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It was Tuesday, February 9th, another typical day of ministry at the cathedral and diocesan offices in Ogdensburg.  I had been a bit antsy of late, wondering if I would receive word soon about the appointment of our new bishop.  Hardly a day would go by without either a parishioner, coworker or a family member asking:  “Have you heard yet?”  It had been almost nine months since Bishop Cunningham had assumed his new responsibilities in Syracuse and we were still bishop-less.  It was about 10am when the phone rang.  As you can imagine, things haven’t been the same since.

For two weeks, at Masses at St. Mary’s Cathedral we would continue praying that the Holy Father would soon send us a new bishop.   But I knew better.  That prayer became for me a personal prayer for the new bishop.  For two long weeks, life had to go on for me as if nothing had happened. 

Then, on Tuesday, February 23rd, Pope Benedict XVI announced publicly his selection of me as the fourteenth Bishop of Ogdensburg.  So it was true.  The phone call really did happen. It had been all so surreal.  The reality began to set in:  the tremendous privilege, the awesome honor, the incredible responsibility. 
After all, I just wanted to be a parish priest in a North Country parish.  Now the Lord had called me to broaden my vision and open my heart to all the parishes from Rouses Point to Ticonderoga to Adams to Massena and all communities in-between, indeed, the entire Church of Ogdensburg.  Frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming and extremely humbling.

But, I accept this appointment with certain confidence because of the men who pastor God’s people in these parish communities, my brother priests.  I feel especially blessed to have been appointed Shepherd of this Diocese during this Year for Priests because of the tremendous gift our Diocese enjoys in the self-less ministry of her priests. 

God, also, blesses us through the faithful service of our deacons whose often unheralded work in our parishes and communities does so much to build up the Body of Christ in our midst.  I have been privileged to teach and minister in several parishes with many deacons.  They and their wives offer great support to the local Church.  Our deacons give me great confidence as I assume my new position.

God blesses our Diocese through the faithful witness of our consecrated women and men.    The North Country has a long and proud history of religious who have made such a strong impact on our Catholic education and health care, outreach to the needy, Christian formation and parish ministry.  I assume my new responsibility as Bishop of Ogdensburg with sure confidence because of the blessings of our religious.

I know my roots.  I am proud to have been born of a blue collar working class family in a small rural hamlet along the Canadian border in northern New York (Mooers Forks).  I accept the office of Bishop of Ogdensburg with confidence because the people God has asked me to serve are people with whom I grew up.  I am keenly aware of the struggles that are unique to the residents of the North Country.  At a time in which many of our family members and neighbors are anxious about finding or keeping jobs and at a time in which our Catholic Church is suffering shame and some just criticism, the resiliency of the faith of my brothers and sisters who call the North Country home has been a source of tremendous faith and hope for me personally as I look to the future.

All in all, it is the people of our diocese: the clergy, the religious, the lay faithful that inspire me to eagerly begin my episcopacy among you.  We begin a new chapter in the ongoing faith story of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.  Now, let us turn the page with eager anticipation to receive the good things that the Lord has in store for us who believe, who strive to follow Christ.

Please pray that as Shepherd of our beloved Diocese, I will provide sure and compassionate guidance to the Kingdom for all God’s people who are entrusted to my care and call the Diocese of Ogdensburg “home.”

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