Catholics in western Massachusetts are getting a new leader. Pope Francis picked Mitchell Rozanski of Baltimore to replace retiring bishop Timothy McDonnell.
At a press conference in Springfield, Bishop McDonnell introduced his successor with a little humor.
“They scoured the earth, and found the right man to take my place. Unfortunately, he’s from south of the Mason-Dixon line,” McDonnell said.
That regional difference leaves plenty of work for the incoming Bishop. The 56-year-old Rozanski had never been to western Massachusetts before this week. But he says he’s ready to immerse himself in the community.
“Pope Francis has urged us – be out there,” says Rozanski. “Be with the people, work with the leaders, the political leaders.”
On a political issue, the pending Springfield casino, Rozanski called it an easy solution to economic problems, but maybe not really a long-term one.
Rozanski takes over a diocese with plenty of challenges, including falling enrollment at Catholic schools. He says he supports an effort started by the diocese to raise $10 million for tuition assistance. He says endowments at Catholic schools have been lacking.
“We’ve always kind of gone hand to mouth in that. I think those endowments would be helpful, especially in making tuition affordable,” says Rozanski.
Parishioner Anne Lynch of Springfield has something else she wants Rozanski to focus on. After Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Lynch said she hopes the new bishop brings young people back to the church, who may have been alienated by the sexual abuse scandals of the last few decades.
“These kids aren’t as trusting as we were as kids. I mean, you never thought the priests did anything wrong, and these kids know that they’ve done wrong, and it’s going to take time,” Lynch says.
Rozanski will be officially installed as bishop on August 12th.