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.
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.
Robert Brom has guided the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego for
nearly 22 years, overseeing its 98 parishes that serve nearly one
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.
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,
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?
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
Q: Was service to others always going to be part of your vocation, whether as a priest or a lay person?
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?
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?
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.
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
Q: If you could wish for one thing to make this region a better place, what would it be?
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?
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?
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.