Remembered in the Co-Cathedral he helped build

February 9, 2021

Above, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo blesses the casket of Auxiliary Bishop Vincent M. Rizzotto during Bishop Rizzotto’s funeral Mass Jan. 21 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. Below, in a 2006 photo, Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Rizzotto, center, meets with construction workers during the early building phase of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Bishop Rizzotto’s leadership as the liturgical and dedication chair was key to the completion of the new co-cathedral dedicated in 2008. (Photos by Office of Archives/Herald staff)

HOUSTON — Under the soaring Co-cathedral ceilings that Auxiliary Bishop Vincent M. Rizzotto helped bring to life, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza shared a Psalm in his homily to help soothe those who mourned the loss of Galveston-Houston’s beloved retired auxiliary bishop.

Archbishop Fiorenza told the people: “I shall know the fullness of joy when I see Your face, oh Lord, fulfillment and endless peace in Your presence when I see Your face, oh Lord.”

At Bishop Rizzotto’s Jan. 21 funeral Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Archbishop Fiorenza commended his longtime friend, Bishop Rizzotto, calling him a “noble soul.”

Bishop Rizzotto died Jan. 17 at 89 years old.

“We are filled with every confidence that now Bishop Rizzotto sees the face of the Lord,” Archbishop Fiorenza said.

One in Christ

The two future bishops met at St. Mary’s Seminary in 1949.

In the years after Bishop Rizzotto’s priestly ordination in 1956, Archbishop Fiorenza said then-Father Rizzotto was an “outstanding pastor” at St. Francis De Sales and St. Cecilia parishes.

Then, when Father Rizzotto was appointed an auxiliary bishop in 2001, less than two months before the world would be shaken and divided by the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, the new bishop chose and embraced his episcopal motto: “Make us one in Christ.”
“And that’s how he spent his priestly and episcopal ministry, helping those he served to become one in Christ,” Archbishop Fiorenza said.

At right, in 2014, Bishop Rizzotto had an opportunity to shake hands with Pope Francis in Rome. “One of the things that I hear (Pope Francis) say frequently is that where there is life, we need to sustain that and encourage it," Bishop Rizzotto said. "Therefore, we need to encourage the Church to provide opportunities to people, at whatever stage of life, to find the presence of Christ in their life.” (Photo by Vatican Photo Services)


‘Good and dedicated pastor’

Bishop Rizzotto was a “good and dedicated pastor,” Archbishop Fiorenza said. The bishop was “concerned, not only with the religious and spiritual needs of parishioners” and “with their human condition as well.” Bishop Rizzotto’s commitment to promote the social teachings of the Church was “very integral” to his priestly ministry, Archbishop Fiorenza said.

“His love and concern were not limited to parishioners, but he had a special love for the poor, the neglected people of the community.”

A life of Liturgy

Bishop Rizzotto was known for his love for the Liturgy, Archbishop said.

This would play a major role in the auxiliary bishop’s life when he was tapped to lead the construction of the new Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on St. Joseph Parkway in the mid-2000s as liturgical and dedication chair.

Archbishop Fiorenza said Bishop Rizzotto was committed to helping the local Church to “understand the deep beautiful spirituality in the Liturgy of the Church when it was properly celebrated with due attention to the ritual and the inherent beauty of the ceremony itself” because for Bishop Rizzotto, “the Liturgy was a way of life.”

By guiding the construction of the new downtown Co-Cathedral, one of two cathedrals in the Archdiocese, Bishop Rizzotto continued his efforts to unite the people of God.

Dedicated in 2008, thousands make a pilgrimage to visit the new Co-Cathedral for Mass or simply to find a refuge for prayer in a busy metropolis.

“The Liturgy was a source of holiness, and a means of uniting very diverse people with different backgrounds, different ethnicities and educations,” Archbishop Fiorenza said. Bishop Rizzotto was “deeply dedicated to showing how the Liturgy was able to bring all of these people together in Christ.”

Fullness of joy

Bishop Rizzotto’s journey to be a better servant of God, which grew in formation at St. Mary’s Seminary, was defined by his understanding that the Liturgy helps the faithful to see the face of God, “where there is fullness of joy.”

“The Liturgy is where there is fulfillment and endless peace and the fullness of joy on this side of heaven,” Archbishop Fiorenza said. “Bishop Rizzotto understood that very well.”

Archbishop Fiorenza recognized Bishop Rizzotto’s “pastoral memory,” a hallmark that defined the auxiliary bishop’s lifetime of ministry. The priest knew every face and every name of each person he came to know during his life.

Echoing the condolences and appreciation for the auxiliary bishop that came in from around the Archdiocese, Archbishop Fiorenza said “we are forever grateful for the gift of his life, for the gift of his priestly and episcopal service to the Church of Galveston-Houston.”

“With a special zeal and appealing kindness and tenderness,” Bishop Rizzotto “served so well as a priest and bishop of this local Church,” Archbishop Fiorenza said. “And we’re ever grateful for the gift that God gave us through his life as a priest and a bishop.”

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, who presided over the Mass, was joined by other concelebrating bishops, including Archbishop Fiorenza, Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, retired Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont and Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Grace of pastoral memory

Near the conclusion of the funeral Mass, Cardinal DiNardo recognized that same “pastoral memory” that Archbishop Fiorenza lauded was due to Bishop Rizzotto’s own life, family and life in the local Church.

But this pastoral memory also “reached back into what Christ has done and continues to do. That’s why he was so dedicated to the Liturgy and why he spent his whole life for that.”

Cardinal DiNardo said Bishop Rizzotto “guided and welcomed” Liturgical changes that followed after Vatican II.

“He did this because it was a love of his heart, the entire Liturgy of the Church,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“He worked with clarity, gentleness, and competence. I think of him as a convinced pastor, who accompanied all people in their journey.”

Reflecting on that Mass’s second reading from St. Paul to the Romans, which says, “Despite what happens, we are more than victorious. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, our Lord,” Cardinal DiNardo said it was a “fitting epitaph” for Bishop Rizzotto.

The Rite of Committal followed after the Mass in the Garden of Gethsemani at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston, with Father Dominic J. Pistone presiding.