'The love of Christ impels us' | Bishop-elect Rivituso ready to serve Archdiocese of St. Louis

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Msgr. Mark Rivituso's mother was practically speechless when he broke the news that Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The day after she learned the news, Rosemary Rivituso was still in a joyful, celebratory mood. The 87-year-old is looking forward to his May 2 episcopal ordination, already making plans to buy a new outfit for the special occasion.

"I was happy for him," she said. "I was about to cry, but I didn't want to do that! He knows how proud I am. He always put others before himself and thinks of others."

Bishop-elect Rivituso, a native St. Louisan, will be ordained to the episcopacy at a Mass at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The official announcement of his appointment was made March 7 in Rome.

He has chosen for his motto, "Caritas Christi Urget Nos," which means "the love of Christ impels us." He also was assigned a titular see (diocese), Turuzi, a city in the Roman province Proconsularis, now northern Tunisia.

Bishop-elect Rivituso offered his gratitude at a press conference March 7 at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. Responding to thunderous applause from members of the archdiocesan curia, he expressed his desire to continue to "be of service and continue to be Christ in your midst and to show the Good Shepherd who cares for the needs of all."

"He's gone from being a senior priest to a baby bishop," Archbishop Carlson said at the press conference. "I want to offer our congratulations and thank you for accepting the Holy Father's invitation. This will provide for us tremendous service for this local Church and we look forward to your leadership as an auxiliary bishop."

Since 2011, Bishop-elect Rivituso, 55, has served as vicar general for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, a role in which he aids the archbishop in the administration of the archdiocese. Since 2013, he has lived in residence at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves. Previously, he served as a canon lawyer in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal and was pastor of Cure of Ars Parish in Shrewsbury.

He was born in St. Louis on Sept. 20, 1961, the sixth of eight children to August (Gus) and Rosemary Rivituso. He was baptized in 1961 at St. Wenceslaus Parish in south St. Louis, and attended St. Wenceslaus School, which later became Notre Dame Elementary School. His father worked three jobs — as a barber, providing a television service at the former Missouri Pacific Hospital and as a bottler for Anheuser-Busch Brewery — to support the family, who lived in a two-family flat in south St. Louis.

His grandmother, Rose Darpel, lived on the second floor of their home. The Rivitusos generally attended a late-morning Sunday Mass, but he tagged along with his grandmother to an earlier Mass. "I didn't want her going alone," he said. "We had a very close relationship." She was the influence behind his devotion to the Rosary and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart of Jesus. He also filled in as a server at those Masses. "That's where I started hearing the call from Jesus to become a priest," he said.

As a student at St. Mary's High School, Bishop-elect Rivituso prayed daily before the Blessed Sacrament in the school chapel, which solidified his call to the priesthood. He knew he wanted to become a diocesan priest, so he could serve in St. Louis. His parents, who were supportive of his vocation, taught him about the value of family and being generous of heart, even when they didn't have much growing up. The family went to Holy Hours and Perpetual Help devotions, and toured churches on Holy Thursdays to visit the Blessed Sacrament.

Bishop-elect Rivituso attended Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary. He also earned a master's degree and a licentiate in canon and civil law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese at the St. Louis Cathedral (now Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis) by Archbishop John L. May in 1988. Pope Benedict XVI named him a monsignor in 2005.

He has served as associate pastor of St. Ambrose in south St. Louis (1988-90), part-time associate pastor of Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie and on the faculty of St. Dominic High School (1990-93), part-time associate pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland in south St. Louis and staff member of the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal (1993-94).

After returning from studies in Canada in the mid-1990s, he was appointed to the Metropolitan Tribunal staff (1993-94, 1996-2004) and named part-time associate pastor at St. Jerome in Bissell Hills (1996-2004). He also had assignments as acting associate master of ceremonies to the archbishop (1997-2008), in residence at St. Gabriel the Archangel in south St. Louis (2004-08), adjunct judicial vicar of the Tribunal of Second Instance of the Province of St. Louis (2004-05), judicial vicar of the Tribunal of Second Instance (2005-11) and pastor of Cure of Ars (2008-13).

"The one thing that is very important for me and all the ministries I've been in is to be able to affirm people," he said. "Today people can easily get down upon themselves or have the glass half-empty kind of mentality. Affirmation is something that I've always tried to highlight, to seek out the ones who needed a word of encouragement or take notice of them. We as a Church need to be present to those who are in need of healing and reconciliation and give them hope in their lives."

At the press conference, Bishop-elect Rivituso noted that several of his priorities include evangelization and Catholic education. "I want people to encounter Jesus in their life, ... to know that God loves them and we're here to serve them in love," he said. "I want to help our evangelization efforts so that people can come to know what we know — the joy of living our faith, and the joy of living our life like Jesus for others."

In 2011, Bishop-elect Rivituso was appointed vicar general of the archdiocese, sharing the office with Bishop Edward M. Rice until he was appointed as head of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 2016. At the time of his appointment, Msgr. Rivituso said it "is a privilege for me to assist Archbishop Carlson in his pastoral and administrative duties."

He also has served as a confessor for the Little Sisters of the Poor for three years, and was a chaplain for the Veterans Administration in St. Louis for seven years.

Among those who attended the press conference were longtime friends Msgrs. Patrick Hambrough and Kevin Callahan. The three were in the seminary together in the 1980s, and described their friend as the hardworking seminarian who always had his work done well before others.

"He's very holy, very dedicated, very hardworking. He loves God and the Church and loves his priesthood, too," said Msgr. Callahan, who preached at Bishop-elect Rivituso's first Mass in 1988. "He'll be great for the archdiocese, because he really cares."

Msgr. Hambrough, who lived down the hall from Bishop-elect Rivituso when they were in the seminary, said his friend would always stop by his room "loaded with books," and usually on his way to the library. "He was always been zealous and enthusiastic about what he's learning," Msgr. Hambrough said. "He's just so dedicated."

Bishop-elect Rivituso's younger sister, Lisa Rivituso, described her brother as someone who puts others before himself. The eight Rivituso siblings were a tight-knit bunch growing up and often played sports against one another. A young Mark also enjoyed playing Mass, and he lit incense cones when he read the Bible.

"We're all excited for him," she said. "We think he deserves it. He's always been a hard worker and is always there for the family." 

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