Fr. Dick Rossman
Fr. Dick Rossman
Father Dick Rossman may have entered seminary because he wanted to be a hero. But he’s remained a priest for five decades because he genuinely likes people.

Born in South Dakota, he moved with family to North Portland where the father purchased a garbage route. The elder Rossman, who always tipped his hat when he passed a church, became a well-known businessman and Catholic leader who served in the St. Vincent de Paul Society and coached CYO sports. Young Dick, the eldest of six children, spent some of his youth hauling trash.

He considers working with customers and with his father the most valuable formation he ever had. “That is where I learned how to treat people with generosity and be reasonable,” he says. “You don’t think of people as less than you.”

At Assumption School, the Sisters of the Holy Names decided he had a vocation. He went along with the notion. The pastor advised high school at Central Catholic first, along with three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys each day. After wrestling with high school Latin and mostly losing, young Richard figured he was not cut out for seminary. He went on to the University of Portland and studied business for three years.

Still, the idea of priesthood endured. When he announced his decision to attend seminary, his parents at first were stunned, since they assumed he would help with the family business. His sisters thought it was all hilarious.

He was ordained in Queen of Peace Church in North Portland on June 12, 1971. His fondest memories of the day are walking up the aisle with his parents and then seeing them carry the gifts to the altar, full of joy and pride.

He served as assistant at St. Joseph in Salem and Christ the King in Milwaukie. He was pastor at Sacred Heart in Tillamook, Christ the King, Resurrection in Tualatin (where he guided construction of an 800-seat church), and St. Mark and St. Peter in Eugene. Since 2013, he has been priest in residence at St. Mary in Shaw.

“There is nothing else I could do to run into as many people as I do and be included intimately in their experiences as I do as a priest,” Father Rossman says. “It’s not that I have some wonderful personality; it’s that I’m a priest.”

Among the best moments of priesthood, he explains, are confessions in which the penitents realize they need to change their relationship with the Lord.

In his first assignment in Salem, he fell for the people who come to daily Mass and has continued to feel that way. “They are not the movers and the shakers, but they are steady,” he says.

He is discouraged if he sees a brother priest bossing parishioners around and thinking he is doing a wonderful job. “Just because you went to seminary doesn’t mean you know how to be a priest,” he says. “You need the laity to help teach you how to be that.”

He has asked parishioners to forgive him when he’s blown a decision. It’s always taught him a lot and led to healing.

Father Rossman long ago stopped trying to be a hero. But he does naturally tend to heroic acts. In 2002, he and a team of Tualatin parishioners traveled to Honduras to deepen the relationship with a sister parish there. When he was reassigned in 2005, he donated all his farewell gifts — $7,300 — to the Honduran community.