Reflecting Heaven Part 20: Fr. Pete Rossa (1964-2017)

09-15-2021Reflecting HeavenFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Born: October 23, 1964
Ordained: June 7, 2003
Assignments: Parochial vicar at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Scottsdale and St. Timothy, Mesa; pastor at St. Bernadette since 2007.
Died: September 13, 2017

Fr. Pete Rossa collapsed during morning Mass on September 12 at St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale. Fr. Rossa died the following day. He was 52.

It is hard to believe that it has been five years since Fr. Pete’s birthday into eternal life. His journey home began many years before.

Fr. Pete was ordained to the priesthood in 2003 when he was 38 years old. In a fairly atypical way, Fr. Pete found his way to the seminary soon after he came into the Catholic Church. As his Vocation Director, I recall his zeal for the Catholic faith, his love for Our Blessed Mother, as well as his sincere desire to serve God as a priest. He was a wonderful seminarian because he knew God loved him and he wanted others to know God loved them too.

Fr. Pete also loved our country. He served in the military for several years in the Air Force. Perhaps his sense of duty and service that he found in the military enable him to hear Our Lord calling him to a life of service in the Church as a Catholic priest.

His vocation to the priesthood was obvious to those who where blessed to get to know him. Someone once referred to Fr. Peter as “a modern-day missionary, bringing people closer to Jesus Christ.”

As part of his vision for bringing others to Christ, Fr. Pete devoted much time and energy to building a beautiful church of St. Bernadette. His dedication and desire to build something glorious for God was fulfilled exactly 13 months prior to his death. At the dedication, Fr. Pete reminded us all of his humility and his faith.

“IF I WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, IT WOULD BE MY SINCEREST HOPE THAT I NOT BE REMEMBERED FOR THIS CHURCH, BUT THAT I WOULD BE REMEMBERED FOR BRINING 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. Pete Rossa, Dedication of the Church).

His words rang true in the lives of those who knew him. His humble desire to bring people of all ages to know and love Our Lord was his number one priority. God calls people to be saints and Fr. Peter dedicated his life and his priesthood to bringing others closer to Jesus Christ.

Ambria Hammel, in an article for the Catholic Sun recalled “Countless comments and memories the faithful shared on Facebook describe St. Bernadette’s new church and how Fr. Rossa ensured that every detail pointed people back to God.” She recalled the experience others had with Fr. Pete. One person said that Fr. Pete “had no problem hearing a confession before a bride walked down the aisle.” Others noted that Fr. Peter “had sharp paintball skills and let no obstacle prevent him from helping lead people, teens especially, closer to Christ.”

Fr. Pete’s dedication and willingness to serve without counting the cost was evident in his service to young people. Several people recalled his first Life Teen retreat with St. Bernadette. Fr. Rossa was playing basketball and somehow injured his Achilles tendon prior to the retreat’s Mass and Adoration. Youth leaders wondered what they would do without a priest, when low and behold, they got an email saying he was on his way back from the hospital, crutches and all.

Fr. Rossa’s strong principles and love for Our Lord and His Church enabled him to serve with courage and conviction. Fr. Pete once said that “the devil’s far more afraid of a priest than a priest is of him. … Don’t be afraid to pray with your people … take courage in Jesus.”

Fr. Pete has run the race and he has fought the good fight. Well done good and faithful servant.

As part of the parish’s way of honoring this humble man of God, a “Memorial Cabinet” will be set as a permanent fixture in narthex of our church. While the exact details are yet to be determined, the hope is that is will look something the depiction below. The cabinet will contain several meaningful items including his chalice and paten as well as the rosary that belonged to his family and the amazing story of how Fr. Pete received that family rosary. This cabinet and the grotto (that we are hoping to begin sometime after the church is complete) will be a fitting way to commemorate this wonderful man of God.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
~Amen~

If you would like to contribute to this memorial project for Fr. Pete, please go to the online giving at saintbernadette.weshareonline.org . Your gifts enable us to continue the mission of the Church of making more disciples. Thank you for all who have helped to keep our parish focus on Christ, Our Eucharistic King!

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