Local Catholics were thrilled to learn the new bishop for Western Massachusetts is of Polish-American descent -- a first in the 144-year history of the diocese.

"It's about time," said Hank Tomkowicz, a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka Mission in Adams. "We have a big Polish population here in Adams and in Western Mass."

Pope Francis on Thursday named the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski to replace the retiring Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell as head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Rozanski, 55, who is currently an auxiliary bishop with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, will be installed as bishop Aug. 12 during a ceremony in Springfield.

"I'm surprised he's from Baltimore," said Monsignor Michael Shershanovich, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield. "I thought we would get a new bishop from New York City or Boston."

McDonnell arrived in Western Massachusetts in April 2004 from the Archdiocese of New York City.

"I hope we can convince him to join our Polish Picnic [July 20] and offer him a pierogi or two," Shershanovich added.

Rozanski's age could also be a plus for the diocese, according to Rich Lysonski, a member of St. Mark Catholic Church in Pittsfield.

"He shows there's more youth among priests and I hope he stays around for 20 years," Lysonski said.

The last Springfield bishop to serve for two decades was the Most Rev. Christopher J. Wheldon from 1950-1977.


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As Berkshire Catholics start learning more about Rozanski, Tomkowicz hopes he will be receptive to the idea of returning St. Stanislaus to full-parish status.

Six years ago, the Springfield diocese announced it was shutting down St. Stanislaus, triggering a round-the-clock vigil at the church by parishioners who refused to accept the closing. The Adams faithful partially won their battle as the church became a mission as part of the St. John Paul II Parish in town.

"We have a strong enough force behind us, and as we get to know [Rozanski], I hope we get to bring up the subject with him," said Tomkowicz, who helped lead the effort to keep St. Stanislaus open.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.