Fr. Norman Rotert
Fr. Norman Rotert founded CCO in 1977. We are heartbroken by his passing, but joyfully celebrate his legacy and lifelong commitment to racial equity.
Quotes about Fr. Rotert
"Fr. Rotert believed that faith without seeking justice for others was incomplete. His fervent dedication to racial equity brought hope to a city afraid to confront its divided history. We are heartbroken to lose him, but joyfully celebrate his legacy of faith, service, and justice.”
- Eva Creydt Schulte, President & CEO of Communities Creating Opportunity
"His fingerprints are all over Kansas City."
- Kevin Kelly, Associate Editor, Catholic Key
Share Your Memory or Reflection
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Visitation & Wake
Sunday, December 21 6-9pm
Kansas City, Missouri
Monday, December 22 10am
Kansas City, Missouri
Fr. Rotert's Legacy:
Father Norman Rotert, a lifelong Missourian, civil rights activist, and community activist, graduated from Kenrick Seminary School of Theology in St. Louis in 1957 and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest that same year. During his tenure in the Catholic diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Fr. Rotert pastored eight different parishes and served as chaplain of Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Diocesan Director of Lay Activities, and Diocesan Vicar General. He has been appointed to be a member of the Rockhurst University Regents, Vicar for Social Concerns, Vicar for Charity and Social Action, and Diocesan Vocation Director among many other appointments.
In 1977, Fr. Rotert, recognizing that real community transformation happens when people organize to address the root causes that undermine a neighborhood and tear families apart, founded Kansas City Organizing Project (KCOP) to respond to racial redlining and financial disinvestment in the city’s Southeast neighborhoods. From 1977 to 1984, KCOP organized neighborhoods, building eleven neighborhood organizations in low-income Kansas City communities, before changing its name to CCO and shifting attention to a series of community initiatives to fight drug infiltration, build and revitalize neighborhoods, seek equity for the working poor, advocate for accessible health care, and create opportunities for youth.
Fr. Rotert’s spirit of activism and commitment to justice manifest in many other ways as well. In addition to his work with Communities Creating Opportunity, he is a founding member of Blue Hills Community Services and member of the Board of Directors of PICO National Network, and is the recipient of the Southtown Council’s American Citizen Award and Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Sullivan Award. He was honored with a Kansas City City Council resolution proclaiming him “a model of excellence as one of Kansas City’s premier civic housing leaders and humble servants” as well as a resolution passed by the Missouri House of Representatives honoring Fr. Rotert for “enhancing the quality of life in Kansas City.”
Communities Creating Opportunity is proud to salute Fr. Rotert’s vision, courage and distinguished legacy with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Statement from CCO's President & CEO Eva Creydt Schulte
It is with a heavy and full heart that I remember Fr. Norman Rotert who died today surrounded by the love of family and friends. Fr. Rotert's vision to equip neighborhoods and people of faith to make change in their communities inspired me to relocate to Kansas City. As the founder of Communities Creating Opportunity in 1977, Fr. Norman Rotert worked tirelessly to confront racial and economic inequities.
Fr. Rotert was first a priest and pastor to his people, who extended many parishes and well beyond the church walls into community. His justice advocacy, and community organizing ministry resulted in millions of dollars of investment in neighborhoods like Blue Hills and city-wide policy leadership across Kansas City. Fr. Rotert worked with global Jesuit leaders like Fr. John Baumann of PICO Network to build a movement of faith based organizing that is now in 20 states and 4 countries. Fr. Rotert worked with national leaders like Presiding Elder Joseph Forbes and Rev. Wallace Hartsfield to bring diverse religious communities into meaningful and powerful relationship for systemic change.
Fr. Rotert could tell a story and with humor and prophetic voice he changed Kansas City through reaching peoples hearts and minds like no other could do. He believed in us. Fr. Rotert recruited me to the work of moving human dignity to the center of public life over ten years ago and I continue today to strive toward the path he laid. For all who knew him, you also know that he believed in you. Fr. Norman Rotert unlocked the power of people. May this legacy live on in all of us.