Severna Park pastor named auxiliary bishop

As eastern vicar, Rozanski will oversee 64 parishes

July 03, 2004|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN STAFF

Monsignor Mitchell T. Rozanski, who has spent the past two decades helping shepherd parishes across the region, was named an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Baltimore yesterday by Pope John Paul II.

Rozanski, 46, pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park, will assume the role of eastern vicar, overseeing 64 parishes and 44 schools in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties. As one of three active auxiliary bishops, he will also assist in the visitation of parishes and the administering of the sacrament of confirmation throughout the archdiocese.

At a news conference yesterday on the steps of the Basilica of the Assumption, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore placed a magenta skullcap, called a zucchetto, on Rozanski's head to signify his appointment.

"For the many who know Bishop Rozanski personally, this is an occasion of great joy," said Keeler, who was accompanied by the archdiocese's other active and retired bishops. "I know all of us who are here are deeply grateful to the Holy Father for an appointment that brings a great blessing to our archdiocese."

Rozanski, an amiable, soft-spoken cleric, said he was honored and a bit surprised by the appointment because he had expected to spend most of his career as a parish priest.

"When his eminence told me ... that the Holy Father had appointed me auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, I remember just sitting there for a moment because I had to let the news sink in," said Rozanski, who has served as associate pastor or pastor in five parishes over the past two decades. "Then I remember saying to him, `I am deeply overwhelmed.'"

Rozanski replaces Bishop William C. Newman, who retired in August after nearly 20 years as an auxiliary bishop. Newman, who attended yesterday's announcement, said one of his successor's greatest challenges will be allocating a dwindling number of priests to growing suburban parishes.

"It's a tough job, especially in this day and age," said Newman, 75. "The challenge is really, I think, to efficiently place personnel resources, especially pastors, and encourage parishes to work together because of the fewer priests that we have."

Over the past quarter-century, the number of priests worldwide has dropped from 158,000 to 139,000 while the faithful continue to grow. In the United States, analysts attribute much of the shortage to the requirement of celibacy and the priest's declining stature in secular society.

Rozanski said he will address the priest shortage as he has at St. John, by increasingly relying on lay leadership and volunteers. St. John has 3,300 registered families and three priests, one of whom is retired. Rozanski said lay volunteers manage most of the parish's 49 different outreach ministries.

Rozanski's appointment drew praise from fellow clergy and parishioners yesterday.

Newman described his successor as a diplomat with a light touch. "I see him as a real mediator," Newman said. "He's very personable, very warm."

In addition to St. John, Rozanski also served as an associate pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in Baltimore and St. Isaac Jogues in Carney, and as pastor at Holy Cross and St. Mary Star of the Sea in Baltimore. In 2000, he spent six months as interim pastor at Immaculate Conception in Towson.

Rozanski will be ordained bishop Aug. 24 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

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