A Statement from Father Richard Kunst
After only my grandmother I would say Bishop Brom was my greatest influence in the faith in my early years. He accepted me to be a seminarian in the Diocese of Duluth, and from that point forward he played an important role in my life.
To me Bishop Brom was larger than life; he was a mountain. I spoke with him last just a few weeks ago, and he seemed as vigorous as ever, so his death is a shock. We have always stayed in good communication; we have traveled together to Israel and to Italy.
His stories of his interactions with St. John Paul II and St. Mother Teresa were amazing to hear, and he loved to tell them.
I am so blessed to have had such a great influence in my life as the man Robert Brom.
Rest in Peace.
SAN DIEGO — A funeral Mass will be celebrated May 17 for retired Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego, who died May 10 in San Diego. He was 83.
The Mass for Brom, who headed the diocese from 1990 until 2013, will be celebrated at St. Therese of Carmel Church in Del Mar Heights, California, followed by burial at Holy Cross Cemetery.
“He was a natural teacher who constantly labored to bring the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council into the heart of the Diocese of San Diego,” Bishop Robert W. McElroy, current head of the diocese, said in a May 10 statement.
“This dedication to the council also framed his lifelong service in forming men for the priesthood,” he added.
Robert Henry Brom was born Sept. 18, 1938, in Arcadia, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and a licentiate in sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rochester-Winona in 1963.
In 1983, St. John Paul II appointed him bishop of Duluth, Minnesota, and in 1989 named him coadjutor bishop of San Diego to assist Bishop Leo T. Maher.
When Maher retired in 1990, Brom immediately succeeded him, heading the diocese from July 10, 1990, until Sept. 18, 2013, when he retired.
“Bishop Brom’s deep love for our parishes and pastoral vision were complemented by a keen administrative capability in guiding San Diego through years of joy and hardship,” said McElroy. “In his retirement years, Bishop Brom intensified the prison ministry that he began as bishop and his service to the Missionaries of Charity.”
St. Teresa of Kolkata, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was one of two people Brom often said were the most inspirational in his life. The other person was St. John Paul.
As it was for many bishops, Brom’s most notable challenge was the clergy sexual abuse scandal confronting the Catholic Church in the early 2000s.
He led a subcommittee of U.S. bishops whose charge, he said, was to develop a process to “hold ourselves and each other responsible” to the terms of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The charter was originally established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002. It is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and other church workers.
In 2007, the San Diego Diocese was sued by survivors of sex abuse; a majority of these cases occurred before Brom’s time as head of the diocese. The bishop said the scope of the suit could cause the diocese to declare bankruptcy, which it did in February of that year.
Brom also was stung by resurfaced claims accusing him of abuse — allegations he said had been shown to be false a decade earlier.
“I consider it a grave injustice that my reputation and the good of the church have been harmed by those who presently, and for years, have made me the target of their slanderous attacks,” Brom said during the chrism Mass he celebrated that March.
“Personally, I am able to forgive them, but the harm they have done and are doing cannot go unmentioned,” he said.
In September 2007, the dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino, California — the latter had broken off from the former in 1978 — agreed to pay $198.1 million to settle lawsuits with 144 victims of sexual abuse by priests between 1938 and 1993.
The dioceses had originally offered $95 million to settle the claims. The plaintiffs sought $200 million. At the time, it was one of the largest such settlements in the United States.
Brom met with many abuse survivors and their families to promote healing and reconciliation. He also helped resolve several false allegations.
On other issues, Brom issued a statement in 1990, not long after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, calling for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
He said he supported “international solidarity” to resist aggression because it offered hope “for the peaceful liberation of Kuwait.” The statement was read during an anti-war rally on the campus of the diocesan-run University of San Diego.
In a pastoral letter issued during Easter 1992, Brom called on Catholics to welcome immigrants even when available resources “seem stretched to the limit.”
He instructed parishes to actively seek out immigrants to bring them into their faith communities, and called on pastors to emphasize the church’s teachings on the right to immigrate and responsibilities to the poor.
The pastoral noted that in the diocese there were an estimated 30,000 immigrant workers, the majority of whom were Mexican or Central American and many of whom lived among the rural homeless.
“Many have been homeless for years. They live where they can — holes in the ground, makeshift shacks, open fields — in appalling conditions of extreme poverty,” he said.
From the beginning of his ministry in San Diego, Brom believed the diocese’s many ethnic and cultural groups enriched the local church.
He spent his first three months as coadjutor studying Spanish so that he would be able to minister effectively to the diocese’s substantial Hispanic population. As bishop, he authorized establishment of the diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity.
Brom upgraded the diocesan Ecumenical Commission to the status of a full diocesan office and became the first bishop in the country to appoint a vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs.
Another of his priorities as San Diego’s shepherd was making pastoral visits to parishes. He made visits five times to all of the approximately 100 parishes in the two-county, 8,852-square-mile diocese.
An Interview with Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom, Friend & Mentor to the Curator
Father Kunst, Curator, gratefully acknowledges the contributions to this Collection from Bishop Robert Brom
Retired San Diego Bishop Robert Brom is interviewed by Father Richard Kunst & Fr. Ryan Moravitz on Real Presence Radio about the life of a retired bishop. He was formerly the bishop of Duluth, Minnesota, and was, “a massive influence”on a young seminarian–the Curator of Papal Artifacts.
Bishop Brom spoke at length about his visits with Mother Teresa while she was so ill.
Bishop Brom is a born story teller and relates in this interview an encounter with Mother Teresa of Calcutta who was deathly ill in La Jolla, California. Not only did Bishop Brom visit her to pray with her at that time, he was also called upon by the hospital staff when she received a phone call from none other than Pope John Paul II.
We invite you to listen to Bishop Brom as he reveals the details of this wonderful story as well as the details of his life and ministry as a retired bishop.
The interview begins at the 4.05 minute mark.
The interview is from August 2018.
NOTE: Father Kunst is still a monthly host on Real Presence Live Radio.
A 1st Class Relic of Mother Teresa
A Gift to Fr. Kunst from Bp. Robert Brom
Retired Bishop of San Diego, CA
Former Bishop of Duluth, MN
This first class relic of Mother Teresa (strands of her hair) was sent to me by Sister Nimala, the successor of Mother Teresa following Mother’s death in 1997.
She sent it, no doubt, because after Mother’s miraculous recovery from near death in 1992 here in San Diego I advised Sister Nimala to start saving Mother’s hair whenever she had a haircut toward developing relics.
+Robert H. Brom
Bishop of San Diego
July 10,1990 – September 18, 2013
NOTE: This 1st class relic is on loan to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.
Statement from Bishop Robert Brom regarding this 2nd class relic
This crucifix together with the miraculous medal and safety pin were given to me by Mother Teresa of Calcutta from her hospital gown in January 1992 while she was hospitalized here in San Diego, and I was the active bishop. She did so to emphasize the point she was making in a visit with me that to be truly Christian we must love Jesus and one another, especially in the distressing disguise of the poor, as he first loves us — “with love ’til it hurts.”
Signed: Robert H. Brom
Bishop Emeritus of San Diego
A sign with the relics states, The Crucifix along with the miraculous medal and safety pin are to be given to : Father Richard Kunst, Diocese of Duluth
NOTE: These 2nd class relics are on loan to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.
Additional Gifts to the Collection from Bishop Robert Brom
A second story told by Bishop Brom relates his unusual encounters with a young bishop, Karol Wojtyla while he was a student at the North American College in Rome–and subsequent encounters with Pope John Paul II revealing the Pope’s remarkable memory.
An Autographed Photo of Pope John Paul II, Dated December 3rd, 1983.
This was received personally by Bishop Robert Brom, former Bishop of Duluth, MN, during an ad limina visit in 1983. Upon Father Kunst’s ordination, Bishop Brom gave it to him as a gift.
While a young seminarian at the North American College in Rome, Robert Brom had his first encounter with a young bishop from Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla. The following story is his account of this remarkable bishop who became Pope John Paul II.
Bishop Robert Brom’s Encounter With the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow,
The Future Pope John Paul II
John Paul II’s attention to each person is summed up in an encounter he had with San Diego’s Bishop Robert Brom.
Brom’s first meeting with the Pope occurred in 1963 during the second session of the Second Vatican Council. Brom was a seminarian at the North American College and Pope John Paul was the auxiliary bishop of Krakow. Brom and several classmates were leaving the Church of the Gesu after a visit there when some Polish seminarians with Bishop Wojtyla were entering. At that time Brom and his classmates briefly met the man who would thereafter become the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. Subsequently, Brom forgot all about the exchange.
In 1983 after his appointment as Bishop of Duluth, Bishop Brom in the context of his first Ad Limina Visit met Pope John Paul for what he thought was the first time. However, John Paul, looking into Brom’s face said, “I think we have met before.” Brom assured the Holy Father that they’d never met. “I believe we have,” insisted the Pope, but Brom was equally sure they had not.
Some days later, during the same Ad Limina Visit, the secretary to the Holy Father, then, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, now Cardinal, approached Bishop Brom to say, “Don’t argue with the Pope, he remembers when he met you.” “When?” Brom asked. “In November of 1963 outside the Church of the Gesu in Rome.” Brom’s memory refreshed, he asked Monsignor Dziwisz, “How can he do that?” to which Dziwisz explained that for John Paul to meet another person is to encounter God.
It was only years later in another Ad Limina Visit toward the end of the Pope’s life that John Paul brought up the subject again. One on one he asked Brom, “How many times have we met, and when was the first time?” to which Brom responded properly. John Paul slapped the desk and with a smile said, “Finally you remember!”
Seven Rosaries, all gifts to Father Richard Kunst from Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father directly gave all but one to him.
The first was a gift from Bishop Robert Brom who was given the rosary by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his ad limina visit.
Vulgate Version of the Bible, Dated 1988: Pope John Paul II
Every five years a bishop will go and meet with the Holy Father, and it’s called the ad limina visit. The purpose is to give the status of the diocese that he is pastor of. And in 1988, one of our former bishops, Bishop Brom, now the retired bishop of San Diego, had an ad limina visit with Pope John Paul, and the Holy Father gave him this Vulgate (Latin) version of the bible, which is nice, yes, but to get a copy of the word of God from the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, (which is, we say, the “voice of Christ”) is very significant. Any type of gift like that from a pope is significant but especially a copy of the bible.
Papal Artifacts gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Bishop Robert Brom.
Bishop Robert Brom
Birthplace: Arcadia, Wisc.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, St. Mary’s University, Winona, Minn. Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Gregorian University, Rome.
Ordained: For the Diocese of Winona at the Church of Christ the King in Rome, 1963.
Career: Associate pastor, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Winona; faculty member, Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at St. Mary’s University, Winona; rector of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary; pastor of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Winona; vicar general of the Diocese of Winona; bishop of the Diocese of Duluth; coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego; bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.
Bishop Robert Brom has guided the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego for nearly 22 years, overseeing its 98 parishes that serve nearly one million Catholics.
He was the bishop of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. before coming to San Diego in 1989 as coadjutor bishop to Bishop Leo T. Maher. He became bishop the next year when Maher retired.
During his tenure, the $12 million Pastoral Center on Paducah Drive was opened — in a renovated convent — to house the diocesan offices that had been located in cramped quarters at the University of San Diego. In addition, two new Catholic high schools — Cathedral Catholic in Carmel Valley and Mater Dei in Chula Vista — designed to accommodate 2,000 students each, were opened.
The $80 million price tag for each school is being covered through diocese-wide fundraising efforts.
Brom is scheduled to retire next year and will be succeeded by recently named coadjutor Bishop Cirilo Flores.
Below is an edited transcript of a recent interview with Brom.
Question: When did you know you wanted to become a priest?
Answer: As a high school student at Cotter High School in Winona, Minn., in 1955-56. I had thought about becoming a priest when I was a little kid. It was natural when you were in a Catholic family and a Catholic grade school and were an altar server. Then, my buddies and I discovered — I have to think how I should say this — that girls were part of the population. The fascination with the priesthood was lost in middle school and the early high school years, when I was in public school, with all the activities around. Then, before my senior year, we moved to Winona. There was a Catholic high school there. It was during that year, when again there were priests and sisters around, that it came back.
Q: Was service to others always going to be part of your vocation, whether as a priest or a lay person?
A: I think so. I asked myself how I could best use my God-given gifts and talents to make a contribution to people and the world.
Q: What areas of service have you focused on?
A: Well, after I was ordained, I was briefly an associate pastor. Then I was assigned to the faculty of the seminary at St. Mary’s University in Winona. I taught theology there. I found that I had some gifts and talents as a teacher. If you think about it, a bishop is part of the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the church. So I think I have been a teacher all along.
Q: Are there others?
A: I have made a point of making pastoral visits to all the parishes in the diocese. I am in my fifth round of these. I usually go on a Friday, if there is a school, or a Saturday. I can only do about 25 a year, because other weekends there are confirmations and other things. In terms of what I’m most pleased with in my ministry, this is one thing. I meet the people where they’re at, not at headquarters.
Often these pastoral visits provide opportunities for teaching, to witness to Christ. Sometimes I am there for key celebrations. I can visit some of the houses where there are shut-ins, I can visit people in hospitals. It’s special. Right in the parish context I can be a teacher, I can be the presider in liturgy and I can be the shepherd. The church flourishes in the parishes or it doesn’t flourish at all. My social outreach takes place in these pastoral visits and my prison ministry. On Easter, I go to Donovan prison. I have these personally selected opportunities for social outreach.
Q: If you could wish for one thing to make this region a better place, what would it be?
A: For people to be the living Gospel for all to see and hear, live a God-centered life and express that love for God to one’s neighbors. The Gospel values are not Catholic values and they’re not Christian values; they are radically human values.
Q: Who has most inspired you?
A: The two people most inspirational people in my life by far have been Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II.
Q: What advice would you give the area’s leaders?
A: Leadership at every level has to get beyond self interest in order to be of service to others. There is so much self interest in the world of business, in the world of education, in the world of politics. All of us in leadership, in the church and in the public sector, we have to get beyond our self interest in order to be genuine servants of the people.
Q: What advice would you give young people?
A: The same: get out of the cocoon of self absorption and embrace a life of selfless service.
Q: Have your views about serving others changed over time?
A: They’ve changed from the point of view that they’re not lofty ideals to be preached. The older I get, the more I realize you have to live them, not just talk about them.
Q: Is there something about yourself you could tell people that would surprise them?
A: That I think fishing is more fun than golfing, because if they don’t bite it’s not your fault.
EXPLANATION OF THE DUAL COAT OF ARMS
“I Belong to Christ”
Ego Sum Christi
The coat of arms above is a combination of the diocesan coat of arms, on the left side of the shield, with the bishop’s personal coat of arms on the right. Together they symbolize the spiritual union of the bishop with his spouse, the local Church.
DIOCESAN COAT OF ARMS (Left half)
The diocesan coat of arms uses symbols which describe San Diego (St. Didacus in Latin), the diocesan patron saint.
Diego was born to poor Spanish parents shortly before the year 1400. His love for poverty never left him. As a Franciscan brother he was a selfless servant of the poor and was known to heal the sick with the Sign of the Cross, the centerpiece of the diocesan coat of arms. The Spanish stew pot in the upper left corner indicates Diego’s boundless charity and tireless efforts to feed the hungry. San Diego had a special devotion to the Lord in his Passion, symbolized by the three nails in the other corners of the crest.
Diego died on Nov. 12, 1463, at the Franciscan monastery in Alcalá, Spain, pressing a crucifix to his heart and repeating the words of the Good Friday chant: “Dulce lignum, dulce ferrum, dulce pondus sustinet” (Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.)
BISHOP’S COAT OF ARMS (Right half)
In the bishop’s personal coat of arms, the Greek letters, Chi and Rho, at the center of the design, symbolize Christ.
As disciples of the Lord, we seek “to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection (symbolized by the palm branches); likewise to know how to share in his sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death (symbolized by the cross).” (cf. Phil 3:10)
We are to continue God’s work of reconciling everyone to Christ in the mystery of his death and resurrection. This is suggested by the circle tied into the cross and palm branches.
Bishop Brom selected the motto, “Ego Sum Christi” or “I Belong to Christ” (I Cor 1:12) to express his commitment to Christ and dedication to the Church. Consecrated in truth, Bishop Brom professes to belong to Christ and not to the world (cf. John 17.) and for this privilege, he wants above all else to be an ambassador for Christ and a minister of reconciliation (cf. II Cor 5:14-21) and to love the Church as Christ loved the Church, giving himself up for it (cf. Eph 5:25).