One of the last times Archbishop-designate Mitchell T. Rozanski visited St. Louis was in June 2015 for the U.S. bishops’ spring conference, where he concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis with his brother bishops. In awe of its mosaics and their history, he thought about how the cathedral basilica was a reflection of the beauty of the Catholic faith here.
Little did he know that five years later, he would be named as the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of St. Louis — which he, like many others, has been told is the Rome of the West. On June 10, Pope Francis named Bishop Rozanski as the 10th archbishop of St. Louis, and accepted the retirement of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.
“Mindful of God’s goodness, I wish to express my gratitude to our Holy Father for his trust that he has placed in me,” Archbishop-designate Rozanski said. He also thanked Archbishop Carlson for his 11 years of service as shepherd of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and for “his steady leadership and living out the Gospel message in such a beautiful, humble way.”
In a press conference and interview June 10, Archbishop-designate Rozanski spoke about his vocation, ministry as a parish priest before becoming a bishop, and how he’s been called to serve the Lord over the years. (The video interview will be posted online at https://youtu.be/4Nxl8MBJ2D0.)
A native of Baltimore and Polish-American by heritage, Archbishop-designate Rozanski visited his parents, Alfred and Jean, before coming to St. Louis. The three prayed the Rosary together every evening during his visit. When he told them the news of his appointment, they were surprised but excited. His mother reminded him: “Don’t get a big head. Always be humble.”
Called to the priesthood from a young age, his parents were “always supportive of my vocation,” he said. “When I went to the seminary, my parents said, if you find this is not for you, you know you have a home to come back to. I have taken them on a long ride, and they have been there the whole time with me.”
Prior to being named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2004, Archbishop-designate Rozanski had 20 years of experience serving in various parishes in the archdiocese. When he was named an auxiliary bishop, he recalled telling Cardinal William Keeler that he had no experience working for the chancery.
Cardinal Keeler told him: “Well, that’s not a bad thing.”
Being a parish priest brought its challenges and joys, but what was important was building relationships and maintaining communication with the people he served. As a bishop, he sees himself still having the heart of a parish priest, but now his parish territory is a little big larger.
“Parish priests are graced to be with people in such moments of their lives — weddings, baptisms, funerals, and that really establishes a relationship,” he said. “I miss those relationships I had as a parish priest … but it’s also taught me that being a bishop does not mean being removed from that sort of interaction of ministry, of being involved in the lives of people and reaching out.”
Archbishop-designate Rozanski also spoke about his episcopal motto, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” which he chose after reading from Psalm 100. He wanted something with an action word, that would serve as a reminder of living the faith in concrete ways.
“If we do live our faith concretely in serving the Lord, then we will certainly have hearts that are joyful,” he said. “It means that if we put our faith into action, and we live the Lord’s words, then we’re joyful.”
In his opening remarks at the press conference, the archbishop-designate spoke of the troubles facing the nation, including the effects of COVID-19, the death of George Floyd and the “sad specter of racism that tears at the very fabric of our country.
“Jesus has entrusted to us His Church to be His presence in our world,” Archbishop-designate Rozanski said. But Jesus did not avoid situations that were uncomfortable, he said, but rather faced them head-on, bringing the healing presence of God to others.
“It is my hope that, called to lead this Church of St. Louis, God’s grace will be in abundance in helping me to be part of that healing process and resolution to all of the daunting issues that we face,” he said. “No leader, though, can do this alone. 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 world.”
Archbishop-designate Rozanski said he looks forward to getting to know the people of the archdiocese, including the many priests, deacons, women and men religious and laypeople. He said the people of the archdiocese should expect to see him spending much of his time learning about the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
“I need to be out amongst the people meeting them,” he said. “My first months here will be a lot of learning. I don’t want to make any decisions or have any preconceived notions” right away. “It’s a very relational time, because people share their thoughts and their feelings, their insights with me. I am looking forward to that.”
>> Archbishop-designate Mitchell Rozanski
BORN: Aug. 6, 1958 in Baltimore.
EDUCATION: Sacred Heart of Mary, Graceland Park, elementary school, Dundalk, Maryland. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel High School (Essex). Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C (seminary training at the Theological College).
PRIESTLY ORDINATION: Ordained by Archbishop William Donald Borders for the Archdiocese of Baltimore at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Nov. 24, 1984.
EPISCOPAL ORDINATION: Ordained by William Cardinal Keeler, Bishop William Newman and Bishop W. Francis Maloony on Aug. 24, 2004 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
INSTALLED AS BISHOP OF SPRINGFIELD MASSACHUSETTS: Installed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., on Aug. 12, 2014.
APPOINTED AS 10th ARCHBISHOP OF ST. LOUIS: Appointed by Pope Francis June 10, 2020.
EPISCOPAL MOTTO: Serve the Lord with Gladness