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Catholic Life Clergy Assignments Ministry News

God answered Sister Mary McCarrick’s prayer, with a phone call

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Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, asked God to guide her on how she could continue to help through her ministry. God answered with a phone call.

Sister Mary is the former diocesan director of Catholic Charities of Buffalo and served in that position from 2010 through 2018. After her retirement from Catholic Charities, she served locally as provincial minister of the Stella Niagara community and served nationally as chair of the research committee of the Franciscan Federation.

Sister thought her future would be one of facilitating retreats and spiritual direction, but when the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, Sister Mary called Mount St. Mary’s Catholic Hospital and nursing home in Lewiston to see if she could help. She was turned down because the facilities couldn’t take any volunteers.

After being turned down, Sister Mary wondered how she could continue to serve. She began to end her personal prayer time by saying, “God, show me how you want me to serve your people.” On the Feast of the Annunciation Sister Mary ended her personal prayer with the same request. This time her cell phone rang. The caller was Bishop Edward Scharfenburger, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo. “Very few people have my cell phone number,” Sister Mary said.

Sister had never met the bishop. “I wouldn’t have known him if I had run into him at Tops,” she said. Bishop Scharfenburger asked Sister Mary if she could do something for the diocese and serve as chief operating officer of the Diocese of Buffalo. “It was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn’t know they were looking for anybody,” Sister Mary said.

The Diocese of Buffalo has never had a single person operate as COO. Prior to the creation of the position, one person had the role vicar general, modertor of the curia and COO. Currently, Father Walter Szczesny serves as moderator of the curia, and Msgr. Sal Manganello serves as vicar general with Father Peter Karalus.

Sister Mary will be responsible for creating and implementing an even more consultative process among priests, professional staff, Diocesan councils, and lay women and men to ensure broad input in the development and implementation of strategic priorities and initiatives. Sister Mary will also be overseeing all administrative functions of diocesan departments to ensure that each contributes to the advancement diocesan priorities which should be primarily directed to the support of parishes.

Sister Mary is well aware that she is starting her new responsibilities at a pivotal time. “I’m coming into a position at a time of considerable stress,” she said.

With reorganization under Chapter 11, a 25 percent reduction in Catholic Center staff, and the COVID-19 pandemic creating a significant reduction in parish contributions, Sister Mary still sees the diocese moving forward.

“We are moving ahead with faith in God, the people of God in Western New York,” she said, “to continue to enliven the church and its ministry to the people of Western New York.”

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