Name: Msgr. Bob Gruss
Years ordained: 15
Current assignment: Vice Rector for Seminary Life and Director of Human Formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
How did you know you were being called to priesthood? In a lot of ways; first, I thought about it when I was a kid. I used to “say” Mass as a sixth- or seventh-grader. A vocation to the priesthood came to mind more concretely my first year in college, but I didn’t think I could do it. I wanted to get married and have a family. Priests were these holy men who I didn’t think I could live up to. Also, I had this fear of public speaking – and I knew that was an important part of priesthood. So I put it out of my mind for a long time. Then I got to a point in my life when I claimed my faith as my own, and I got involved in a parish doing different kinds of ministry. I was a eucharistic minister; I even got talked into teaching religious ed. Then I got involved in a Bible study and that changed everything. That’s when the idea of priesthood came back. I was dating someone at the time. I broke up with her, quit flying (he was a pilot) and went to seminary. The rest is history.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass? I wouldn’t say there’s one specific Mass that’s most memorable. The Mass I enjoy celebrating the most is the Easter Vigil. (In my current ministry) I preside at Mass every four to six weeks, but I concelebrate Mass daily. We have a lot of priests on faculty and students who are priests. So that limits the frequency with which we can preside and preach.
What is most rewarding about being a priest? I think it’s a real blessing and a real privilege to be invited into people’s lives in ways you can’t possibly imagine — when they’re experiencing the joys and happiness as well as the sufferings and the sorrows. Priests can make a difference, bringing the presence of Christ into people’s lives in whatever moments they’re experiencing and in celebrating the sacraments with them. To be able to bring Christ to them in that way, to encounter the Lord, is a real privilege and blessing.
What is most challenging about being a priest? One of the things I found most challenging was saying “Yes” to the Lord to things I wouldn’t have thought I would be doing as a priest. I never thought I’d work at the chancery (where he served as chancellor and vocations director prior to his current ministry) or be involved in seminarian formation. That wasn’t even on the radar screen. But knowing that is what the Lord wants me to do means saying “Yes” to those challenges.
What is your favorite Scripture passage? I don’t know that I have a favorite one. What comes to mind is Psalm 116, a psalm of thanksgiving, printed on the holy card for my ordination. Another one is Psalm 145, which says, “You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
What is your hobby? It’s changed since I’ve been in Rome. I used to play a lot of golf when I was in the diocese. I read quite a bit; usually I have a novel and a spiritual reading book going at the same time. I also enjoy going out to dinner with friends and family members.