Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Bishop Richard J. Malone is applauded as he enters the cafeteria at the Catholic Center to be introduced to the staff there.
The Diocese of Buffalo got a vision of its future when Bishop Richard J. Malone made his first visit to Western New York. The Boston-born bishop, currently the shepherd of Portland, Maine, came to the diocese for a quick introductory visit, during which he met staff members and saw landmarks of the rich Catholic diocese.
Following a press conference in Daybreak TV studios, Bishop Malone met with the nearly 180 staff members of the Catholic Center, located in Downtown Buffalo. There, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec said his successor should be a “person who was pastoral, openhearted, with a sense of being with the people and for the people in every way.” All evidence points to Bishop Malone being that man.
“I want to have an open door arrangement with all of you,” said Bishop Malone. “Don’t ever hesitate, if there’s a reason you wish to see me personally, we’re just going to make that happen. I know you all have levels of supervisors here, but don’t ever let that block access to the bishop. I’m here for you. You will be among the most important collaborators.”
He then personally met with each of the employees present, from the secretary of Catholic Education to the cafeteria staff.
After their introduction to the new bishop, the Office of Parish Life rousingly stated, “We like him.”
“I loved that (open-door) invitation,” said Dennis Mahaney, associate director of the Office of Parish Life.
“Obviously, he’d have to be a superman to be able to have his door open to everybody, but that’s his stance. ‘This is the way I would like it to be. No one should feel that there are layers to get to me.’ That he is here for us as much as we are here for him. I thought that was very noble for a bishop to be so servant oriented as that.”
In his address, the bishop referred to lay ecclesial ministers as being the engines that drive the boat of the diocese. This caught the attention of Kathleen Heffern, director of Parish Life, who has worked with lay ecclesial ministers for a number of years. While shaking Bishop Malone’s hand, she thanked him for mentioning them.
“He said, ‘They often get lost, don’t they?’ And I said, ‘Yes they do.’ Then he said, ‘They are so, so important,’” Heffern said.
Mary Beth Coates, director of Lifelong Faith Formation, had heard Bishop Malone speak at a small convocation introducing the “National Directory of Catechesis,” a reference resource for those involved in catechesis in 2005. She was so impressed with his presentation, she twice invited the bishop to speak in Buffalo. Unfortunately, the bishop’s schedule did not allow that to happen.
“His vision is very positive. He understands, it seems, the changing religious landscape of the Church. He knows we need to adapt methodologies, but not our message,” Coates said.
Bishop Malone chaired the USCCB’s Committee for Evangelization and Catechesis since 2008. Coates thinks he will be a blessing for the next chapter of the Diocese of Buffalo.
“He strikes me as very intelligent. He knows the Church. He knows the culture. He doesn’t hesitate to speak the truth, sometimes the truth is hard to hear, and he’s engaging. When I heard his motto I thought it was perfect. ‘Live the Truth in Love.’ So, I think that characterizes my experience of him, speaking in his teaching role. He’s living the truth and loving our faith. He doesn’t sugarcoat it, but is very pastoral.”
For Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic schools, Bishop Malone is everything she’d been hoping for.
“I am impressed with Bishop Malone’s desire to re-energize the Diocese of Buffalo and to strengthen our Catholic landscape especially schools and parishes,” Henry said. “I have been praying for a visionary, compassionate, intelligent and collegial leader. My prayers have been answered.”
Henry said she is also optimistic about Bishop Malone’s abilities to restore hope, support new ideas and lead the Catholic community.
“I expect that he will serve as a model of excellence and raise us to great levels so that we all succeed in preserving the most effective and important resources of evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States. We have a bright future.”
Carol Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic education, was pleased with Bishop Malone’s friendly approach and is eager to work alongside him.
“According to the National Directory for Catechesis, ‘Lifelong catechesis is absolutely necessary for the Christian formation of the faithful,’” she said. “The Division of Catholic Education looks forward to working with Bishop Malone to explore new opportunities and collaborations to carry out a vision for catechesis and education for evangelization in the Diocese of Buffalo.”
Additionally, like Kostyniak, Bishop Malone also served in the role of secretary for Catholic education.
“I look forward to sharing some of those experiences,” Kostyniak said.
Later in the day, Bishop Malone traveled to Catholic Charities headquarters to meet the board of directors. Upon his installation the bishop will become president of Catholic Charities and chairman of its board. He has been very involved with the social service agency of Portland, where he served as president of the corporation, but a layman served as chair. Both operations offer much of the same services, but Portland is much smaller in size.
“I am a believer in this great work,” he said. “We often say in Maine, even though great things are happening, Catholic Charities is much to much of a secret.”
Dennis C. Walczyk, chief executive officer for Catholic Charities of Buffalo, did a little research into Bishop Malone, by asking his colleague in Portland about him.
“They’re going to miss his terribly in Maine,” Walczyk said. “He was a very strong supporter of Catholic Charities. Steve Laterneau enjoyed working with Bishop Malone. He felt that when he got to know Steve and the work that he was doing, he trusted him to do his job and let him do his job; wasn’t a micromanager.”
Walczyk felt that the bishop seemed very down to earth and connected well with the people. As with the Catholic Center, the bishop met with about 45 employees.
“The fact that he chose Catholic Charities as one of his stops on his first day is very meaningful, very significant to our board, our employees and Sister Mary (McCarrick, diocesan director) and myself,” Walczyk said. “It shows he understands the work of Catholic Charities and is supportive of what we do. First and foremost it really means a lot that he came here.”
“We’re delighted in meeting Bishop Malone and seeing what he will bring to the diocese,” Sister Mary said. “His enthusiasm and experience with Catholic Charities, as well as Catholic education and catechesis in general, make him a well-rounded leader. We are eager to work with him. It will be sad to lose Bishop Kmiec, but knowing he will stay in the diocese, he will also be a support to Bishop Malone.”
As welcoming gifts Bishop Malone received a Catholic Charities cap, umbrella and pin, which he put on immediately.
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