Archdiocese Local

Surprise proposal at archbishop’s residence bears welcome fruit

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann greets Sam and Michelle Mazzarelli and their children before a private Mass at the chapel in the archbishop’s residence. Sam proposed to Michelle several years earlier in the chapel. The Mazzarelli children are from left: Ambrose, Ciara, Bosco and Miriam. In the car seat is Avila. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

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.

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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