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Many graces found in busy October and November

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

November 28, 2018

I began the month of October meeting with compliance auditors who visited the Diocese of Ogdensburg to review how well we have established a safe environment culture in our local Church. Auditors conduct this on-site audit every three years. Upon the conclusion of our successful audit, I enjoyed several pastoral visits at some of our Catholic schools and parishes. I attended wonderful celebrations of our faith with the Catholic Daughters in Champlain and the Women of Grace in Ogdensburg.

Father Lucia, Vocations Director and Director of Seminarians, and I travelled to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio for meetings with the seminary staff and we had an opportunity to meet with our seminarians. On our way home, we joined up with the Diocese of Ogdensburg Vocations Society (D.O.V.S) for Mass and a guided tour at the Shrine of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna.

From there, we met our seminarians at Christ the King Seminary and had an opportunity to meet with the faculty. Our time with the D.O.V.S. on their annual pilgrimage concluded with a delicious meal, listening to personal vocation stories from some of our seminarians.

Agendas at our meetings with seminary leaders and trustees included reviews of seminary policies, practices and experiences in light of the current scandal. I have also received a letter from the rector of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, (which our seminarian Leagon Carlin attends) who outlined for me steps that have been taken that further ensure that a safe environment is provided there.

Father Lucia recently visited that seminary, as well. Our seminarians are all doing very well and have found this troubled time in the Church to be an opportunity to strengthen their spiritual bond with the Church of Ogdensburg, our priests, and one another.

We are so blessed with these men preparing to serve the North Country in the future as ordained priests. I came away from my visits with the seminaries and seminarians, humbled and extremely proud. I am confident that these seminaries are fulfilling their crucial responsibility in helping to form these men for servant leadership.

I returned to the North Country to celebrate funerals, the baptism of my great-nephew, Rowan Joseph, and a beautiful confirmation at St. Joseph’s in Dannemora. I participated in various meetings before I headed to Baltimore for the annual Autumn Plenary Session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

When I returned from that gathering, I attended the Watertown Special Religious Education Program’s Annual Thanksgiving Dinner. While enjoying a delicious meal, with Anderson Stenard serving as Master of Ceremonies, we heard David Liscomb share his inspiring journey of faith and enjoyed wonderful musical selections performed by participants of the program. The gym was packed with so many volunteers, care-givers, and family members. God’s love and our awareness of blessings received saturated the evening. This event was a vivid reminder to me of why I love being a priest in the North Country.

It’s been several days since I left Baltimore and I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened at that gathering of American bishops.

I know that there has been plenty of commentary and opinions expressed by many. Understandably, emotions ran high and passions were raw. Cardinal DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed well the feelings of many bishops: the meeting began with disappointment and concluded with a sense of hope.

As you see from my travel log of the last several weeks, it is clear that the faith of our people in the North Country is strong.

It’s clear, too, that ours is a hurting Church. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pierre reminded us at the beginning of the meeting that “if the Church is to reform herself and her structures, then the reform must spring from her mission of making known Christ, the Son of the Living God.” He stated that it is essential that a bishop be a Man of Prayer, a Man of Proclamation, and a Man of Communion. His words inspired me to be a “caring Father, not a Master.”

At a time of needed renewal in the Church such as this, I am energized, not defeated, in seeking to earn the trust of you, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

On New Year’s Day 2019, I will join the other U.S. Bishops at a seven-day Spiritual Retreat, called for by Pope Francis, to be held at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago. The preacher to the Papal Household, Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap. will serve as the Retreat Master. The theme will be: The Mission of the Apostles and Their Successors: “He Appointed the Twelve, to be with Him and to Send Them out to Preach.” (Mark 3:14)

No system of governance or oversight, however excellent and necessary, suffices alone to make us, weak as we all are, able to live up to the high calling we have received in Christ.

I pray this be a graced opportunity for my brother bishops and me to draw nearer to Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

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