It Will Be Difficult to Leave

As you know by now, from the announcement on October 20th, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II has appointed me to the Archdiocese of Hartford. I did not request the appointment, but I accept it. One does not refuse an appointment from the Holy Father. I am honored and humbled by it, and grateful to the Holy Father for the confidence he has expressed in me.

It will be very difficult for me to leave the Diocese of Buffalo. For more than eight years I have come to know and to love you: the lay people, religious, and clergy throughout the eight counties of Western New York. Celebrating Mass in all the parishes, most of them many times, and meeting the people afterwards have been special treats for me. Visiting and celebrating Mass for the Catholic high schools, the elementary schools and religious education programs have been delightful experiences. The annual Mass which we developed for all the Catholic High School Seniors provides wonderful memories.

Celebrating Mass in our beautiful St. Joseph's Cathedral every weekday morning and connecting it by way of television and radio to you who are shut-ins and confined to bed have been especially meaningful. You have worked for and supported our parishes and programs for decades. It is important that you remain connected in the transmission of information and the communion of prayer.

Visiting our priests, religious, and lay people in hospitals and nursing homes continues to be thoroughly edifying for me. Walking the corridors and being asked to pray for and bless additional patients along the way reminds me of what I was basically ordained to be, a parish priest.

Attending wakes and celebrating funeral Masses bring us face to face with the mysteries of life and death and with so many people at the critical times of grieving. It is so edifying and reassuring for me to witness the tremendous power of faith in the ways you persevere through these times of trial.

Celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation are always upbeat, happy events. The letters which candidates, who are for the most part 11th graders, send to me are ever more thoughtful and focused. To quote some: "My parents may be surprised at this. They brought me to Church for baptism, but I'm doing this because I want to..." "I need the Holy Spirit in my life to help with my decisions and struggles..." "I want to get married in the Church (not anytime soon, thank God) and raise my children with faith..." "I want to be closer to God..." "I deserve this after 11 years of religious education" (there's usually one)..."I want to be a bigger part of my parish."

I could write here about the institutions and programs of our Diocese. It would take all of a number of issues of the Western New York Catholic to approach adequacy.

Buffalo is a very strong Diocese. We are enormously blessed with our parishes, elementary schools, high schools, religious education programs, colleges, universities, Christ the King Seminary, Catholic Charities and other Catholic social service agencies, soup kitchens, food pantries, programs for the mentally and physically handicapped, the Catholic Health System and other Catholic health care providers. They guarantee strength for years to come.

We have not been immune from the national scandal of clergy sexual abuse of minors. While the incidence here has been relatively low, we know that every case is one too many. Gratefully we can say that to the best of our knowledge there is not one priest active in our Diocese now who has ever been involved in an incident of sexual abuse with a minor. Furthermore, we have developed the structures and are implementing the programs to assure that to the extent possible there never again be an incident of sexual abuse of minors involving clergy, religious, lay employees, or volunteers in our Diocese.

With all the institutions and all the programs, the focus always comes back to the people. You, the clergy, religious, and lay people of the Diocese of Buffalo are nothing short of terrific. Sure, we can talk about your surpassing generosity to the Annual Catholic Charities Bishop's Fund for the Faith Appeal, the Stewardship in Faith Campaign, and the other appeals and collections. I am profoundly appreciative of the heroic sacrifices you have made and continue to make in the face of trying economic times.

Staggering as those records are, your goodness is even more: the ways you participate in Sunday Mass and the other exercises of our faith, your generous involvement in so many programs and activities, your work ethic, your pervasive friendliness.

God's love is manifest in Western New York. It is manifest in you. I will never forget your personal friendliness to me, from your ever ready greetings in the streets and outside churches to your thoughtful letters and emails of support.

I am extraordinarily privileged that in God's grace such a profound bond has developed among us. I have found home here. I know we will continue to be united in prayer, and my prayers for you every day will be suffused with the most profound sentiments of gratitude.

But... I love you. It will be difficult to leave.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
October 20, 2003