SPRINGFIELD – The gentle murmur of a single chord from the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel’s organ on Aug. 12 mixed with bright bell chimes ringing out every couple of seconds and then suddenly stopped, leaving a captivated audience of nearly 900 people to await two brief knocks on the cathedral doors from the Springfield Dioceses’
newly appointed ninth bishop, the Most Rev. Mitchell Thomas Rozanski.
As the wooden cathedral doors opened, Rozanski was welcomed into the cathedral by Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, which was shortly followed by the beginning of the introductory rites and a booming applause from attendees during the mass of installation.
“I really felt a sense of calm as I walked into the cathedral because I felt the people at prayer,” Rozanski said after the mass. “When people are at prayer there has to be a sense of calm and a sense of oneness with the Lord.”
Rozanski, a 56-year-old native from Baltimore, Md., was ordained a priest in 1984 and named auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore by Pope John Paul II in 2004.
During his homily, Rozanski spoke three languages; English, Spanish and Polish.
“Over these past years, I have experienced a church of great energy and joy in serving the Lord through the great faith of the Latino people,” he said in Spanish. “Please know that I am looking forward to getting to know you better and to celebrate our faith with you.”
Bishop Rozanski wore a replica cross worn by St. John Paul II that he said in Polish reminds him of the importance of the Catholic faith in the cultural heritage of Poland. The replica cross was a gift from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who was present for Rozanski’s mass of installation.
“It reminds all of us of the Poland that suffered so much under atheistic regimes and yet thrived because of the Catholic faith,” he said.
“We have relied on the help of God in the past and we will continue to do so in the present and in the future, knowing that Good Shepherd who watched over Poland during years of trail gives us joy to witness our cherished faith to others,” Rozanski added.
Another segment of the homily focused on his initial tour of the surrounding area of Western Massachusetts in June with his predecessor, Bishop Timothy Anthony McDonnell.
Rozanski said he was awestruck by the natural beauty of local waters such as the Housatonic River in the Berkshires and the Connecticut River, which, in his opinion, is at the heart of this region.
“It is no wonder that the seal of our diocese portrays four images of flowing water,” he said.
“The very word ‘spring’ conjures up images of fresh and pure life giving water,” he continued. “Perhaps I may have another description of this scenery in February when the water changes to sleet and freezing rain.”
Water represents a symbol of new life under the rite of baptism, he said. The celebration of the mass of installation, in his opinion, recalls the day of baptism and is a symbol of welcome into the Catholic Church.
The Springfield Diocese includes roughly 230,000 Catholics across about 80 parishes, according to the Diocese.
The Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, read the apostolic letter of appointment from Pope Francis, which officially named Rozanski as ninth bishop of Springfield prior to the homily.
Rozanski’s mother and father were also in attendance during the mass of installation and received a special congratulatory applause from the crowd during the introductory remarks of the now retired McDonnell.
The Prayer of the Faithful section of the mass also featured 10 different languages such as Haitian Creole, Italian, American Sign Language, Portuguese and Vietnamese.
“That those who have been harmed by clergy or representatives of the Church may find peace of mind and of heart. We pray,” the Polish section stated.
“I believe that as bishop I show the way to lead, to reach out to victims of sexual abuse,” Rozanski said during a brief press meeting after the mass.
During the press meeting he also answered questions related to the closure of local parishes and pro-life policies on the issue of abortion.
“My message is you’re a great witness to the gospel by being pro-life and by standing up for life,” he said. “Because when we do that we really bring God’s love into the world.”
On the topic of closure of local parishes, he said there are emotional ties to parishes but it is the Eucharist that ultimately brings members of the Catholic faith together.
Rozanski stated that local parishes have his thanks for their patience on the topic of parish closures and he hopes parishioners who have been upset by the closure of local parishes will continue to practice their Catholic faith.
“But I don’t want to spend too much time behind the desk; I want to be out and visiting our parishioners, our institutions, our schools,” he said. “I want to see where ministry really is at work.”