By Antonina Zielinska
To celebrate the silver jubilee of Bishop Witold Mroziewski’s priesthood, five bishops, representatives of the various Polish communities in the diocese, his parishioners and family, gathered Oct. 9 at Holy Cross Church, Maspeth, for a Mass of thanksgiving.
“Dziekujemy bardzo (We greatly thank you) for having nearly your whole priesthood here and now serving as bishop,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said. “We are truly thankful and as the Polish say: ‘Sto Lat!’”
During a homily in Polish, Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski, auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, emphasized Bishop Mroziewski’s priesthood as an encounter with Jesus, bringing the touch of God to His people.
During an English homily, Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, spoke of the men who had a profound influence in shaping Bishop Mroziewski’s priesthood.
Thirty-two years ago, when young Witold Mroziewski was 18-years-old, the young adults from his parish traveled to the capitol of Poland for a funeral Mass that seemed more like a Mass of thanksgiving for the life of now-Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko.
Bishop Massa described Father Popieluszko as the soldier on the ground to a Catholic dissent against the anti-religious forces of Communism led globally by St. John Paul II.
Father Popieluszko convinced many young men, including Witold Mroziewski, “that one could be free even in a country governed by lies,” the auxiliary bishop said.
Going on to speak about his priesthood served in New York, Bishop Massa said: “Who can not think of beloved Msgr. (Peter) Zendzian,” a priest who helped form Bishop Mroziewski in his ministry.
Looking to the future, Bishop Massa said: “God has never left you without consolation… no matter where your path will lead, you are our brother-priest.”
“After 25 years, I thank God for His never-ending goodness and grace,” Bishop Mroziewski said before the congregation at the end of Mass. “I repeat after St. Paul, ‘I am grateful to Him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.’”
Bishop Mroziewski also thanked his mother, his brother and his family, Bishop DiMarzio, his brother priests and all those who pray for him.
“It’s a source of strength in filling my priestly duties,” he said.
The bishop’s mother, Waclawa, flew in from Poland to celebrate her son’s 25th priestly ordination. She said she wanted to pray and celebrate the occasion in person with him. Although she was somewhat apprehensive when her son moved across the Atlantic to serve in Brooklyn, she now feels that it was all in accordance with God’s plan. She says that she sees her son is needed here and has been accepted among the people.
Maria Paluch, a teacher at the Polish Saturday school at Holy Cross, said she is very grateful for Bishop Mroziewski, the first Polish-born bishop in the diocese and the second in the region, after Bishop Zglejszewski. In this way, the Polish community has been represented and recognized.
However, she said, Bishop Mroziewski is more than a symbol. He is a great pastor wielding wisdom and pastoral ability. Although he has many responsibilities on the diocesan level, Paluch said Bishop Mroziewski always makes himself available to the school, truly embodying a spiritual director in the school. He listens with patience and offers advice and resolution to any concerns that may come up. He is also true to his word and does what he sets out to do.
“It is good to work for him,” said Adam Kantorowski, who serves on the Holy Cross parish council. He said the bishop is good at managing his many responsibilities and tries to come to all of the council’s meeting.
“He expects a lot from himself and others,” he said. “He talks to the people and supports the groups.”
Although it is not always possible to implement everything right away, Kantorowski said the bishop is always open to new ideas and perspectives.
Bishop Mroziewski is from Augustow, Poland. He was ordained to the priesthood in Lomza, on June 29, 1991 and began his pastoral service in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1992.
Here he has served in Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir, Sunset Park, and is currently pastor at Holy Cross. Having earned a master’s in theology, a master’s in canon law and a Doctorate Juris of Canon Law from the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, he now serves as associate promoter of justice for criminal cases and defender of the bond on the diocesan tribunal.