Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Newly appointed Bishop of Buffalo, Bishop Richard J. Malone, visits the crypts of former bishops as he tours St. Joseph Cathedral with cathedral rector, Msgr. James Campbell.
People who know him well have described Bishop Richard J. Malone as a “regular guy.” Some of the priests of the diocese had the chance to see just how regular he is during a cookout at the Bishop’s Residence in Buffalo.
The gathering has become a tradition started by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec as a way to close out the Council of Priests meetings and give his thoughts on the previous year.
“It was hot dogs and cheeseburgers and good stuff,” said Father Fabian Maryanski, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Sloan, one of the 40 or so who attended. Members of the Council of Priests and episcopal vicars received the invite. “I was very pleased to meet Bishop Malone. First impression? Good guy. I think he’s going to do a great job in our diocese,” said Father Maryanski.
The meeting has no set agenda, and is meant to be informal. A popular topic of conversation was the bishop’s love of baseball.
“I said, ‘Bishop, I read in the paper that you’re a Boston Red Sox fan,’ and he started talking about the Boston Red Sox. I reminded him, ‘Remember who won the World Series last fall.’ He said, ‘St. Louis Cardinals,’ and that’s my team. It was a good exchange. He seemed to be very warm. He seemed to be very comfortable. I told him the priests of our diocese are a great bunch of guys and they’re going to work with him. He felt very secure with that,” said Father Maryanski.
Father Jacob Ledwon, pastor of St. Joseph University Parish in Buffalo, spoke to the new bishop about their common bonds of campus ministry and music. Bishop Malone was campus minister at Wellesley College and Harvard University, while serving in his native Massachusetts.
“He said he really enjoyed that ministry and we shared a little bit about how important it is to work with young people at that age,” Father Ledwon said. “He asked how I liked it. What I really like about it is that it is always fresh. There are new people coming in with a lot of energy and it is always challenging. So, it is not a routine kind of ministry. Every year it’s kind of changing and evolving.”
The two also share a love of music and tickling the ivories, although for both, their ministry has taken up much of their playing time. Bishop Malone does plan to get back into the routine of playing and will move a piano into his new residence once in Buffalo.
“We both commiserated that we can’t play what we played in high school when we had our chops,” Father Ledwon said.
While talking, Father Ledwon welcomed the bishop to the class of 1972, along with Father Michael Zuffoletto and Father James Judge. Bishop Malone was ordained one week before the Buffalo guys in 1972.
“I found him to be very engaging and a very attentive listener. When I was leaving about an hour later, he made reference to our conversation. It was more than just small talk. He is an active listener,” Father Ledwon said.
He thinks Bishop Malone will easily pick up from Bishop Kmiec’s work with the Journey in Faith and Grace. As St. Paul said, one plants the seed, another waters, and another reaps the crops.
“He seems to be very young and vibrant. He seems to have a lot of energy and be a very vibrant person, very focused,” said Father Ledwon.
During a brief exchange, Father Gregory Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean, offered greetings from some old friends of the bishop.
“I extended best wishes to him from a priest from this area and a religious woman from this area who knew him and worked in New England with him. They now work in our diocese,” Father Dobson said. “He remembered them and asked me to express his gratitude to them.”
From 2001-2007, Bishop Malone was episcopal advisor to the National Conference Catechetical Leadership where he worked with Father Anthony Salim, now pastor of St. Joseph Maronite Parish in Olean. Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF, is a native of Lowell, Mass., and has ministered in New England, New York and New Jersey.
They also spoke about the Southern Cattaraugus vicariate, which extends to the Pennsylvania border. To help identify the geography, the priests from the vicariate placed a map in their congratulatory ad with pictures of the wildlife that inhabit the area – including an eagle, a bear and a buck.
“The priests were calling it Bullwinkle. It’s not Bullwinkle. It’s a deer. It’s Bambi’s father,” Father Dobson said. “We ended up with just a few little subtle critters there to give the bishop a sense that this is an urban area surrounded by farmland and rather wild territory. There’s a bear down the street from me and I’m in downtown Olean,” he said with a slight laugh.
He has high hopes for the new bishop, whom he noted seemed at ease with the very informal gathering.
“He appeared very comfortable and very cordial in that setting. He seemed very much at home with priests already,” Father Dobson said. “I think he’s a great blessing for our diocese. His reputation in Catholic education will be a great asset to our community. He has a reputation as a very pastoral man. I think he will be a wonderful bishop.”
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