Streaks across the sky filled our television screens and our
consciousness on February 1st, when seven valiant astronauts lost their
lives in the tragic breakup of the space shuttle Columbia. Immediately
our hearts were full of prayers for the magnificent seven, their
families, and all they left behind.
In recent years concerns have been expressed in various parts of the
United States on the need for more collaboration in the policy making
processes and administration of dioceses and religious institutions. As
we begin the New Year, I think it may be helpful to highlight some of
the many structures we have in place in our Diocese which enable
collaboration and promote accountability in our policies and
Christmas brings people together. The exchange of cards conveys ongoing concern for one another.
The First Sunday of Advent, this year December 1st, is New Year's
Day for the Church. It is the beginning of our liturgical year, and very
appropriately in our Diocese we commence by giving priority focus to
the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Pope John Paul II gave us a special present on October 16, the 24th
anniversary of his election as Holy Father. He enriched the Rosary.
The discovery of an alleged "sleeper cell" in Lackawanna with
reported ties to al-Qaida has shaken all of us to our socks. Of course
much more work has to be done and clarifications have to be made before
we can draw definitive conclusions on Lackawanna ties with terrorism.
Most of us will never forget where we were when the reports came of
the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001. I was attending a meeting of
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative
Committee in Washington, D.C.
I am writing this message midst the joy and excitement of World
Youth Day 2002. Yes, I am in Toronto with all our wonderful delegation
from the Diocese of Buffalo. Because of publishing deadlines I am
sending these thoughts on now, before this magnificent event concludes.
No question about it, the meeting of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops in Dallas from June 13 to 15 was a landmark event. The
attention it attracted was unprecedented, and its results will be
discussed and acted upon for a long time to come.
The priesthood goes on, the Church goes on, we all go on.
The recent meeting hosted by our Holy Father Pope John Paul II for
American Cardinals and Bishops, as well as for Vatican officials, was an
historic occasion. On the matter of clergy sexual abuse of minors,
labeled by our Holy Father as "a crime and an appalling sin," it raised
an already acute sensitivity to an even higher level.
At the beginning of Saint Ignatius' classic "Spiritual Exercises,"
retreatants are asked to meditate on sinfulness in the created world.
Immediately after, there is a colloquy in which we focus on the
September 11, 2001 was a jolt. The horrific intrusion into everyday
life stirred us instinctively to prayer: prayer by ourselves, prayer
with others. Religious services and civic observances drew large crowds.
Participation in the Masses on weekends shot up. Those with a merely
secular outlook said that people simply wanted to be together.
It is often said that resolutions are made to be broken. That statement is often not true.
Happy New Year! No, you don't have to check the bottom of the page
for the date. This is the December issue, and December 2nd is the First
Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church year.
The villainous attacks of September 11th and the subsequent chemical
atrocities continue to threaten our national and personal bearings. They
have unmasked faces of evil in our world. At the same time they have
provoked action, and our prayers are with our government leaders for the
decisions they must make: diplomatic, political, economic, decisions on
humanitarian aid, and decisions on military force.
The September edition of the Western New York Catholic carries a
special section describing the various services provided in the Diocese
of Buffalo. It is an impressive array: pastoral, educational, health
care, and social services. Institutions, programs, and activities are
highlighted, but in every instance the story is about people, people who
lead, people who serve, people who are served, people who support.
We are happy President Bush did not authorize or call for the
authorization of federal funds to destroy human embryos. At the same
time, we are very concerned in his call for funding of stem cell
research, looking at the 60 to 69 stem cell lines that exist today,
because these embryos were destroyed. You do not get stem cells from
human embryos unless you destroy them.
Discussions and debate about casino gambling have been going on for
decades in New York State. In recent weeks, nonetheless, announcements
and rumors about legalizing casino gambling in Western New York appear
to be running ahead of and short circuiting necessary discussion.
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.