The new bishop of Buffalo embarked on a whirlwind tour of the diocese Tuesday, as Bishop Richard J. Malone met with local Catholics for the first time since the announcement of his appointment by the Vatican. The current bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, will be installed in Buffalo at St. Joseph Cathedral on Aug. 10.
“It’s an honor truly to be sent among you,” Bishop Malone said during an introductory press conference Tuesday morning at the Catholic Center. He was welcomed by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, the 13th bishop of Buffalo who submitted his mandatory retirement papers last summer when he turned 75.
“I have assured Bishop Malone that he is coming to a wonderful diocese, populated with a great constituency of the faithful, known as ‘good neighbors,’ who will greet him with a warm and hearty welcome as their new shepherd,” Bishop Kmiec said.
Bishop Malone comes to Buffalo with a Catholic population about triple the size of Portland. There are about 179 active priests and 164 total parishes in the Buffalo Diocese, while only 69 active priests and 57 parishes in the Diocese of Portland. There are 633,123 registered Catholics in Western New York, versus 187,306 Catholics in Maine altogether.
He enters a diocese that is centered around the third poorest city in the nation. Bishop Malone said that Portland has similar economic struggles, as the area’s main industries like paper mills, shoes and potatoes have vanished.
“I understand the challenges (here) economically,” he said. “I also come from a state that is very wonderful and beautiful, but very challenged economically. We place, as you do here, great priority on the work of our Catholic Charities and other social service efforts to reach out.”
Portland has also dealt with closed and merged parishes in the recent past, just as Buffalo has. Bishop Malone credited Portland’s clergy and active faithful for cooperating during their restructuring process.
“I have to learn now what more has to be done to continue the good work that Bishop Kmiec has already done,” he said. “It is a time to look at our resources and structure those resources as effectively as we can, so we can go for the mission Christ has instructed us to perform.”
Bishop Malone said he is looking forward to working with Bishop Kmiec, who will maintain a residence in Buffalo, in the future. The two bishops were very complimentary toward each other.
“Coming from Maine, Bishop Malone is one of the few bishops in our country coming south to Buffalo,” Bishop Kmiec said. “I think he knows snow.”
During the press conference, Bishop Malone said he was looking forward to meeting his fellow priests, seminarians, staff and lay ministers. He also said he was a big supporter of permanent deacons and women religious.
“(My priority) is to take the time to look, listen and learn,” he said. “We have much on which to build and challenges to face, and I have only skimmed the surface on what all that may be.”
In addition, Bishop Malone said he would be a force for various issues like religious freedom, traditional marriage, outreach to the poor, lifelong faith formation, Catholic schools and vocations.
“Unfortunately, most of the focus in the media has been on the issue of contraception,” Bishop Malone said on the issue of religious freedom, currently being debated nationwide. “That is not the issue. The issue is the right of the Church in this case, or any religious body, to be able to define what it is and what its ministries are. One of the challenges we’re facing with this so-called compromise is that it’s being taken out of our hands. The government apparently will try to determine what ministries are Catholic and are not. It’s unacceptable to us.”
Bishop Malone said his motto as bishop of Buffalo will be, “Live the truth in love.” A self-professed Red Sox fan from his time growing up in Boston, Bishop Malone said he will adapt to cheering for local Buffalo teams like the Bills and Sabres, but he’s committed to his hometown baseball team.
Bishop Malone noted that last week, just prior to finding out his new appointment, was driving with a fellow priest in a rural area of Maine when they came across a herd of Buffalo.
“Sometimes subtle indications of God’s plan for us only become apparent in hindsight,” he said. “I said to the priest that I was riding with that this was the first time I saw buffalo. He said, ‘It will probably be the last.’”
Following the press conference, Bishop Malone met individually with the employees of the Catholic Center, then visited St. Joseph Cathedral for the first time. Following a private lunch, he will then travel to Catholic Charities headquarters in Buffalo and Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. He will return to Portland tomorrow.
The Western New York Catholic will be following Bishop Malone throughout the day as he visits the diocese. Follow our Facebook (www.facebook.com/wnycatholic) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/wnycatholic) for more updates and pictures. Look for the July edition of the newspaper for a full version of this story.
Bishop Richard Malone named new bishop of Buffalo