There is a new spiritual leader for the 220,000 Roman Catholics in western Massachusetts. A new bishop has been installed to administer the Springfield diocese.
Mitchell Thomas Rozanski was formally installed Tuesday as the ninth Bishop of Springfield during a nearly 2-and-a-half-hour long ceremony filled with music, prayer, and ancient symbols.
" I am both humbled and honored to serve as your bishop," Rozanski declared.
The new bishop was installed at St. Michael’s Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese. The 900-seat cathedral was filled to capacity. Participants in the service included two cardinals, six archbishops, 37 bishops and more than 100 priests. Bishop Rozanski was given a warm welcome.
Rozanski, who has said he endorses the new evangelism promoted by Pope Francis, touched on that during his first homily as Bishop of Springfield.
"As your bishop, 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 to bring them back to the rich pastures that is our church."
Roazanski, who is 56, has spent his entire life in the Baltimore, Maryland area. He was ordained a priest there in 1984 and became an auxiliary bishop in 2004. One of his first priorities is to get to know his new territory which consists of 81 parishes in the four western Massachusetts counties.
"I don't want to spend too much time behind a desk," Rozanski told reporters. " I want to see where ministry really is at work."
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who as leader of the Archdiocese of Boston officially welcomed Rozanski to his new post, said it is a positive sign that people in Baltimore did not want “Bishop Mitch,” as he is known there, to go.
The new bishop succeeds the now-retired Bishop Timothy McDonnell. During the last 10 years, the Springfield diocese underwent a controversial realignment with churches being closed and parishes merged. The parish school system in Springfield was shut down. The diocese also paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse claims.
"I believe that as bishop I show the way to lead, to reach out to victims of sexual abuse, to bring God's pastoral love and care. To show them that nothing is there fault, that this was perpetrated on them. The bishop has to be there as an agent of reconciliation."
Rozanski said he felt a sense of calm during the installation ceremony. He said it brought a tear to his eye to see his parents in the cathedral along with his two brothers, their wives and children.
Albert Rozanski said his brother the bishop is a problem solver who wants to help people.
"He will take on a challenge."
The new bishop impressed Jan Peters, a member of Saint Stanislaus church in Chicopee.
"A bishop is a leader, but also a pastoral father. He brings a great deal of expertise from the Baltimore diocese and also a new way of looking at things."
Rozanski is the first Polish-American to lead the Springfield diocese. He delivered parts of his homily in Polish and Spanish. The Prayer of the Faithful was recited in 10 languages that are spoken in the diocese.
After the service, Rozanski greeted well-wishers for nearly two hours at a public reception on the grounds of the Big E.