Father Bruce Roby, who recently joined Sacred Heart’s campus ministry department, sees the University as a community where, “Everyone looks after one another.”
Roby conducts Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and provides support and guidance to staff, faculty and students. After his first two weeks on the job, Roby said he already felt like SHU is one big family.
Before arriving at the University, Roby was at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Stratford for seven years as associate pastor. While he was there, he worked with the parish’s youth group and 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 to serve 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.
Lawrence Carroll, executive director of pastoral services, said Roby’s arrival is a boost for campus ministry. “Whenever we have a new member join us with a different background and experience, we are the richer for it,” Carroll 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.
“The joy that he has in who he is will be experienced by everyone who gets to know him.”
Before Roby began his career in Connecticut, the 42-year-old studied extensively and traveled.
Born in the Chuuk State—a cluster of islands that constitute part of the Federated States of Micronesia—Roby was the youngest of 10 siblings. He said he “played Mass” starting in fifth grade and imitated whatever he saw the priest do during service.
When he was in eighth grade, he recalled, a teacher who was speaking to his class 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 studied the Bible for the first time; he grew to love it. He 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 Chuuk State’s main island, where he further developed his desire to teach the Word of God.
Roby studied English at the University of Guam and then transferred to the South Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji. He later relocated to St. Patrick Seminary in California, and he matriculated from St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.
“Coming from his island culture, he has a peace-filled spirit that enables him to be laid back and very approachable,” Carroll said. “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.
“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.”
During Roby’s first Sunday Mass at SHU, he said he was impressed by the number of college students in attendance. At St. James, he 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.”
Roby said he enjoys seeing students participate in every aspect of the Mass, 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,” he said, referring to SHU’s president, John J. Petillo.
While Roby has much experience working with youth, 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 middle- and high-school students.