ST. LOUIS — As he was installed as the new spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski urged people to recall the words of Jesus to love one another in the face of social upheavals caused by the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and declining civil discourse.
Rozanski told the nearly 500 people in attendance at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis Aug 25 that the iconic Gateway Arch in the city was a tangible symbol of the “Gateway to the West” as he spoke of the early inhabitants of the area who sought a better life and place to raise their families.
The same kind of hope is needed in the world today, the 10th archbishop of St. Louis said.
Rozanski, 62, said people must be asking themselves where God is in the turmoil. “We need only to look at the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: ‘Love one another as I have loved you,'” he continued.
“In the midst of a pandemic, a societal reckoning on the life issue of race relations an atrophied civic discourse — and yes, the often-sinful polemics we now face within our church — loving one another seems to be a tough thing to do these days. Yet, my friends, we are called to be a people of hope.”
“This ‘Gateway City’ provides us a rich imagery, for in order for us to live out this fundamental command to love one another it must be carried out in action. We ourselves must be gateways, not gatekeepers; gateways to healing, to evangelization, to mercy, to compassion; gateways to listening with the ears of Jesus.”
Among those attending the nearly two-hour Mass on the feast of St. Louis were his predecessor, retired Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, who served as archbishop of St. Louis from 1994 to 2003, more than two dozen bishops, and many priests, permanent deacons, consecrated religious and laity.
Msgr. Dennis Kuruppassery, representing Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis announcing Rozanski’s appointment to St. Louis and relieving him of his responsibilities as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Kuruppassery recalled the words of Pope Francis, who, when blessing the palliums earlier this year for the new archbishops, emphasized the themes of unity and prophecy. He said what the church requires is pastors who show the miracle of God’s love and offer their lives for others.
Rozanski moved across the sanctuary as he displayed the apostolic letter to the entire congregation.
The archbishop received the pallium, a woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments. It is given to an archbishop by the pope as a sign of their unity with the pontiff in ministry to the Catholic faithful. The presentation marked the first time a recent archbishop of St. Louis has received the pallium in the city.
He then was escorted to the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, where the archbishop presides at Mass and other celebrations at the cathedral basilica.
There was a brief exchange with Carlson, who handed him the crosier, the pastoral staff that symbolizes the responsibility of leading all to Christ. The crosier originally belonged to Cardinal John J. Glennon, who served the archdiocese from 1903 to 1946, and has been presented to each archbishop since.
In his homily, Rozanski said he was reminded of how the Jesus built the church on the rock of Peter’s faith.
“And so as a Catholic, even more as a pastor, I pledge my own fidelity, and unity and that of God’s people in this ‘Rome of the West’ to Peter’s successor among us, without whom we cannot know the Lord who sent him, the Lord who seeks to send us,” he said.
After receiving the “surprising news” of his appointment to St. Louis, he recalled, the next person he spoke with was Carlson, whom he thanked for his service to St. Louis, and described him as “a shepherd truly dedicated to the Lord Jesus and his people.” The congregation responded with loud applause.
Rozanski’s younger brothers, Kenneth and Albert, and two of his nephews, Kyle, 21, and Dalton, 15, flew from the Baltimore area to attend the Mass. The archbishop’s parents, Alfred and Jean, watched the Mass from their home in Baltimore.
The visit to St. Louis was the first for Rozanski’s family. His brothers described how their older brother was charged with watching over them when their parents were not at home. “We used to be pretty good at playing practical jokes on one another,” said Albert Rozanski, who is six years younger than the archbishop.
They described their older brother as “very dedicated.”
“He loves what he does,” Albert Rozanski said. “I don’t know how he does it. His battery is always going. You never hear him complain or talk bad about anybody. He truly loves what he does. He is looking forward to this new experience.”
Brinker is a staff writer for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis, the newspaper and magazine, respectively, of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.