‘God does not give up on any of us’: Q&A Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski
In America’s interview with Pope Francis in November 2022, the Holy Father said that “the grace of Jesus Christ is in the relationship between the bishop and his people, his diocese.” We asked U.S. bishops to answer five of our nine questions. In these brief interviews, we hope to highlight and foster this relationship, and to offer some unique personal perspectives and spiritual insights of the shepherds leading our church.
Q&A with Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski
Diocese of St. Louis, Miss.
What is an event from your childhood that helped you to understand who God is?
As a child, I remember my mother or my father kneeling at the bedside with me to say my prayers before I went to sleep. Each night I prayed with them the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be and finally the prayer, Angel of God. I knew that was an important part of the day, and I believe that started me on a discipline of prayer. My parents placed faith as a high priority in their lives and their taking the time to pray my nightly prayers with me showed me the priority that God should have in my own life.
What is your favorite movie/book/play/musical/art/sport/etc. right now?
Recently I was able to view the movie, “The Miracle Club,” a fictional story about three women who went on a pilgrimage from Ireland to Lourdes, France. They were expecting great miracles, but it was the small miracles that really changed the course of their relationships and their lives. It is a movie about conversion in the deepest sense.
I recently read David Grann’s book, Killers of the Flower Moon, which described the sad fate of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. It’s a sad tale of exploitation, lack of respect for life and greed at its worst. My all-time favorite play is “Les Misérables.” The music and themes of forgiveness, conversion and being freed from the past are universally appealing.
Having now lived in St. Louis for three years, I have become a Cardinals’ baseball fan. It is wonderful to be in Busch Stadium sharing the joy of baseball with so many great fans in a family-oriented, fun and exciting environment.
Describe a time that God spoke to you in a surprising way.
I still remember the day when Cardinal William Keeler called me and asked me to meet with him at his residence. I had the feeling of being summoned into the principal’s office because I did not know what was the nature of the meeting. When we sat down, he informed me that Pope John Paul II had named me auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. I remember being taken aback and raising the objection that I had not worked at all in the chancery office during my whole priesthood; that I was a parish priest. Cardinal Keeler told me that being a parish priest was great preparation for being a bishop. Although I loved parish ministry, in obedience I accepted. While I still miss the opportunities of parish life to be involved with God’s people at crucial times in their lives, it has been a blessing to witness the church on a wider scale and, as it turned out, in different areas of our country. Serving as bishop has challenged me to have an even deeper love for the church, ever more conscious of God’s grace at work.
Describe a time that someone modeled God’s mercy in your life.
I remember a time when I met a mother and father who were estranged from their daughter. They wanted to reach out to her and re-establish their relationship with her, and asked me what should they do to let their daughter know that they loved her. I suggested writing a letter to their daughter, telling her of their desire to have a good relationship with her. The mother wrote the daughter, telling her of her father’s and mother’s love and how much they missed her. Later, the mother did tell me that the daughter called them after receiving their letter and there was a tearful, yet joyful reunion. It was a powerful moment of reconciliation due to the humility of the parents to tell their daughter how much they loved and missed her. The parents’ action of reaching out to their daughter was a witness to me of God’s love and mercy at work in bringing them back together.
What’s something that people might not know about you?
My avocation, as I say, is reading mystery novels. To me, there is just something enjoyable about getting lost in a plot of a good mystery, and my favorite place to read them is at the beach!
What’s a part about being a bishop that you wish you knew ahead of time?
During my 20 years as a parish priest, I felt it was a great privilege to be with God’s people at such important times in their lives, celebrations of marriage, baptisms and funerals of loved ones. I felt God’s grace in journeying with his people at those important times in their lives. When I became a bishop, I realized how much I missed being a parish priest without those opportunities to minister to God’s people. Some years ago, the late Archbishop William Borders, who had ordained me a priest, asked me the same question. When I told him my answer, he encouraged me: “Never give up that yearning for parish priesthood.”
If you had not become a priest, what other job/vocation/career could you see yourself in?
As a young child, my grandfather knew how much I enjoyed riding on the bus. Sometimes he would take me on a bus ride to the end of the line and back. I remember telling him that I wanted to be a bus driver when I grew up. Of course, later on that changed. If I had not been called to a priestly vocation, I would definitely have been a psychologist or psychiatrist.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from the life of your favorite saint that is most applicable to your life today?
Even in college, I remember being fascinated with the writings of St. Augustine. His Confessions and The City of God remain my favorites. If there is one thing that I have learned from his life, it is that God does not give up on any of us. The prayers of St. Monica were crucial to Augustine’s conversion, and I believe in the power of prayer for conversion for those who are still seeking God. In our society today, I believe we need to highlight prayer for conversion and an openness to God’s mercy.
Who’s someone in your diocese, not necessarily someone in an official church role, whom you admire and have learned from?
I cannot bring to mind just one person, but I would like to highlight our retired priests for their joy in ministry and their willingness to continue to be of service to the church with the wonderful ways in which they share their wisdom. I always feel uplifted when I visit with them, whether in our priests’ retirement homes or in the assisted living or nursing homes in which they reside. And as I get older, I ask the Lord to give me that enthusiasm, humor and dedication that I witness in their lives if the Lord grants me the time to retire.
Read more from our Bishop Q&A series: