By Barb Arland-Fye
Today one of our own diocesan priests, Robert Gruss, will be ordained bishop for the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D. In planning a special edition — scheduled for Aug. 4 — to celebrate his new ministry and bid him farewell, we asked readers to share memories of how Bishop Gruss touched their lives.
Collectively, these reflections capture the essence of a man deeply in love with God and committed to serving God’s people no matter what sacrifices might be required. Whether he was ministering as pastor, vocations director or guiding seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Bishop Gruss was present to his flock. Time and again, parishioners mentioned his hospitality, compassion, and sense of humor, listening skills, spirituality, and especially his prayerfulness.
Laurie Peiffer of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport recalled how one of his homilies impacted her understanding of prayer and God’s response to it. “Then-Father Gruss told us that God, in fact, did listen to our prayers, and if we didn’t get the answer we were expecting it wasn’t because he didn’t hear our prayers. God might just have said ‘no.’ To be honest, I’d never thought of it in that way in all my years of prayers. It was quite an awakening moment for me.”
Patrice Langenfeld of St. Mary Parish in Pella remembers how Fr. Gruss encouraged her children’s participation as altar servers, even allowing her youngest son — then a preschooler — to assist him at the altar during daily Mass. “Fr. Bob was in tune with my children in their desire to serve the Lord,” Langenfeld said. She and her husband, Dave, were also struck by the priest’s attitude toward the Mass. “When Fr. Bob celebrates Mass it’s like he’s celebrating his first Mass. He’s so in the moment,” she said.
“Fr. Bob called us to holiness and the service of others,” said Dr. Janet Weigel of St. Paul the Apostle. “He spoke to our hearts and all the burdens we carried, and gave us courage and hope. His humility was evident and his power came from Jesus. Fr. Bob was never about himself. He was always the servant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Dixie Booten recalled when Fr. Gruss, filling in for a pastor on retreat, was asked to lead a prayer service for people stunned by the slaying of a family from St. Boniface Parish in Farmington. “He really had no time to prepare and had never met the family. Yet he agreed to help out … and led one of the most beautiful services I have seen.
“He was so compassionate and caring to all those there. Yet he was even able to talk about forgiveness and make it seem like the most natural thing even at such a difficult time,” said Booten, religious education director for the Farmington parish and parishes in West Point, Houghton and St. Paul.
“Both the powerful sermons and the nonverbal witness of Bishop Gruss have reached into the heart of our community and we are better for his service to us,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Mary Costello.
We hope you’ll enjoy reading these and other reflections to be published in our Aug. 4 edition. And in the meantime, Bishop Martin Amos asks us all to keep Bishop Gruss in our prayers today. “May God bless this new role in Bishop Gruss’ ministry.”