The Rev. Richard C. Sauerzopf
Fr. Sauerzopf was born in 1967 in the City of Buffalo. He was raised thereafter, with his older brother and younger sister, by Bob and Betty Sauerzopf in their home in Elmira.
The City, which is at the heart of one of New York State’s smaller urban regions, is adorned with an impressive collection of ornate Victorian homes and is nestled, along with the rest of the communities that define the region, amongst the ancient and well-worn mountains that mark the northerly terminus of the Appalachian Range. And so, every view from within the area has its backdrop in the wild and sylvan slopes that separate one community from the next. The mountains find their end just north of the City, where they tumble into the fan of slender ribbons of deep blue water, which together make up New York’s Finger Lakes region, which is well-known for its scenic beauty, its recreational opportunities, and its immense bounties of grapes, orchard fruits, and wine.
It was in this beautiful place that Bob and Betty Sauerzopf worked as public school teachers, as they raised their family in a place of loving care and support. That love and support proved especially critical for Richard, as he was diagnosed at an early age with a rare and challenging genetic connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome. It was in this condition that Richard suffered from serious visual impairment through all of his early childhood. However, with aggressive treatment and care, Richard managed to adapt and to overcome this and a number of other and related challenges.
In his earlier years, Richard was known for his interest in wood working, in playing the piano, and, perhaps ironically given that he was legally blind, in the graphic arts. Later, at Notre Dame High School, his interests turned especially to politics, history, and the natural sciences. He was an active well-recognized member of the region’s Junior Achievement program, and he had a number of political cartoons published by the local news paper, the Elmira Star-Gazette and The Elmira Sunday Telegram, which he also served in the weekday afternoons as a paper boy!
In 1985, with his visual impairment well behind him, Richard finished his studies at Notre Dame High School, and was awarded by the New York State Board of Regents with his diploma with Regents Honors. From there, he was admitted to St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, which was then a small liberal arts college that was founded and operated by Priests who lived and served in the Congregation of Saint Basil.
There, Richard’s interests turned from Chemistry to Political Science, Political Philosophy, and Religious Studies. As he engaged in these and other areas of academic interest, Richard served regularly and actively in the Dormitory Students’ Association, and in in his last year, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the college’s student newspaper, the Pioneer. Richard completed his studies at St. John Fisher College in 1990, with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a major with Honors in Political Science, a minor in English Literature, and a concentration in Religious Studies.
From there, Richard went on to pursue a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Political Science at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany. There, Richard worked for several years as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and as an adjunct lecturer. He also worked for a few years as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. It was there also that he served as the Assistant Editor of the Rockefeller Institute’s public affairs journal The Bulletin of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Later, Richard was appointed to be the New York State Graduate Governors’ Intern for the Appalachian Regional Commission. In this capacity, Richard researched and produced a series of analytical studies of rural area development policy for the State of New York’s Appalachian Regional Commission Program Office, as he also participated in area development grants reviews and prepared some reports for the Appalachian Regional Commission. Before leaving Albany, Richard also served as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy’s Center for Legislative Development. There, Richard produced a series of studies for the United States Agency for International Development (US-AID) in rural economic and judicial development policy in the tiny West African nation of Guinnea-Bissau.
Richard’s principal academic interests at Rockefeller College began with American Political Thought and Political Philosophy, which would become his minor field. However, as he began to prepare to research and write his dissertation, his interests moved ever more towards the social, economic, and cultural politics of the Inner-Urban Underclass, and from there to relationships between Urban Political Geography more generally, and American Election Politics. Eventually, he determined that in order to make the strongest case for the development of critical relationships between the social, economic, and racial geography of the nation’s metropolitan regions and the condition and curse of America’s national election politics, he needed to complete a comprehensive election study of the Metropolitan Detroit region, and so he moved from the safe and familiar environs of Albany to the City of Detroit in the fall of 1998. There, he came to serve as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Geography and Urban Planning at Wayne State University’s College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs. It was there also that he served as the Director of the University’s undergraduate Urban Studies Program. It was in this work that Richard researched and composed a major study and proposal to establish a full undergraduate Major in Urban Studies at the University which was ultimately successful and is manifest today in the new Department of Urban Studies and Planning, which is the successor to the old Department of Geography and Urban Planning. In all of his work in teaching, counseling, programmatic administration, and curricular development, Richard was finally given the College’s highest award for excellence in teaching and education.
Beyond the University, Richard served as a an advisor in public policy and public affairs to the Committee on Metropolitan Sustainability and Equity of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. It was in this capacity that Richard produced a major area development analysis for the Archdiocese, which would contribute also and significantly to his dissertation work.With the advice and support especially of a number of the faculty of the College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs, Richard completed his dissertation and so was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy degree by the State University of New York in 2002.
Although Richard had been raised, with his brother and sister, in a well cared for and loving Congregation within the United Methodist Church, as he had been exposed also and significantly to the Roman Catholic religious tradition, especially in High School and at College, like many in his circumstances, as he moved and grew through the course of his early adult life, he moved ever farther away from his life in the Church and in the Faith. But with the new millennium and his new life in Detroit, Richard found himself compelled to return to his life in the Christian faith and Church. And so, on Palm Sunday in the year 2000, he came to worship for the first time at Detroit’s Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, which in many ways serves as the University’s Church, as it is a prominent and active presence within the campuses that comprise Wayne State University, where Richard lived as well as worked. In the months and years that followed, Richard found his faith refreshed and restored, and he experienced therein what was for him a clear and undeniably powerful calling to serve Christ as a priest in His Church. And so, with significant effort, Richard discerned and pursued his vocation in Holy Orders with and in the Diocese of Michigan of The Episcopal Church.
The path was not an easy one, however, and it was punctuated by the discovery of a major aneurism in Richard’s ascending aorta in 2003. Shortly thereafter, Richard received a successful surgery to replace his aorta with a prosthetic device at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Finally, in the fall of 2005, as he was completing his recovery from the surgery, Richard entered Bexley Hall Seminary in Columbus Ohio. He completed his work there in 2008, and moved to Lansing, Michigan, where he joined the faculty of Michigan State University as a Research Associate in the Global Urban Studies Program. There, Richard has continued to pursue his research in the relationships between urban political geography and American national election politics. He also teaches, from time to time, for the Department of Political Science. He was finally ordained to Holy Orders as a Priest in Christ’s Holy and Catholic Church in January 2010. Shortly thereafter, Richard suffered the nearly catastrophic failure of his mitral valve. But, with the support of his loving parents, Bob and Betty, and so many friends in and around the Academy and the Church, and another successful surgery the Johns Hopins, Richard has recovered well, and is growing stronger all of the time, as he has moved in the Church from his service as the Priest Assistant at St. Paul’s Church, Lansing, to Priest in Charge at St. John’s Church, Charlotte.
Although a great deal of Richard’s life in vocation has been academically oriented, he finds enormous purpose and joy in the sacramental, pastoral, and teaching offices of his priesthood at St. Paul’s, and now at St. John’s. It is his hope and prayer, with the Congregation as a whole, that the community will grow very much in its life in Christ both in the Spirit and in numbers so that we, together, might bring the light which is Christ, that we have been given to share, to all of the world that Christ would have us know and serve. Perhaps you might join us in this our great commission.