Bishop Edward M. Grosz, auxiliary bishop of Buffalo, celebrates the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination this month. In honor of Bishop Grosz, we are celebrating him all week with a series of stories about his ministry prior to his anniversary Mass Sunday, Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. at St. Joseph Cathedral. All are welcome.
Father Richard Jedrzejewski, pastor of Assumption Parish in Buffalo, was a childhood friend of Bishop Edward M. Grosz. They grew up in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood and attended Assumption School.
Father Jedrzejewski, said his earliest experience with Bishop Grosz was when the bishop was Father Jedrzejewski's altar boy captain in their home parish, since Bishop Grosz is a few years older than Father Jedrzejewski.
"We always used to get assigned together because we would show up, because he was so darned reliable," Father Jedrzejewski said. "That was my first experience with him, and he was always getting me in trouble, because if anything went wrong, he would blame me for it."
During their years together at Assumption School, both Bishop Grosz and Father Jedrzejewski were on the same "team." Father Jedrzejewski explained that the sisters who served at the school would have teams of boys and girls who would help them on Saturday afternoon. Bishop Grosz and Father Jedrzejewski were on one of the teams of students that were assigned to the task of cleaning the sacristy.
"He, of course, had the priests' sacristy to clean. I only got to carry out the dead flowers and dust the corridor in between. He had all of the important jobs to do," Father Jedrzejewski reminisced, laughing.
As they went on to study at St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora, they went their separate ways and had their own groups of friends, but they still remained in touch and remained part of each others' lives. Bishop Grosz, then Father Grosz, vested Father Jedrzejewski when he was ordained in 1974, three years after Bishop Grosz was ordained at St. Joseph's New Cathedral in 1971.
"We kept not a constant friendship going, but we constantly were talking to each other and hanging out, and different things. As kids, we used to ride the bus and go to concerts at Kleinhans, and take a ride to different novenas at the cathedral, stuff like that," Father Jedrzejewski recalled.
Since then, Father Jedrzejewski was assigned to serve with Bishop Grosz as his associate pastor when Bishop Grosz was pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Cheektowaga for four years, from 1990 to 1994. The two men continue to keep in touch today. "Once or twice a week, we call and just kind of dump on each other, whatever the issue is," Father Jedrzejewski said.
When asked about his experiences with Bishop Grosz as both a priest and a bishop, Father Jedrzejewski said he is a "very caring individual" who tends to get wrapped up in whatever he is doing.
"Whatever he's doing, it's got to be very thorough. He's got to be in charge - he'll convene the meeting, he'll take the minutes, make sure that everything is up to snuff," Father Jedrzejewski remembered. "When I was an assistant with him at St. Philip, we traveled to Fatima together."
Father Jedrzejewski recalled how he, Bishop Grosz and Msgr. David G. LaPuma would meet for prayer on a regular basis, which was an important part of all three men's lives, on that trip. According to Father Jedrzejewski, Bishop Grosz was always willing to provide constructive criticism. "(He would say), 'You know, that homily was good, but it could have been better,'" Father Jedrzejewski said, "But he's always the bishop, if you know what I mean. His opinion is your opinion, so he's very persuasive in that way."
Before Bishop Grosz was ordained a bishop, he used to take people on pilgrimages to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He would spend many years doing this, and would often take busloads of people to spend time there.
"A lot of people remember him from those very close experiences, where they were very prayerful," Father Jedrzejewski said. "At St. Philip, he took a group of kids and we went to Fatima. He was up with them half the night, doing the Rosary and praying there, so I would say over anything that he's ever interested in, he is always deeply spiritual and looks for the spiritual motivation in it."
"He does what he's asked to do. He's not politically motivated to move ahead or get up in the world. He's happy doing whatever his bishop at the time, whether it was Bishop (Edward D.) Head, Bishop (Henry J.) Mansell, Bishop (Edward U.) Kmiec or Bishop (Richard J.) Malone, asked him to do, and he really puts his heart and soul into it."