Moving Forward

The priesthood goes on, the Church goes on, we all go on.

We have been advised over the years to take time to smell the flowers, but we were never promised that life itself would be a rose garden. How often we have prayed "in this valley of tears." How much more acutely we appreciate now that milieu as the setting for our prayers.

During the week of May 20-24, the priests of our diocese met for our annual convocation. There were two sections: Monday to Wednesday, and Wednesday to Friday. All were together on Wednesday. The purpose of the sessions was to focus on healthy personal, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth to discern how we can better serve our people.

Of course the elephant at every meeting these days is the issue of clergy sexual abuse of minors. The priests articulated clearly their reaction to the atrocities: anger, upset, sadness, outrage, anxiety, sorrow, shock, sickness at heart. There was extensive discussion.

We did not, however, remain fixated on those emotions. What emerged clearly in the concerns expressed was the determination to listen more carefully to others, to work more vigorously for healing, to do everything possible to guarantee the safety and health of young people and children. The resiliency of our priests emerged from the gloom. This is not so surprising, realizing our priests draw strength from the bedrock of faith conviction, life coming from death, in resurrection following dying. It was gratifying to witness their gritty determination to build in God's grace a better, more purified Church. In these anxious and arduous times, the strength and resolution of our priests will be an inspiration to all.

As we look to the future it is heartening to note that none of the candidates planning to enter our seminary system is backing away from his commitment. As a matter of fact, our Pope John Paul II Residence for college students discerning priesthood, will be close to capacity for the first time in years.

Of course we rejoice with deep gratitude at our recent celebration of Ordination to the Priesthood. I was delighted to ordain Father Jorge Budez and Father James Hartwell as priests on May 25th. Father Budez will have a summer assignment as Parochial Vicar in Saint Joseph and Saint Mary Assumption Parishes in Albion, with additional responsibilities to help with ministry to the migrant workers in the northeastern section of our diocese. Following the harvest season he will be given a more permanent assignment. Father James Hartwell will serve as Parochial Vicar in Infant of Prague Parish, Cheektowaga.

On May 4th I ordained to the Transitional Diaconate Lynn Shumway and Joseph Zalacca. They are serving as deacons respectively in Saint Stephen's Parish, Grand Island and Saint John the Baptist Parish, Kenmore. With prayers of gratitude on their behalf we look forward, please God, to their Ordination to the Priesthood next year.

We look forward now to the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, June 13th to 15th. The entire meeting will be taken up with the issue of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Preparations for the meeting have been going on for months. Our hope is that the prayer, discussions, deliberations, and decisions of the meeting will be blessings for all in the Church and our society at large for all the years ahead.

I ask your fervent prayers, private and public, especially before the Eucharist, for the success of this meeting. Whatever decisions are made, it will be vitally important to follow them up with intensified concern, sensitivity, and vigilance by all of us.

The priesthood goes on, the Church goes on, we all go on.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
May 25, 2002