Sacred Heart Welcomes New Priest

News Story: February 12, 2016

Sacred Heart University is pleased to welcome its newest priest, Father Bruce Roby, to campus and the ministry department. Roby is responsible for Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and provides support and guidance to staff, faculty and students. After just two weeks on the job, Roby said he already feels like SHU is one big family.

“Sacred Heart is a community,” Roby said in a recent interview in his office, which provides him a clear view of the chapel. “Everyone looks after one another.”

Roby was at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Stratford for seven years as associate pastor where he worked with the parish’s youth group. He also served as chaplain to Stratford’s fire department. “I loved St. James,” Roby said. “I really connected with the people. I knew everybody.”

But when Roby was called upon for the position at SHU, he took it as a sign from God. He said he knew he wasn’t going to stay in Stratford forever, and this new position meant it was time for a change. “It’s an honor and a blessing to be chosen among priests,” Roby said of his new role in campus ministry at SHU.

Lawrence Carroll, executive director of pastoral services, said Roby is a great person who loves being a priest. “Whenever we have a new member of a community join us with a different background and experience, we are the richer for it,” he said. “His desire to be a true pastor for all of our community, people from all different faith traditions, is a gift that can strengthen the unity and respect that we want for all.”

Before Roby began his career in Connecticut, the 42-year-old went through much schooling and travel.

Born in the Chuuk State of the Federated States of Micronesia, Roby was the youngest of 10 siblings. Starting in fifth grade, Roby “played Mass” and imitated whatever he saw the priest do during service.

Then a few years later, in eighth grade, a teacher was speaking to his class. He pointed to each student and predicted what he or she would choose as a profession. The teacher looked at Roby and told him he was going to be a priest. “That stuck in my mind,” Roby said.

During his early high school years, Roby took Catechism and studied the Bible for the fist time, something he grew to love. Roby was told if he wanted to be a priest he would have to pray, study hard, get good grades and maintain good relationships with people.

For his last two years of high school, Roby went to school on the main island where he further developed his desire to teach the word of God.

After high school, Roby went to the University of Guam to study English and then transferred to the South Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji. He later relocated to St. Patrick Seminary in California. He matriculated from St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.

“The joy that he has in who he is will be experienced by everyone who gets to know him,” Carroll said. “Coming from his Island culture, he has a peace-filled spirit that enables him to be laid back and very approachable. I think that the entire community—students, faculty and staff—will find it easy to talk to him about anything. He is also well connected to social media, so I think he will connect with our students quite easily.”

During Roby’s first Sunday Mass, he said he was impressed at the number of college students in attendance. At St. James, Roby said students would attend Mass throughout their junior high and high school years, but typically, once they graduated from high school, he never saw them again. “I was amazed to see how SHU kids responded to their faith,” he said.

Roby said he enjoyed seeing students participate in every aspect of the service including the chorus, which he said is very good. “I can tell this is a family place, especially when the president comes to Sunday Mass,” Roby said, referring to SHU’s president, John J. Petillo.

While Roby has much experience working with youth, after leading the youth group at St. James for several years, he said he’s excited to work with college-aged men and women. He believes they bring a new level of maturity and responsibility that isn’t usually seen from high school and junior high students.

When Roby’s not celebrating Mass or working with students, he hopes to enjoy the snow while it lasts. While looking out his office window and squinting at the afternoon sun as it reflected off the fresh snowfall, Roby talked about his first time taking ski lessons. Three years ago during a morning ski lesson, the priest struggled, but by the afternoon he had mastered the new sport. Roby said he no longer goes down the bunny slopes and is proud to ski down black diamond or advanced trails.

Even though Roby grew up in warm weather where temperatures rarely dipped below 65 degrees, he loves snow and sees it as a “gift from heaven.”

“I am delighted that he is here, and I am excited to work side by side with him every day,” Carroll said. “I know he is committed to nourishing the spiritual lives of all of us as we journey through our SHU experience. He is looking forward to meeting as many people as possible, so I encourage everyone to take the time to introduce yourself; you will be glad you did. Everyone is welcome to stop in our offices at campus ministry (across from the Registrar) at any time. We are here to support everyone in any way we can.”