In some ways Bishop Mark Rivituso's family was surprised at his priesthood vocation. And in other ways, it came as no surprise at all.
Either way, the Rivituso family is overjoyed at his newest assignment as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Bishop Rivituso's mother, Rosemary, and three of his sisters — Lisa Rivituso, Carolyn Kargacin and Marilyn Wisniewaski — recently shared stories about their son and brother, gathered at their mother's south St. Louis home. The 87-year-old Rosemary still lives in the two-family home where she and her husband, Gus, raised their eight children — Gussie, Christina, Cindy, Sam, Carolyn, Mark, Lisa and Marilyn. Gus Rivituso passed away in 1998, and Sam in 2004.
Born in 1961, Bishop Rivituso was the sixth in line. After their marriage, Rosemary and Gus lived in St. Francis de Sales Parish for five years before moving to another house and into St. Wenceslaus Parish in 1956. As the family expanded, rooms were converted into bedrooms to accommodate the children. "Everything was a bedroom, except for the kitchen and the bathroom," said younger sister Lisa Rivituso.
Rosemary's mother, Rose Darpel, lived in the second-story flat. The Rivitusos attended Mass together at St. Wenceslaus on Sundays, but Rose would opt for an earlier Mass on Sundays. Not wanting her to go alone, Bishop Rivituso would tag along with his grandmother. It's where some of the early seeds of a priestly vocation were planted.
Rosemary stayed home with the children, while Gus worked three jobs — as a barber, providing a television service at the former Missouri Pacific Hospital and as a bottler for Anheuser-Busch Brewery — to support the family. At the time, there weren't many other children in the neighborhood, so the Rivituso siblings made their own baseball team. They had enough to play just about any sport together. The family also had an aluminum pool. On hot days, their father would jump in with them after a long day of cutting hair.
"We played Indian ball and hockey in the alleyway," said older sister Carolyn Kargacin. "We always had enough teammates. We hardly ever watched TV."
The family's regular faith traditions included Holy Hours and Perpetual Help devotions. During Holy Week, they'd go to several churches on the southside — St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Nepomuk, Holy Trinity and Sts. Peter and Paul — on Holy Thursdays to visit the Blessed Sacrament.
Even though the siblings got along pretty well, Bishop Rivituso was always known as the peacemaker of the family, whenever a squabble would pop up among siblings. "He was a good kid," Rosemary Rivituso said. "He was the peacemaker, but they didn't fight all that much."
It's positive quality that made them consider what a good priest he'd make someday. Rosemary Rivituso said her son would mention the possibility from time to time. She even went so far as to read a book about seminary life, which she obtained from the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill.
"I read it all the time," she said. "I thought, if he goes in, I'll know what to do!"
Because family life was fast-paced with eight children in the household, his decision to attend Kenrick-Glennon Seminary still caught some of his siblings by surprise. "I didn't know he was going to become a priest until he asked me to give him a ride one day," Carolyn said. "Turns out, I took him to his college (entrance) exam at the seminary."
Bishop Rivituso's parents were supportive of his vocation, even when he was worried about whether they could afford it. "I told him, we'll manage it," Rosemary said. She recalled taking her son to a religious goods store operated by the Vincentians, near St. Vincent de Paul Parish. That's where she bought him his clerical shirts and asked the priests where she could buy black slacks.
When it was time to drop him off at the seminary, Bishop Rivituso's parents didn't realize that they were allowed to help their son move in. As other seminarians were unpacking their boxes with the help of family, the bishop joked that his parents "sped away — I had to eat their dust. That's something we still jokingly bring up, how they left me there."
The family didn't really go on vacation out of town, instead opting to have staycations right here in St. Louis. Our Lady of the Snows, Six Flags and Grant's Farm were some of their regular stops.
"We didn't feel like we missed out on anything," Carolyn said.
Certainly "the happiest times were when we were all here together," Lisa said.