When the one who leads prayer, needs prayer

Fr. Peter Rossa, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish, processes into the first Mass inside St. Bernadette’s standalone church Aug. 13, 2016. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The news spread quickly. Massgoers were the first to know that Fr. Pete Rossa, pastor of St. Bernadette, fainted and fell while celebrating the daily liturgy Sept. 12. He reportedly suffered severe head injuries.

All diocesan priests received an email early yesterday afternoon requesting prayers. The Diocesan Pastoral Center heard a few minutes later and a rosary was held in his honor at the church last night. A post made on Fr. Rossa’s personal Facebook page reported that Fr. Rob Clements, who served as Fr. Rossa’s vocation director, was at Kino Catechetical Institute last night to teach a class and led a decade of the Rosary for the pastor.

We found this prayer of great comfort this morning:

Word of his fall quickly spread on social media throughout the evening. As a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix for 14 years, Fr. Rossa’s name was out there. He spent his early priesthood at large parishes that also had schools: Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale and St. Timothy in Mesa and then the remainder shepherding some 1,350 families at St. Bernadette in Scottsdale where he is also pastor of the adjoining St. John XXIII School.

Here is a glimpse at some of those posts that were made public:

Fr. Kunkel is a not just a priest friend, but a fellow priest photographer.

Some of the recent comments we’re reading — within the last hour or two — aren’t fully public or verifiable, but aren’t very hopeful at a full recovery.

We can take comfort, however, in the last words I recall him speaking exactly 13 months ago when St. Bernadette’s first permanent worship space opened. In all sincerity, he said:

If I were to die tomorrow, it would be my sincerest hope not that I be remembered for this church, but that I would be remembered for bringing you closer to Jesus Christ because that is our mission, that is our hope, that is our longing at the core of our faith.”

Fr. Peter Rossa welcomes St. John XXIII students to the first school Mass inside the new St. Bernadette church in this 2016 photo. (photo courtesy of Amy Rhude, St. John XXIII parent)

UPDATE 1:55 p.m. Sept. 13:
Parish staff notified parishioners of the passing of Fr. Rossa. He passed peacefully this afternoon surrounded by his family, friends and clergy, hours after the school and community gathered together at Mass to raise their voices and offer prayers to the Lord and the Blessed Mother Mary.

Pete Rossa III, center, stands alongside Carlos Gomez and Chauncey Winkler on their ordination day June 7, 2003.