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A year of solidarity in faith

Jan. 3, 2018

Mary Lou KilianCatholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg exhibited a true solidarity in faith in the waning days of 2017 as we welcomed Bishop Antoine Chbeir to churches and schools across the North Country. Bishop Chbeir had traveled from Latakia, Syria to share stories of his war-torn diocese with people of this diocese which had established a twinning initiative with Latakia during the year.

From Watertown to Ogdensburg to Plattsburgh, the Syrian bishop received a warm and prayerful welcome.
Bishop LaValley has invited Bishop Chbeir to return this summer to visit the rest of the diocese when the warmth of the mountains, lakes and rivers will more closely  match the warmth of hearts.

While “Solidarity in Faith” is the official name of the twinning project with Latakia, it could also describe the Catholic life in the North Country throughout 2017.

With faithful togetherness, the diocese celebrated special anniversaries and significant accomplishments.

We welcomed new clergy, sisters and lay ministers and bid sad farewells to those whose journey on earth had concluded.

As teachers, parish ministers and youth, we gathered for programs offering educational and spiritual support for ministry.

We joined in celebrating significant milestones  as Catholic Charities marked 100 years and the permanent deacons observed 40 years of service in the diocese. And we gathered in prayer at our cathedral for Masses of healing, consecration and ordination.

Among the highlights of the past year:
• Priests: Father Michael Jablonski was ordained May 27 at St. Mary’s Cathedral and was assigned as parochial vicar at the Massena Catholic Parishes. Father Christopher Carrara succeeded Father James Seymour as vicar for pastoral personnel. Msgr. Harry Snow retired as judicial vicar after 37 years of service in the diocesan tribunal. Father Douglas Lucia succeeded him as judicial vicar. Father Brian Stiff was named director of the Department of Worship.

• Catholic Charities: During the centennial year, Daughter of Charity Sister Donna Franklin announced that she
would retire as diocesan director after 22 years in the position. Deacon Patrick Donahue was hired to replace her, effective Jan. 1. Catholic Charities celebrated its local history at the Oct. 25 Caritas Dinner, presenting the Caritas Award to two priests who had directed the Plattsburgh regional office, Msgr. Joseph Aubin and (posthumously) Father Patrick Mundy. The President’s Award was also given posthumously to Alex Velto who directed the Watertown office.

• Catholic schools: Five new principals were hired for schools in the diocese- Kari Conklin, IHC Primary in Watertown; Michele Lallier, St. James, Gouverneur; Joseph Orobona, IHC High School in Watertown; Michele Meyers, St. Mary’s, Canton; and Mary Ann Margrey, Augustinian Academy, Carthage. The Catholic School Teacher of the Year was Madonna Barney of St. Agnes School, Lake Placid

• Deacons: Sixteen men were ordained permanent deacons Oct.  7 at St. Mary’s Cathedral and a new class of potential candidates was started. Deacon Greg Kandra of Brooklyn was the keynote speaker at the annual Deacon Convocation held in May in Lake Placid.

• Vocations: Nine seminarians began or continued studies for the priesthood in September. The annual DOVS (Diocese of Ogdensburg Vocation Society) pilgrimage took place Oct. 10 with a trip to Syracuse. More than 100 middle schoolers gathered at Guggenheim in October for a day focused on vocations.

• Religious: The Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod, who have been serving in Jefferson County for several years, opened up a second community in Cadyville. Atonement Sister Ellen Donahue retired from her position as episcopal delegate for religious and director of the Safe Environment Office. St. Joseph Sister Suanne Johnson made her perpetual vows Aug. 27 and Sister Linh Therese Nguyen made final vows as a Precious Blood Sister Oct. 8.

• Youth:  More than 100 youth traveled to the March for Life in Washington in January. The annual Youth Rally, held May 6 at IHC in Watertown featured Paul J. Kim as the keynote speaker. Kelly Donnelly, diocesan youth ministry director, led another successful season at Camp Guggenheim.

• Finances: The 2016 Bishop’s Fund Appeal reached its $1.28 million goal while the 2017 appeal was launched with the theme “One Bread, One Body, One Family” with a goal of $1.3 million. The diocese approved a capital campaign to generate $15 million over four years.

• Lay leaders: Cathy Russell was named to succeed Deacon Patrick Donahue as Watertown regional director of Christian Formation and coordinator of the Formation for Ministry Program. She remains coordinator of the Vocation Office. Jill Lawrence was hired as director of the Safe Environment Office. Deacon James Crowley, chancellor, was given added responsibilities in overseeing the Family Life Office. Bishop LaValley commissioned 57 lay ministers June 25 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Three new sites of Formation for Ministry opened in September.

•Diocesan events: Bishop LaValley announced the Solidarity in Faith twinning initiative at the Chrism Mass April 6. A Mass of Healing for victims of clergy sexual abuse was held on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23.  A parish hospitality workshop “Entertaining Angels” was held June 3 in Potsdam. The Harvest Mass was held Sept. 17 in North Bangor, Marriage Jubilee Sept. 24 at the cathedral; Blue Mass Oct. 1 at St. Patrick’s in Watertown and the religious Jubilee Oct. 15 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Bishop LaValley consecrated the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oct. 22 at the cathedral, marking the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. Leadership was the theme of this year’s Celebrate Christ held Oct. 20 for Catholic School teachers and Oct. 21 for parish ministers.

•National events: Diocesan participation in events held in other parts of the country included the national March for Life in Washington and the Convocation of Catholic Leaders held in July in Orlando, Florida. Bishop LaValley led a delegation to the convocation that included Father Douglas Lucia, Deacon John and Maura Fehlner, Cathy Russell and Marika Donders. At the annual Catholic Media Conference held in Quebec City in June, the North Country Catholic took home a first place award for its 2016 Year of Mercy series and honorable mention for newspaper of the year.

•Rest in Peace: The diocese mourned the loss of  five clergymen - Father Gilbert Boisvert who died Feb. 2, Deacon David Wells, Feb. 11; Father Victor Lamore, March 30; Father John Cosmic, May 7; and Father Patrick Mundy, Sept. 4.

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