Father Rock Sassano passed away peacefully on May 5, 2023, at Maryville Memory Care in Beaverton, Oregon. Rock lived independently and on his own terms for more than 90 years until his recent transfer to Maryville. Rock was born in Billings, Montana on October 14,1931. He was one of seven children born to Louis and Arcangelo Lombardozzi Sassano, Italian immigrants from San Marco, Italy. Rock is preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Mike, Tony, and Nick Sassano; and three sisters, Michelina Sassano, Mary Schwend, and Columbia Meinhardt. He is survived by numerous beloved nieces and nephews.
Rock graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School in 1950, attended University of Portland 1950-1951, attended Gonzaga University 1951-1954 with a B.S. in Medical Science, attended Marquette University School of Dentistry 1954-57, attended Mt Angel Seminary Graduate School of Theology 1957-1963. He entered Mt. Angel Abbey making vows in 1958 and was ordained as a priest for the Abbey in 1963, graduated Oregon State University 1964-1965 with a M.S. in Biological Science, and University of Northern Colorado M.A. in Secondary School Education Administration 1971-1975.
Rock’s love of education and God’s creation led to his desire to teach others in a decorated career beginning as faculty at Mt. Angel Seminary where he held numerous positions serving staff and students. He served as associate pastor of both St. Joseph’s Church in Salem, Oregon and St. John the Baptist in Milwaukie, Oregon. Rock served on the YMCA of Salem Board of Directors and Board of Trustees for Mt. Angel Seminary.
On June 29, 1987, Rock officially transferred his vows from Mt. Angel Abbey where he had been a monk since 1957, to become a member of the Archdiocese as a diocesan priest with obedience to the Archbishop. Rock dedicated his life to the service of God and others.
Rock had the joy of serving as Pastor of beloved parishes throughout his years of service, beginning in Salem, Oregon and finishing at Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He retired in June of 1998 to his sanctuary on Fishhawk Lake in Vernonia, Oregon. Rock’s hospitality and spiritual practices were enjoyed in his northwest forest home, hosting dozens of loved ones every year. Italian suppers, good wine and deep spiritual conversation left no one unchanged who entered his home.
Father Rock was a gifted writer, poet, artist, and musician, often writing to loved ones and sharing his work with all he encountered. He published a book on his spiritual musings in his retirement years that have encouraged others for decades. Rock’s incredible kindness, educational excellence and thoughtful conversation made for lively conversations covered in care and grace. Father Rock made others laugh hysterically and enjoyed global travels with dear friends, particularly to the Holy Land.
Friends will miss Father Rock’s hugs, warm affection, musings after a walk marveling at Creation, that famous meatball recipe and beautiful calligraphy that hangs in many homes. Rock will be remembered by those he served as a monk, as a friend, as a brother and those he lived with as he aged.
Rock’s loved ones would like to thank the medical and support staff at Marysville Memory Care for their compassionate care and being the hands of Jesus through Rock’s final days.
A funeral mass and celebration of Father Rock’s life will be May 24th, 2023, at 11:00am at St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1716 NW Davis St, Portland, OR 97209. Reception to follow. Rock will be laid to rest at Mount Angel Abbey, a beloved home of Rock’s for many years.
Remembrance donations may be made to: Arcangela and Louis Sassano Endowed Fund, Mount Angel Abbey of Oregon, Box 497, Saint Benedict, Oregon, 97373 or Young Life, Attn: Beau St. Peter, P.O. Box 3865, Salem, Oregon, 97302.