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.
In addition to the rest of his ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Grosz was chaplain of the Villa Maria Motherhouse Complex of the Felician Sisters in Buffalo for 10 years, from 1980 to 1990. During this time, many of the sisters got to know Bishop Grosz well and, last month, some of them shared some of their stories of when he interacted and served with the sisters on a regular basis.
Sister Mary Catherine Raczkowski, CSSF, who said she has known Bishop Grosz for "at least 20, 25 years," said he has always been a prayerful person who is giving, caring, concerned and compassionate. She recalled how Bishop Grosz would regularly visit the sisters in the convent who were sick and anoint them, aside from regularly participating in Masses and other spiritual exercises for the order.
"He kind of felt bad that he could not give himself more because at that time, he was working in the Office of Worship, but he did the best he could," Sister Catherine said. "He was with us for morning prayer, evening if he could, the Rosary, Mass. Sometimes he gave talks to us, like spiritual talks for Lent or Advent. If there were sisters in the hospital, he would try to visit them."
Some ceremonies the sisters had with Bishop Grosz included anniversary Masses and funeral Masses. At the time he first became the order's chaplain, he had been a monsignor, but he became the diocese's auxiliary bishop while there. As a man of faith, he was very concerned about the sisters, and since then, Sister Catherine and Bishop Grosz get together once or twice a year and send cards to one another.
As the sisters' chaplain, he was always very friendly, according to Sister Mary Thaddeus Pogorzala, CSSF. "He just thought the Felicians were so wonderful. To this day, I keep getting flowers on Easter and Christmas and a nice letter from him, saying how grateful he was that we were always together with him and helped him all those years, especially since he didn't have a sister."
Sister Thaddeus knew Bishop Grosz's family, and helped take care of his mother, Helen. "Things were pretty busy for him at that time, so he was always so grateful that I took care of her for a good four years, and then she got sick and she died." She also knew his father, Joseph, who has also passed away.
"His dad was a beautiful person. He was a gentleman - he was very nice, and he was very proud that (his son) became a priest. They used to live in Black Rock. His father worked and came home from work, and when we used to get together for different occasions, he was always such a nice fellow - a very approachable kind of person, but very quiet. He never was one to put himself first," added Sister Thaddeus.
Sister Mary Ambrose Wozniak, CSSF, said she has known Bishop Grosz since he first began serving as chaplain of the motherhouse. She also recalled how Bishop Grosz would have daily Mass for the sisters and he participated in activities such as evening prayer and benediction every day.
"Sometimes he was late at work, he couldn't do some of it, but basically he was doing benedictions. He may have done funerals when we had sisters die. He was just a wonderful person to be with, very much involved in our life - caring, willing to participate, to help us wherever he was needed," added Sister Ambrose. "We also had some special Masses or prayer services, and if we wanted him to attend and he was able to, he did all of those extra things. He was also working downtown in the Office of Worship."
Although Bishop Grosz tended to be very busy at this time between his ministry at the Catholic Center and his assignment as the Felician sisters' chaplain, which he served simultaneously, he was able to fulfill the roles well, according to Sister Ambrose. "You could really depend on him, and of course with his personality, as outgoing as he is, you could just tell that he just loved the sisters."
Sister Ambrose also said she feels Bishop Grosz is a man who wholeheartedly wants to deepen his union with God and live out the faith and share it with others. "He very consciously made specific efforts. You could really tell that he was trying to be the best person, spiritually, in following the Gospel, so I really do feel that he had a deep faith and he wanted to live it to the best of his ability."
In doing this, Sister Ambrose observed that he lived out his faith by having a rich prayer life, sharing it with others and giving heartfelt, well thought out and prepared homilies. As others have also said about Bishop Grosz through the years, Sister Catherine emphasized how he was, and still is, a bishop of the people who came from humble beginnings, much like many Western New York residents he serves.
"People were surprised he was appointed bishop," Sister Catherine said. "He is really of the common folk. His parents were just common people, working. His mother worked, his father worked - they lived on a little street in Black Rock, nothing special ... Being named, people were surprised. Some of Polonia was asking for a Polish bishop. They thought it was time. He would not have asked for it."