One year into his role as leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski said the breadth and depth of the Catholic faithful in the archdiocese has inspired him.
The archbishop marks his one-year anniversary in St. Louis on Aug. 25. In that time, he’s already visited more than 100 parishes and gotten to know the “Rome of the West” in a more intimate way.
Archbishop Rozanski met with the St. Louis Review at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) to share what he’s learned in this past year (and what’s surprised him), as well as a glimpse of his vision for the future of the archdiocese.
Q: As a bishop you see yourself still having the heart of a parish priest, but now the “parish” territory is a little big larger. What has been your biggest takeaway from your first year of getting to know the Catholic faithful of the archdiocese?
Being able to experience the breadth and the depth of the archdiocese has really been fascinating to me, and helped me to learn so much. I have tried to get out to a different parish, or two parishes, over the course of a weekend to celebrate Mass on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, in all different areas of the archdiocese. The breadth of the archdiocese is amazing to me, from the inner city St. Louis all the way to our farmlands … To see the different demographic changes has really influenced me in thinking about how do we as a Church continue the message of the Lord Jesus, in an almost ever-changing environment. That’s a real challenge for a bishop. But to be able to meet the people at the parishes has been a wonderful experience, and my priesthood, my ministry as bishop, is so greatly enhanced in being able to celebrate those Masses at the parishes and to meet the people afterward.
What is your top priority as Archbishop of St. Louis?
We know that we live in a very secular society, and it’s evident in so, so many ways. I think my role as archbishop is to help all those who are co-workers with me to be able to evangelize. To reach out to bring the message of the Gospel to others, and to know that that Gospel message is not just for a certain age demographic but it is for all ages — from our young people all the way through to our senior citizens. We’re called to proclaim the Gospel. So my priority is proclaiming the Gospel, bringing the Good News of the Gospel to as many as I can through the different ways that are available to me as archbishop, and in encouraging priests, deacons, collaborators, men and women religious and our lay leaders in parishes and schools to be able to spread the Gospel and the Good News.
What about St. Louis has surprised you?
I’ve said to many groups with whom I have met over this past year, when the nuncio phoned me and told me I was appointed Archbishop of St. Louis, I could not figure out — where was the method in all of this? … What was the reasoning at all behind this? I couldn’t figure that out — until I arrived in St. Louis. My hometown is Baltimore. And when I arrived here, I said, oh my gosh, this is very, very similar to Baltimore, Maryland.
We have very deep Catholic roots. Of course, Baltimore was the first diocese in the nation. St. Louis was not very far behind. But to see the imprint of the Catholic Church on those two areas over these past two-and-a-half centuries has been remarkable. … It’s a great source of pride, but it’s also a source of knowing that we’re responsible. We’re given that Gospel mandate for being responsible for the care of others, for the care of creation, for building up whatever we can, so that we can help build the Kingdom of God.
How are you trying to shape the way that Catholics in St. Louis — taking from your episcopal motto — “serve the Lord with Gladness?”
When I chose that motto 17 years ago when I was named an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, that part of Psalm 100 really jumped out at me. I realized to serve the Lord with gladness is the greatest privilege that we’re given in our baptismal call, in following the Lord Jesus. I try to serve the Lord with gladness by first of all being joyful in my ministry, being joyful in what I do, and in reaching out to others. And being able to do that, hopefully that is a witness to others. When we’re serving the Lord, we’re doing His will, we can only be glad. We can only be happy, because that is true fulfillment.