The Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski makes a good impression on local Catholics in first visit to Berkshires
Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: The Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski visits The Berkshires
PITTSFIELD -- The Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski's clerical journey to Western Massachusetts has been a lesson in geography.
Soon after Rozanski learned he was headed north to become the new bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, the Baltimore native began browsing maps on the Internet.
"I must confess, I had to look it up on a website," he said at St. Joseph's Church on Sunday. "I have never really lived outside Maryland."
Since Rozanski officially become the diocese's spiritual leader three weeks ago, he has quickly become comfortable in his new surroundings traveling throughout the diocese.
"I think it's integral to my being bishop to be among the parishes," he said to reporters following the 11:30 a.m. mass
Rozanski made a good first impression with local Catholics in what he hopes is the first of many visits to the Berkshires and throughout the four-county diocese. After celebrating mass at St. Joseph, Rozanski met with dozens of parishioners and members of other area Catholic churches during a reception held at the St. Joseph parish center.
"His humility, more than anything, impressed me," said Margaret Rotti, a church choir member. "He's very humble."
"He's following in the footsteps of Jesus by reaching out to people in Western Mass.," Jack Laviolette added. "He makes people feel welcome practicing their faith at Mass."
Rozanski, 55, was the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, before Pope Francis appointed him bishop in June to lead Catholics in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.
On Aug. 12, the clergyman was installed as bishop, succeeding the Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell, who had been bishop since April 2004.
McDonnell announced his resignation as bishop on his 75th birthday in December 2012 as required by canonical law. Upon retirement, McDonnell chose to live and continue his ministry at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield.
Rozanski has praised McDonnell for helping make for a smooth transition and understanding the issues the diocese has and will continue to face, such as church closings in the past 15 years.
"I am aware of the consolidation of churches here and in the Northeast," he said. "But we aren't just concerned with building ... we are also concerned about people."
Rozanski wants to help stabilize enrollment in the diocese's Catholic schools and reach out to those who have soured on Catholicism and its leadership.
"We should look at the example [set by] Pope Francis and reach out to the victims of [clergy] sex abuse or others who have left for any reason."
While Rozanski feels welcome in Western Massachusetts -- Boston Red Sox territory -- his heart still lies with Baltimore's front-runners in the American League East.
"I must admit, I cannot break from rooting for the Orioles, since they are having such a great season," he said to an Eagle reporter.
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