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‘We have been called by name’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

July 5, 2023

Editor’s Note: The Following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the Commissioning of Lay Ministers held on June 25 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

As we just heard from his letter to the people of Rome (Rom. 16:3-24), St. Paul greets a whole host of individuals who worked in the Lord’s vineyard in those early days of the Church. We are probably not very familiar with most of the names. Paul refers to them as co-workers as he expresses gratitude for their ministry.
The bishops of Vatican II observed that: It is hard to see how the Church could make her presence and action felt without the help of such dedicated laity. (cf. AA,1) AMEN to that! The urgent need for lay ministry is shown by the action of the Holy Spirit moving lay women and men today to a deeper and deeper awareness of their baptismal responsibility and everywhere urging them on to generous and selfless service of Christ and His Body, the Church.

I chose this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans for our reflection this afternoon because Paul personalized his message to the Romans. He names his co-workers and writes about their relationships with others. In our ministry, we must never forget to recognize every person to whom we minister as a unique child of God worthy of our gracious hospitality and respect. It is good to remember that we are all companions on this journey of faith as we accompany one another to the Promised Land. We have been called by name.

You know that we do not live in solitary splendor, we are not nameless beings, unconnected to one another.

Regardless of where artificial intelligence takes us, we are flesh and blood, heart and soul, children of God. Baptism is the great leveler – each of us possesses equal dignity and is worthy of care and concern from our neighbor.

My sisters and brothers, today this local Church sends you, disciples that you are, on a mission that must continually adapt itself to the needs of the moment. “Therefore, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1Cor.15:58) It’s important to remember Paul’s phrase to the Corinthians: “in the Lord your labor is not in vain!”

Sometimes, we might get discouraged or frustrated in our parish ministry. Perhaps, it’s the parents of our children, or a student. Maybe, the parish secretary, a fellow catechist, the deacon, the pastor or, God forbid, your bishop frustrates your ministry. All sorts of obstacles may be encountered and, perhaps, too often we may feel that our efforts are in vain. When such feelings surface, it is good to ask myself: How do I measure success?

Is absolutely everything I do in ministry motivated by an honest desire to be about doing the will of God? That desire receives its necessary fuel from my prayer. Our ministry suffers in so many ways without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A disciplined prayer life is where we set time aside to be quiet, to listen and discern the Father’s will. Prayer is the school where we learn how to listen.

Our ministry risks becoming shallow, insincere and a mere façade, without the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that develops in our prayer. Prayer will see us through the challenges we encounter in ministry. It will provide you with the inspiration to develop relationships, attitudes and behaviors that will affirm others, recharge you and your ministry and give you the grace to accompany, encourage and support rather than avoid the challenging, even troublesome people we meet along the way.

I want to thank Cathy Russell and all the members of the Formation for Ministry and Christian Formation staff, for their efforts in helping to prepare you to be commissioned lay ministers for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

It’s no secret the Church of the North Country will rely more and more on your ministry in the local parish. Your communication with and support of the pastor is crucial for effective collaborative ministry. Strengthening your relationships with fellow commissioned ministers will be of invaluable support for you. Please avail yourselves of the opportunities you will have to meet regularly and accompany one another in your ministry to God’s holy people.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg and your home parish are so very proud of your commitment and strong faith. Thank you for learning more about your faith and committing to sharing it.  The grace you received on the day of your baptism is being embraced and will multiply a hundredfold.  This is truly an inspiring and exciting time for you and for the Church of Ogdensburg. 

Let us continue to pray for one another, by name, discerning God’s will as we minister to our sisters and brothers.  I pray that in your ministry, you will come to know, more and more, the Joy of the Gospel.  Through it all, May God be praised...forever may God be praised!

New lay ministers commissioned

On June 25, 14 individuals were commissioned as lay ministers by Bishop Terry R. LaValley in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg.

The individuals commissioned, their ministries, parishes and sponsors are listed below by deanery.

Holy Cross Parish, Plattsburgh
Jeremiah Eppler - Youth Ministry
Pastor: Father Kevin D. McEwan

St. Joseph’s Parish,  West Chazy
Walter Brockway, Jr.- Ministry to the Sick and Elderly
Pastor: Father Theodore A. Crosby

St. Mary’s Church, Clayton
Alynda Haycock - Liturgical Ministry
Daniel Haycock.- Ministry to the Sick and Elderly
John Lucia - Liturgical Ministry
Lora Stopper - Parish Outreach Ministry
Corrine Willis - Youth Ministry
Andrew Willis - Parish Outreach Ministry
Sacramental Minister and Supervising Priest: Father Arthur J. LaBaff, VF
Pastoral Life Coordinator: Deacon Neil J. Fuller

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Watertown
Jessica Hanlin - Faith Formation Ministry
Christopher Hanlin - Liturgical Ministry
Jayme St. Croix - Youth Ministry
Pastor: Father Frank T. Natale, MSC

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary, Canton
Russel Backus - Liturgical Ministry
Pastor: Father Bryan D. Stitt

St. Raphael’s Church Heuvelton
Alexis Michael - Faith Formation Ministry
Pastor: Father Kevin J. O’Brien

St. Peter’s Parish, Massena
John Schneider - Faith Formation Ministry
Kathleen Samuel - Parish Outreach Ministry
James Samuel - Parish Outreach Ministry
Pastor: Father Mark R. Reilly, VF

Andrew Willis, Parish Outreach Ministry, will be commissioned at a Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Clayton.


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