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Time with those who make ‘schools of prayer’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 5, 2019

This is a favorite time of the year for me as our priests gather in Lake Placid for prayer, relaxation and fraternalLaValley support. Our Spiritual Retreat this year was held from May 20-23. Reverend Gerry Blaszczak, S.J. led us in reflection of “The Psalms: Our School of Prayer.” Our deacons and their wives joined us on the 23rd and remained the next day for their annual Deacon Assembly.

On May 21st, we gathered at St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid to celebrate the Funeral Mass for Monsignor Peter Riani. It was fitting that the Mass took place on the same day that, sixty-four years earlier, his classmates and he were ordained to the priesthood. Monsignor Poissant, in his homily, captured beautifully how Monsignor Riani’s priestly ministry proclaimed the joy of the Gospel: “He is Risen!”

This year’s honored Jubilarians include: Sixty years: Fathers Philip Allen, William Muench, Joseph Sestito and Monsignor Lawrence Deno; Forty years: Fathers Vincent Freeh, MSC, Vincent Jazmines, Steven Rocker and Gerry Blaszczak, SJ.; and Twenty-five years: Father Christopher Carrara. On May 26, I was happy to participate in another celebration of a Jubilarian who celebrated his Golden Anniversary as a priest and the tenth anniversary of his installation as the Bishop of Syracuse, Bishop Cunningham.

At our Jubilee Dinner in Lake Placid, I reminded our priests of the varied ministries our honored guests have provided God’s people through the years. All embrace parish ministry and many have offered additional service to the Church such as: missionary ministry in our Peruvian Apostolate and in the Pacific Islands; leading and strengthening our Catholic schools; ministry to those serving in the Armed Forces; teaching, coaching, and writing inspirational articles for our North Country Catholic; teaching in the seminary and serving as chaplain to emergency services personnel; and so much more. You can see why this is a favorite time of the year for me.

We are blessed!

This year I enjoyed speaking to both our priests and deacons together. I reviewed our efforts to address the Diocesan Pastoral Priorities that were promulgated five years ago. I also shared some of the statistics that were collated and recently sent to the Holy Father as part of our Quinquennial Report. This Report provides the Pope with an overview of the pastoral activity of the Diocese of Ogdensburg from January 2011 through December 2018. In November, I will join the other bishops of New York State in the ad limina visit with Pope Francis in Rome. Items in the Report may be topics of discussion with the Holy Father and/or his advisors who head the several Dicasteries that we will visit.

The time I spend with our deacons and their wives is always an inspiring occasion as they share the joy of their vocations of Marriage and Holy Orders and offer me very helpful counsel in light of their ministry in the parishes. Every year I leave the Deacon Assembly feeling so grateful for their faithful discipleship and helpful insights.
A common characteristic of all those with whom I gathered these several days, was that they love their Catholic faith and have a deep desire to share the joy of the Gospel. These are essential ingredients that enable a parish to be a place where a seeker can find God, learn how to pray and celebrate our faith in a worshipping community. St. John Paul II referred to our parishes as “schools of prayer.” I thank God for our deacons, their wives and our priests for making our parishes schools of prayer. In our parishes and in our homes, school is always in session because we are truly blessed with such disciples in our midst. We are blessed!

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