressed hope in the new bishop's ability to bring people back to the church.

"I'm hoping that he'll bring a unity, a feeling of peace," Johnson said, "that people will come back and we'll have more people in church again."

Marie Foster, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Monson, likely expressed the opinions of all who celebrated the new bishop's installation, both at the Mass and the public reception following at Better Living Center on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield.

"He is a very charming man, very personable," Foster said.

As for Bishop Rozanski's parents, and his younger brothers, Kenneth and Albert, the day was bittersweet.

"We're going to miss him a lot," Albert told iobserve. "But we're glad... we're very proud of him."