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 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.
NOTE: Father Kunst & Father Moravitz are monthly hosts on Real Presence Live Radio.
Bishop Brom speaks at length about his visits with Mother Teresa while she was so ill.
These are just a few of the items in this Collection connected to St. Mother Teresa.
Three Incredible 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.