Among the Native Americans who comprise a quarter of its faithful, the Rapid City church’s last two bishops, Bishop Charles Chaput and Bishop Blaise Cupich, were respectively known as “Rustling Wind” and “White Thunder”....
But now, the question begs itself: what will they dub a pilot?
Putting Stateside Catholicism’s longest vacancy to rest, at Roman Noon the Pope named Msgr Robert Gruss, 55 -- heretofore rector of Davenport’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and a onetime vice-rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome -- as the next head of western South Dakota’s 30,000-member diocese: one of the US church’s smallest outposts by population, sure, but a seat whose most recent occupants have gone on to enjoy significant national prominence.
A native of Wisconsin (and the second NAC #2 to be beamed up since February), the bishop-elect worked for several years as a commercial airplane pilot and flight instructor before entering seminary formation. Following his 1994 ordination (at 38) by the Iowa church’s now-retired Bishop William Franklin, Gruss spent a decade in parish work before being named Davenport's Vocations Director, then Chancellor in 2005. Two years later, he was returned to the Gianicolo -- where, not long before, he had studied -- as deputy head of the nation’s Roman seminary. Last July, the nominee came home again, this time as rector of Sacred Heart, whose three weekend Masses include one in Vietnamese.
Notably, Rapid's incoming captain will be welcomed by a familiar face on touching down. Much like his next Boss, the diocese’s interim administrator, Fr Steven Biegler, was formed at the NAC and ordained in his mid-30s (a year ahead of Gruss) and subsequently returned to the College, in his case as Director of Pastoral Formation from 2003-2006. Having served as chaplain to the see-city’s Catholic schools and Newman center since his return, following his election to look after things following Bishop Blase Cupich’s June 2010 transfer to Spokane, what one local called Biegler's "low key-super organized job" has garnered high reviews among his own.
As noted above, even for the diocese's small population, its last two bishops have garnered an outsize standing in the wider church even before subsequent assignments. Named to the Black Hills at age 43 in 1988, Rapid City's sixth bishop -- now-Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap of Denver -- had already carved out a national reputation for media-savvy candor before getting the call to the Rockies in 1997. And not long after his 1999 appointment, Cupich's more progressive profile as a keen "conference man" and management guru began to take flight, culminating in the Omaha native's continuing stint as the US bishops' point-man on clergy sex-abuse.
In accord with the norms of the canons, Gruss' ordination and installation must take place within four months. Whispers in the Loggia
Pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral will become Bishop of Rapid City
Monsignor Robert D. Gruss, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, will become the bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City in South Dakota.
Pope Benedict XVI has named Gruss, 55, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Diocese of Davenport, to the position, according to a news release issued today by the Diocese of Davenport.
Bishop-designate Gruss will become the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, which serves more than 30,000 Catholics and 82 congregations throughout western South Dakota. Thirteen percent of the total population is Catholic. Twenty-seven percent of the Catholics are Native American, and 10 percent are Hispanic.
“It is with deep humility and gratitude that I have accepted the Holy Father’s appointment as the next bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City,” Gruss said in the news release. “While it all seems a bit overwhelming at the moment, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve God, the Church and the people of this diocese.”
Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport said, “As a bishop when I install a new pastor for a parish, one of the final things I say to him is ‘My brother, be a loving father, a gentle shepherd and a wise teacher.’ I pray that Bishop-designate Gruss will be that for the people of the Diocese of Rapid City….a loving father, a gently shepherd and a wise teacher. I join my prayers to the people of the Diocese of Davenport and the people of the Diocese of Rapid City for God’s blessings upon him as he begins this new ministry.”
Gruss was born on June 25, 1955, in Texarkana, Ark. He holds an associate degree in civil engineering from Madison Area Technical College, Madison, Wis., a bachelor’s in theology from St. Ambrose University, a bachelor of sacred theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy, and a master’s in spiritual theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy.
Before entering the seminary, he earned his commercial pilot’s license (instrument rating and multi-engine rating) from the Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Okla. He worked for various companies as a charter pilot, flight instructor and corporate pilot.
Gruss was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Davenport in 1994 following his seminary formation at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City. He also completed spiritual direction training from the Institute for Priestly Formation.
After ordination to the priesthood, he was named parochial vicar of St. Paul the Apostle Church, Diocese of Davenport. Quad City Times