The Catholic Diocese of Springfield installed its new leader in a service Tuesday. Bishop Mitchell Rozanski now leads the estimated 200,000 Catholics in western Massachusetts.
About 900 people filled St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield to welcome the new Bishop. Judith Kennedy of Chicopee sat in the pews nearly an hour before the service. She says she’s excited for Rozanski’s leadership.
“We’re like lost sheep, and he being our new shepherd, we’re anxious to follow him,” says Kennedy. “He seems like an open fellow, just have to convert him to the Red Sox fan.”
Rozanski comes to Springfield from Baltimore, and he’s publicly stated he’s an Orioles fan. But he has bigger challenges in his move to western Mass, including a decline in church attendance, and cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests. Rozanski alluded to those issues in his homily.
“I am keenly aware of the need to reach out to those who have stopped practicing the faith for any reason, those who may have been hurt in any way, and bring them back to the rich pastures that is our church.” said Rozanski.
A national group representing survivors of sexual abuse by priests says it’s “not optimistic” about Rozanski’s ability to address victims of abuse. Rozanski was asked after the service how he plans to approach victims.
“I believe that as bishop, I show the way, to reach out to victims of sexual abuse, to bring God’s pastoral love and care, to show them that nothing is their fault, and that this was perpetrated upon them, and that the bishop has to be there as an agent of reconciliation,” said Rozanski.
Rozanski also addressed the diversity of the region’s Catholics, speaking in Spanish and Polish in his homily. Deacon Pedro Rivera of Westfield says he wants to see Rozanski support all Catholics in the region.
“It’s not about a Hispanic community, Anglo, Italian, everybody follows the same church, with those little idiosyncrasies that make us different, that make us beautiful. The flowers are all different colors,” said Rivera.
Rozanski plans to lead that floral array with his motto “serve the Lord with gladness.”