Every day presents its own challenges, and no week is immune from
difficulties, but recent weeks and months have been particularly trying.
you know, for the past eight years I have attempted in every way to
keep all our parishes and schools open and functioning to the maximum
extent possible. Various factors have continued to accumulate, however,
which make that goal no longer possible. You have already heard of
recent closings, mergers, and consolidations.
The national economy
is a major problem. We in Western New York for the most part did not
participate in the boom years of the nineties. Employment has suffered
here and people have moved to other areas in search of better paying
jobs. The recent national problems have aggravated all the more the
economic situation here.
For our administrative operations and
funding of programs, the Diocese relies on three major sources: income
on investments, the annual appeal, and parish assessments. Our recent
Catholic Charities - Bishop's Fund for the Faith Appeal was a record
success. Though the goal - $10,250,000 - was the highest ever, we
surpassed it on Palm Sunday night. Following the trend of recent years,
the donors were fewer in number, but the per capita giving continued to
increase. This is striking evidence once more of the generosity of our
people and the leadership of our clergy, religious, and lay people. We
are profoundly grateful.
The parish assessments have remained
solid, and we are especially appreciative that our parishes have been
able for the most part to maintain the pace.
There have been major
problems, as everyone knows, with the stock market. Thanks to our
professional money managers, our investment counsel, and our Diocesan
Investment Committee, we have consistently performed better than the
benchmarks. Nonetheless, as reported in our audit published in the
February edition of the Western New York Catholic, we have lost
significant monies with the investments and have had to rely heavily on
our reserves for funding.
As a result, we are no longer able to
fund programs and institutions to the extent we have been supporting
them. Thus we have the closures, consolidations, and mergers. We have
also been forced to eliminate positions in central offices and let
I meet individually with the people who are going to
thank them for all their service to the Diocese. While it is true that
our cutbacks are not as severe as other dioceses, that is small
consolation to our employees who are leaving. It breaks my heart.
the same time, the numbers of priests and religious continue to
decrease. When we look across the country we realize how blessed we are
in the numbers, and of course the quality, of the priests and religious
who lead and serve us. We are fortunate to have ordained five
transitional deacons and two priests this past month, all of them
excellent people. Vocations to the priesthood for the future continue to
look promising, but overall the numbers of priests and religious
continue to decrease.
At all times we must exercise good
stewardship, both with regard to personnel and with financial resources.
Serious commitment to planning is necessary. The Catholic Health System
has been operating from its strategic plan for some years now. Catholic
Charities has completed its strategic plan. Our Department of Education
is moving forward on a strategic plan for the Catholic schools in the
For the past few years the planning for parishes has been
focused on the Vicariate level. Substantial work has been accomplished
in some Vicariates, but more has to be done as we face the future. All
of us have to be involved to make the planning effective.
and religious are declining in numbers, so we must be all the more
judicious in their assignments. Lay people for many years have been
staffing important positions throughout our Diocese. We must continue to
recognize and advance their wonderful gifts. Training will continue to
be needed and the resources are here: degree programs, certificate
programs, regional programs, vicariate programs, and parish programs.
people have the right and responsibility to exercise their gifts in the
Church from Baptism. The signs of the times indicate that we must
expand that exercise exponentially.
When Jesus speaks of the vine
and the branches in chapter 15 of the Gospel according to Saint John, he
indicates that pruning is necessary for growth. These are difficult
times. Evangelization remains an essential mission of the Church. May
our prayers be intensified that the Holy Spirit will give us all wisdom
in our deliberations. May God continue to accomplish good works in all
of us and provide the increase.
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
May 25, 2003