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.
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
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
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.
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
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