Pope names Rozanski to lead Archdiocese of St. Louis

  • Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2020 2:41:46 PM
Modified: 6/10/2020 2:41:36 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who in his six years leading the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has spearheaded reforms aimed at confronting the fallout from clergy abuse and overseen continued reorganization and consolidation of churches, will depart to become the archbishop of St. Louis this summer.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis announced that Rozanski, 61, would succeed Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who is retiring after turning 75.

In an introductory event at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Rozanski referenced the “good people of Springfield” and how grateful he was for their welcome and collaboration with them since 2014.

“Goodbyes are never easy, but we remain close in faith,” Rozanski said.

During the event, in which he spoke for a few moments in Spanish, as well, Rozanski thanked the Pope for the trust put in him and discussed the need for the healing presence of God.

Rozanski added that he hopes to be part of the healing process as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the death of George Floyd creates anger and sadness, and the “specter of racism that tears at the very fabric of our country.”

“We must work together if we truly want to realize the mandate of Jesus to bring justice and peace to our families, our communities, our nation, and the world,” Rozanski said.

Rozanski’s formal installation Mass is scheduled for Aug. 25, the feast day of Saint Louis, King of France.

Installed as the ninth bishop of Springfield in August 2014, Rozanski succeeded retired Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell.

Since assuming that role, a priority has been confronting clergy sexual abuse. In 2016, Rozanski issued a statement that he would “continue to address this terrible plague upon our church through our ongoing screening, education and awareness efforts. We must never let our guard down; rather we must all remain vigilant.”

This was followed by action last August, in which the diocese joined in a third-party, independent system for reporting abuse by current church leaders, along with the dioceses of the Boston Province, which include the four dioceses in Massachusetts and those in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. That came in response to an edict from Pope Francis to have all dioceses, in every country, establish a public, accessible and reliable system for reporting crimes of clergy sexual abuse and any cover-up of abuse by May 31, 2020.

Earlier this year, Rozanski formed a 10-person independent task force to make recommendations focused on improving the diocese’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct within the local church and in May, the diocese and three district attorneys’ offices in western Massachusetts entered into a formal agreement to set out standard procedures for reporting allegations of sexual misconduct within the local church.

The agreement, which expires at the end of June 2024, outlines policies through which the diocese will report to the authorities any allegations of sexual misconduct it becomes aware of, regardless of when the abuse is reported to have taken place.

In addition to making sure that parishioners would continue to be served by reorganized and consolidated churches, Rozanski also saw a change in the Catholic education in the region, as Holyoke Catholic and Cathedral high schools merged into the new Pope Francis Preparatory School.

Carlson, who had been the archbishop in St. Louis for a decade, said that Rozanski will cherish his new ministry and that a fresh leader can bring new views.

“I am confident in the future of God’s strong Church in St. Louis with Archbishop-elect Rozanski as its shepherd,” Carlson said.

Carlson gave Rozanski a statue of St. Louis the King as a gift.

Before traveling to Missouri, Rozanski said he visited with his parents in Baltimore to tell the news and got advice from his mother, Jean, which she had previously given him when he was named a bishop and then appointed to Springfield.

“Don’t get a big head, always be humble,” Rozanski said she told him. “And moms always give good advice.”

For priests in the Springfield diocese, Rozanski has been a good leader.

Rev. Francis Reilly, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Northampton, said Rozanski was a reconciler for handling clergy abuse and followed through on his pledge to be a victims’ advocate. Reilly said Rozanski also made sure to reach out to both priests and laypeople.

“I think he was just a friendly father to priests here and to the people,” Reilly said.

Reilly added that Rozanski handled the role well of preaching the Gospel.

“The bishop is supposed to be Christ among us, not to be served but to serve,” Reilly said.

Reilly said he will be missed.

“We’ve gotten used to this bishop and this will be a loss, but we’ll be ready to welcome another bishop,” Reilly said.

Rev. Douglas McGonagle, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Easthampton, said Rozanski has been focused on bringing people together, observing that he began his tenure as several church mergers were happening, including the three Catholic churches joining into one building.

“He’s been very present. He’s been at Our Lady of the Valley several times,” McGonagle said.

McGonagle noted that some of the work the bishop does is not visible to parishioners, such as ensuring that each church upgraded and modernized its accounting systems. 

Whenever there is a change in leadership, McGonagle said that provides interest to the priests about who will be the successor.

“It gives priests much fodder for discussion,” McGonagle said. “Priests almost immediately will start wondering who will be the next bishop.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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