A new pastor for St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, Monsignor Kevin T. Royal, has been announced by Bishop of Bridgeport Frank J. Caggiano. He will come to St. Mary’s at the end of July, after some six years at Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford — his first parish as a pastor.

“On the one hand, I’m saddened to leave these wonderful people at Holy Spirit, but I’m also excited to be with the people of St. Mary’s,” Pastor Royal told The Press in a July 9 interview.

“I don’t know a lot about St. Mary’s — I’m sure I will very soon,” he said. “I know it’s a long-established part of Ridgefield and of the Diocese of Bridgeport.”

Msgr. Royal will replace Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz, whose plans to retire this summer were announced earlier in the spring.

Holy Spirit is the only parish Msgr. Royal knows as a pastor, and he said he will miss it.

“I’ve had just an incredibly wonderful experience here with the people,” he said. “While sad to leave, there’s an excitement with new things, always, and coming to a place like St. Mary’s, with the history and all the activities, the energy there...”

St. Mary’s, with roughly 3,000 families, is about four times the size of Holy Spirit Parish, he said.

The identity of the new pastor, who will start July 31, was announced at Masses in St. Mary over the weekend following July 4.

In an announcement posted on the parish website, Msgr. Bronkiewicz said: “Let us keep Msgr. Royal in our prayers as he prepares to assume his new ministry here as 13th Pastor of Saint Mary Parish, Ridgefield.”

Preaching and people

What, Msgr. Royal was asked, does he enjoy about being pastor to a parish?

“What I enjoy about it is preaching the Gospel,” he said, “being with people at all the critical moments of their lives — births, baptisms, weddings, illnesses, marriages, deaths. You’re with people’s lives in a way of faith at all those critical moments.”

Msgr. Royal grew up in nearby Stratford. He completed his theological studies at the Pontifical American College in Rome and was ordained in St. Augustine Cathedral in 1985. He holds a licentiate in biblical theology from the Gregorian University in Rome.

Before Msgr. Royal became pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford in 2013, he served as parochial vicar to the parish.

In 2006, Msgr. Royal served as episcopal vicar for clergy of the Diocese of Bridgeport — a position akin to personnel director for the diocese, which has also been held at one time by St. Mary’s retiring pastor, Msgr. Bronkiewicz.

He was named chaplain to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, carrying the title “Monsignor” in 2008.

Msgr. Royal also served at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Riverside and St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan before becoming rector of St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford in 1996. In the past, the monsignor has served as director of the diocesan Office of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, director of continuing formation of priests and coordinator for the ministry to the newly ordained.

In need of prayer

At Holy Spirit Parish, Msgr. Royal sometimes posted talks online, and a recent one was an invitation for people to pray for the nation.

“Our country is in need of great prayer,” he said.

Although “citizens never saw eye to eye on everything,” in the past, he said, there were basic shared values. “We had a sense of the common good,” he said.

“...Freedom is one thing, but freedom that leads to chaos and leads to license is nothing — it’s disorder, and it harms the poorest and weakest more than anybody, and the children.”

He later shared some thoughts with The Press on why he’d spoken on the topic and invited people to pray for the country.

“I think it’s clear, no matter what your position is, no matter what your ideology, political affiliation, that something is off. We need a foundation,” he said.

“...And to my way of thinking … that critical foundation is a rootedness in God, and being a person of faith — because I think those things lead to really supporting other people, really wanting the best for others.”

Does Msgr. Royal expect he might do a similar posting of thoughts and messages to the parish at St. Mary’s, as he’d done at Holy Spirit?

“It’s always a mistake to go to a place you don’t know, saying I’m going to do this, this and this,” he said. “I want to learn about the place…

“The only thing I know is that I’ll preach the Gospel — that I know,” he said.

Asked if there as a part of the Gospels he found especially meaningful, Msgr. Royal said it seemed an impossibly difficult question, given all that is in the Gospels. But he admitted to having a passage he finds has significance for him.

He pointed to lines from “the road to Emmaus” passage in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 24.

“Just after the resurrection,” Msgr. Royal said. “Jesus appears to two of the disciples, and after he leaves them one of them says to the other: ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he walked with us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’”