It is a great
joy to welcome all of you to Saint Joseph's Cathedral; Your Eminence,
Cardinal O' Connor; my brother bishops, who honor me and our diocese
with your presence; the priests, deacons, women and men religious; and
all Christian faithful of our diocese; family and friends, from near and
far. I also welcome warmly representatives of other religious
denominations as well as representatives of government and the business
world who are present with us this afternoon.
Church was built by our first bishop, John Timon, and opened in
1855. Through the years, we have gathered here in times of celebration
and in times of sorrow. I am delighted that you are with me today on
this wonderful occasion. I ask you to join with me in prayer as I thank
God for the gift and the grace of these past fifty years and I entrust
our future to His care.
Bishop Head's Homily
John Cardinal O'Connor, my brother bishops and priests; deacons and
religious; my family and friends from near and far and all my other
sisters and brothers in Chris:
May I begin by
thanking all of you for the honor you pay to the Church at Buffalo by
coming together in prayer here in Saint Joseph's Cathedral.
In a particular
way, I welcome to the Church at Buffalo His Eminence, John Cardinal
O'Connor. May I say, Your Eminence, without wanting to embarrass you in
any way, that I hold you in the highest esteem. You are a courageous
servant of the Gospel, and, for me, a trusted friend and challenging
bishops and archbishops, we are honored by your presence
also. Throughout the many years we have prayed and worked together, I
have always been humbled by your patience with me and challenged by your
commitment to the Gospel of Christ. Your presence today adds to the joy
of the Church at Buffalo and gives me personally, yet another reason to
be thankful to God.
David, reminds us that "Our life lasts for seventy years, eighty with
good health." In all honesty, as I pray these words of the 90th Psalm,
they take on a new meaning and added significance each day for me
personally, especially on a day like today as I praise and thank God for
the privilege of serving His Church for 50 years as a priest, and 25
years as a bishop.
David reminds us
the years indeed pass quickly so he encourages us, in that same Psalm,
to "wake in the morning filled with God's love." This morning, indeed, I
awoke filled with God's love as I looked forward to joining all of you
here in celebration, the celebration of the presence of Christ Jesus as
He speaks to us in His Word, as He nourishes us with His Body and His
Blood. It is not really possible for me to express in words the depth of
my gratitude to God, or the depth of my love for you, but, please,
please be assured of both.
Many years ago,
in Saint Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, I read a rather simple book,
"The Diary of a Country Priest," a novel, a story of a simple curate in
France, struggling with all his personal insecurities, his personal
doubts, his personal inadequacies, as he tried to serve God's people
faithfully and generously. At the end of the novel, the country priest,
as is the human condition, dies. His death is described in these words
by his friend:
minutes later, he put his hand over mine, and his eyes entreated me to
draw closer to him. He then uttered these words almost in my ear and I
am quite sure that I have recorded them accurately, for his voice,
though halting, was strangely distinct. He said, "Grace is everywhere ... "
I think he died just then."
country priest died with the words, "Grace is everywhere" on his
lips. Everything is a gift, everything is a grace, GRACE IS EVERYWHERE!
There are on my
desk in my office, two framed pictures: one is of my mother and father,
the other of my college professor and priest mentor, Msgr. John P.
Monaghan, "Doc" Monaghan we called him with great affection. Grace is
everywhere, and I found grace, God's presence in these wonderful people
who so deeply touched my life. My mother and father taught me how to
pray, how to trust, how to believe, how to serve, how to love, not just
by their words, but by the very living of their lives. And when I told
them I was hoping to enter the seminary and become a priest, their
advice was simple and straight forward. My father told me, "Edward, be
the best priest possible," My mother's words were, "Edward, be a holy
And, when I was
struggling with my own doubts and uncertainties, struggling to hear more
clearly God calling me to priesthood, it was Msgr. Monaghan who enabled
me to trust in God's love, to live on in God's presence, to continue
the journey toward the great goal of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
everywhere. What a grace, what a gift, my parents, my family and my
teachers have been and are. My brother, Dan, has been called home to the
Lord but his wife, Mary, is here as is my brother, Bill, and his wife,
Helen, as are nieces and nephews and cousins and friends. Please know,
each of you is a gift. Each of you is a grace. Each of you is a sign of
God's love and presence to me.
And there is
another grace here with me today. Concelebrating this Mass is Father
Richard Walsh. He is a first cousin of mine and a constant friend and
model to me from our earliest boyhood days. Last year, as a priest of
the Society of Saint Paul, he celebrated his Golden Anniversary of
priesthood. What a joy and an encouragement it is to have you here with
me today, Richard.
I remember so
clearly 50 years ago today as if it all happened yesterday! I remember
walking down the aisle of Saint Patrick's Cathedral, kneeling in front
of Cardinal Spellman for the imposition of his hands, sharing my first
priestly blessing with my parents, family, and friends. And I remember
25 years ago, walking down that same aisle in the same cathedral,
kneeling in front of another cardinal, archbishop of New York this time,
my classmate and friend, Cardinal Cooke, and he ordained me for the
service of the Church as bishop.
Each day of
these 50 years as a priest has been a gift. Each day of these 25 years
as bishop has been a grace. Grace is everywhere. And I found God's
presence in Sacred Heart Parish in the Bronx, in St. Veronica's Parish
and in The Federal House of Detention in Greenwich Village. I found
grace ministering with and to the poor in Catholic Charities in New York
City. And I found the presence of God in my other ministries in the
Church. Today, at this altar, I praise and thank God for this gift of
priesthood and for this grace of episcopal ministry.
When I was sent
to Buffalo as your bishop by Pope Paul VI, I knew three priests:
Msgr. Bill Wozniak, Msgr. Julius Szabo, Msgr. John Conniff. I knew them
all through our common ministry in Catholic Charities.
What I found
when I came here on March 19, 1973, was a Church filled with love, and
characterized by a strong faith, a Church alive with zeal for the
Gospel. Grace is everywhere, and I have found grace, the presence of our
loving God in each and every county of this great diocese. I have found
grace in a presbyterate committed to serve God's people with love and
compassion. I believe there is no finer presbyterate, no more generous
priests than the priests of this Diocese of Buffalo. I have found women
and men religious in love with the Lord and in love with His people. I
have found deacons who proclaim the Good News of Jesus through their
liturgical ministry and their ministry of charity. And I found lay
ministers, women and men who answer their baptismal call to serve God's
people with their talents and their gifts. Grace has been everywhere.
In 1973, Pope
Paul VI could have sent to this Church at Buffalo a wiser bishop, a
holier bishop, a bishop more astute in administration, a bishop
more gifted in public speaking. He could have even sent a better
golfer! But, I don't think Pope Paul VI could have sent to the Diocese
of Buffalo a bishop who would have tried harder to love you and to serve
Yet, even as I
say this, I am aware that some of you have not experienced this love as
deeply as you would have hoped, and some of you, for whatever reason,
have not been affirmed as you would have wished. So I seek from you
today the gift of forgiveness for whatever ways I have failed you, hurt
you, not even loved and served you as Jesus loves and serves. In this
forgiveness, may we both find God's presence, for grace is everywhere.
It has been a
grace to ordain to the episcopacy, two priest sons of this great
diocese, Bishop Donald Trautman, a special, special, loyal and gifted
friend, and Bishop Edward Grosz, a grace-filled, dynamic and energetic
coworker. It has been a grace to ordain to priesthood 124 men for the
service of our people. It has been a special grace for me to share my
pastoral ministry and every day of these 22 years with Bishop Bernard
It has been a
grace to inaugurate the Permanent Diaconate in our diocese, to establish
the Office of Church Ministry, to initiate the Commission on Women in
Church and Society.
everywhere. I find as I often stand with you, prayerfully and
peacefully, outside abortion clinics, attesting to the sacredness of
life. I have found grace as I served the hungry and have eaten with the
poor in our soup kitchens and dining rooms. I have found the presence of
God and found His grace as I visited the sick and dying in our
It has been a
grace and a gift to work with you to strengthen Catholic education, to
build peace, to assure justice, to welcome new members into our Church,
to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Grace is indeed
everywhere. And it is a grace and a gift to work with ecumenical leaders
and civic leaders, to work to assure safety in our streets, and quality
education, and quality healthcare for all our people.
And what a grace
and gift it has been for me to visit our parish families. I have
confirmed over 50,000 young people in my ministry here as bishop. What
gifts these young people bring to our Church and to our society with
their vision and dreams, their hope, their faith, their enthusiasm for
the Gospel. They are truly a grace and a gift. I have been privileged to
be present in all of our parishes. You, faithfilled, generous people,
have welcomed me, prayed for me, supported me. Grace has been
And even in the
midst of what has been painful, what has caused suffering for our church
and for you and for me personally, even in the midst of grave
difficulties, it has been possible to find grace. I have found grace in
the pain and suffering I have shared with you. The cross is grace. We
have found the cross. Indeed, grace is everywhere!
Today, I reflect
upon 50 years of ministry as a priest, 25 years of ministry as a
bishop. I am overwhelmed at how good God and you have been to me and how
deeply you both have shown your love for me. Please know that I am
grateful. Thank you for keeping me dissatisfied with myself as I have
learned to become more satisfied with God. It has been and is a
I hope there are
still many days of grace before me and many opportunities for me to
grow and to bear fruit, many chances for me to retell the story of the
Father's love. I look forward to continued ministry with you and for
you, even after our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, appoints a new
bishop to serve and to love this great local Church. I know I will
continue to find grace everywhere as we pray together and serve
What a marvelous way for that aged country priest in France to end his life with the words on his lips, "Grace is everywhere ... "
That is the profound lesson I have learned as a priest and as a bishop.
God bless you.
Most Rev. Edward D. Head
Bishop of Buffalo
January 27, 1995