There was lots of excitement on Tuesday morning when the Diocese of Brooklyn learned that it had received two new auxiliary bishops.
The announcement came from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., that Fathers James Massa and Witold Mroziewski were to be ordained bishops to assist Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the pastoral work of the diocese.
The two new prelates were right in line with the kind of men Pope Francis has been naming. Both are pastoral men. Both are smart. Both are close to the people. Both are loyal sons of the Church.
But neither of them saw it coming. They each expressed shock at receiving the phone call from the nuncio’s office.
Father Massa was in the middle of an important meeting at the Chancery when he got the call. Figuring it was something to do with the pastoral visit of the pope in September, a project he has been working on, he asked if the secretary could take a message.
The response was that he needed to take this call. Did he ever need to take that call! He had spoken with the nuncio many times previously but never was the subject so personal and so life-changing.
He said that he had two reactions to the announcement. One was that he became more aware of his own shortcomings and he asked for prayers. The other was “a deep sense of joy.”
“Ordaining a bishop is a sign to the whole Church that the life of Jesus moves on,” he explained.
Father Mroziewski said that he was alone in his room at Holy Cross rectory when the parish secretary put through the call from the Apostolic Nuncio. He said the words from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano literally took his breath away. For a moment, he couldn’t respond. And when the bishop asked for his cell number, he momentarily forgot the digits.
“Personally, I never thought my life would change in so many ways,” he said. “It made me speechless, like an earthquake had hit. This was very unexpected and overwhelmed me.”
Father Mroziewski pointed out that Mother’s Day in Poland will be celebrated next weekend. He figured this was the pope’s way of sending a Happy Mother’s Day greeting to his home in his homeland. Yes, the bishop-elect’s mother will be in attendance when Bishop DiMarzio ordains him to the episcopacy in Brooklyn on July 20.
For Father Massa, his life has been turned upside down in the last year and a half. A former seminary professor, he was plucked from the theologate to work in the diocese as moderator of the Curia. Along the way, he also was asked to temporarily administer to a parish, along with various other deeds that required a watchful eye.
Bishop DiMarzio praised the work of these two outstanding priests of the diocese. He joked that perhaps their words will carry even more weight now that they are to be bishops.
Following the morning press conference, the bishops-elect headed for the NET-TV studios for a sit-down interview for Currents, our daily news show on cable TV.
Bishop-elect Massa was scheduled for an afternoon meeting with Cardinal Dolan in Manhattan about the papal visit to New York. Bishop-elect Mroziewski still had to celebrate the evening Mass at his parish.
One thing they were learning for certain was that their time is no longer their own. It’s a lesson bishops learn quickly.