by Marc and Julie Anderson
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A special way to propose.
That’s all Sam Mazzarelli, now a resident of Westminster, Colorado, said he was looking for.
He got way more than he expected.
Around 2007 or 2008, Mazzarelli served as a Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary at Benedictine College in Atchison. He was invited to a dinner for all missionaries serving in the archdiocese.
The evening, Mazzarelli said, was special — a night he often thought about later. And as he got to know Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann (whom he’d met at the dinner) a little through his involvement with FOCUS, he was struck with an idea.
“I just gave him a call,” said Mazzarelli, referring to a call he placed to the archbishop, asking for permission to propose to his then-girlfriend Michelle, not just anywhere, but in the archbishop’s private chapel at his residence.
“I was just looking for a special way to propose,” said Mazzarelli. He was delighted when the archbishop said yes.
The two joined the archbishop in his chapel for midday prayer one day.
“He led us through midday prayer, and then he excused himself,” said Mazzarelli. “Then, I proposed.”
Afterward, the archbishop blessed the couple’s engagement. The couple married on July 25, 2009, in the bride’s hometown of Cunningham.
Mazzarelli didn’t plan to return for another special moment at the archbishop’s private chapel. But this past September, he found himself meeting with the archbishop to update him on FOCUS efforts at Emporia State University, the University of Kansas and Benedictine College. Mazzarelli currently serves as the Southern Plains regional director for FOCUS, and his missionary efforts spread across Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana, as well as all states in between.
At dinner, the archbishop mentioned he’d like to see Mazzarelli’s family. It so happened that the family was headed back to Benedictine College for the school’s homecoming weekend.
So, Mazzarelli, his wife and five children found themselves invited for Mass and brunch at the archbishop’s residence.
“The archbishop is very passionate about marriages and family life,” said Mazzarelli.
In fact, according to the missionary, marriage and family life are recurring themes of his homilies. Still, the couple was humbled by the opportunity.
“He was gracious enough to host us for Mass in his chapel,” said Mazzarelli. “It was just our family and him. . . . It was awesome for our kids to have a Mass with the archbishop.”
The children, ranging in age from 5 months to age 6, had never spent time with a bishop before.
“This is a pretty unique opportunity,” said Mazzarelli.
“Anytime we can expose our kids to the beauty of the church and its leadership and guidance,” he added, “I think it’s just a good moment to see the church through that lens.
“We were just happy to see the archbishop again. He’s just been kind.”
And what about revisiting the spot of their perfect proposal?
“To revisit that seven years later was a great moment for us,” he said.