Bishop Robert J. Rose, who led Grand Rapids, Gaylord dioceses, dies at 92

Retired Bishop Robert J. Rose, 92, who served as the second bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord (1981-89) and the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids (1989-03), died on Ash Wednesday, March 2. Bishop Rose also was a former rector of St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth. (Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Grand Rapids)

Bishop Rose remembered as 'devoted shepherd' of two Michigan dioceses, led social justice and education efforts for more than 22 years

GRAND RAPIDS — Retired Bishop Robert J. Rose, the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the second bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, died Ash Wednesday, March 2, at the age of 92.

“(T)he Diocese of Grand Rapids has lost a man who dedicated his life to the Catholic faith. Bishop Robert Rose served the Church in the state of Michigan for more than 65 years,” Grand Rapids Bishop David Walkowiak said a statement. “In each office – relying upon the grace of Holy Orders, a Spirit-filled wisdom, a compassionate heart and a delightful wit, he placed it all at the service of the Lord who anointed him for this vocation.”

Bishop Rose served the Diocese of Grand Rapids from 1989 until his retirement in 2003, remaining active in the diocese after his retirement. Before then, he served as Gaylord’s bishop from 1981-89.

“It is with deep sadness that we share this news of Bishop Rose’s passing,” said Bishop Walter A. Hurley, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord, who also served as Grand Rapids’ bishop from 2005-13. “He was a devoted shepherd to the people of the Diocese of Gaylord and faithfully served the people of Grand Rapids for many years.”

Bishop Rose’s passing came two days before the Diocese of Gaylord was set to install its sixth shepherd, Bishop Jeffrey J. Walsh. Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron ordained and installed Bishop Walsh, a former priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., on March 4 at St. Mary Cathedral.

Bishop Rose was born Feb. 28, 1930, in Grand Rapids during the start of the Great Depression. A member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Grand Rapids, he graduated from the parish elementary school and began his studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary, where he completed high school and junior college.

The future bishop earned a bachelor’s degree from the Seminaire de Philosophie in Montreal, and later earned a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Urban College in Rome. After his priestly ordination, he earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan.

Fr. Rose was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 21, 1955, by Cardinal Clemente Micara, Pope Piux XII’s vicar general. He served for 13 years on the faculty of St. Joseph Seminary, and later served as director of Christopher House, a seminary residence near Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

From 1971-77, he served as rector of St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth before returning to the Diocese of Grand Rapids to serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Muskegon Heights from 1977-81.

In October 1981, he was appointed the second bishop of Gaylord, succeeding then-Bishop Edmund C. Szoka. He was ordained bishop and installed on Dec. 6, 1981.

In July 1989, Bishop Rose was named to succeed retiring Bishop Joseph Breitenbeck as the ninth bishop of Grand Rapids, and was installed Aug. 30, 1989.

During his 22 years as bishop of Michigan’s second-largest diocese, Bishop Rose focused on a number of pastoral initiatives, including those focused on family, vocations and justice. He regionalized the diocese’s Hispanic ministry, developed lay leadership programs for English- and Spanish-speaking Catholics, and hosted forums and events focused on healing the sins of racism in the diocese.

Bishop Rose also launched a successful capital campaign, “In the Name of the Lord,” which raised more than $24 million for Catholic education, the restoration of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, and the remodeling of the St. Henry Spirituality and Ministry Center.

He also established the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan, which manages more than $108 million in assets for Catholic charitable causes.

“During his episcopacy, Bishop Rose established many ministries that continue today with a particular emphasis on social justice and education,” Bishop Walkowiak said. “He established The Catholic Foundation of West Michigan, the Secretariat for Social Justice (now Catholic Charities West Michigan), the Bishop’s Fund for Catholic Education, reorganized parish pastoral councils, and fostered diocesan support in ecumenical activities.

“He valued the voice of the laity and ensured they were part of the decision-making process. He brought kindness to every interaction and empowered Catholics to share their faith,” Bishop Walkowiak said.

Bishop Rose’s funeral liturgy will take place Friday, March 11, at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids, with Archbishop Vigneron presiding. Interment will be at Resurrection Cemetery.

“Please join me in offering prayers for his eternal rest and comfort to Bishop Rose’s family. We assure them of our prayers and thank God for Bishop Rose’s life and years of dedication to the Diocese of Grand Rapids,” Bishop Walkowiak said.

“As we remember his profound impact on this diocese, we take heed of his episcopal motto and together we go forth as a Christian people, ‘In the Name of the Lord!'”


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