Buffalo’s new bishop shares prayer service with clergy
Even though digital media has made the world smaller, allowing people across different states to speak face to face, for many priests in the Diocese of Buffalo, Jan. 14 was the first time they saw their new shepherd, Bishop Michael W. Fisher, in person. Although they have met via Zoom meetings, Covid restrictions have prevented Buffalo’s 15th bishop to come to Western New York to visit, as is typical for a bishop-elect.
During an evening prayer service held at OLV National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, Bishop Fisher introduced himself to the clergy and religious of the diocese.
“My dear brother bishops, priests, deacons, brothers and sisters, I greet you in Christ Jesus, I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to this gathering, particularly in this magnificent basilica of Our Lady of Victory,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get here by trains, plans and automobiles since November. But I come here and am happy to be among you.”
Well aware of the toll the priest abuse scandal has had on clergy, Bishop Fisher spoke about his concerns about a lack of enthusiasm for the work of the priesthood, as well as a lack of vision and zeal among the clergy.
“My brothers, these are very much dangers that surround us. They’re part of our culture. They keep us from fully living out and appreciating the wonderful gift of sharing in the Lord’s priesthood,” he said. “My brothers, I know that this is true because I have experienced them myself at times through my life as a priest.”
In March 2015, Pope Francis addressed priests, religious and deacons saying three things that would also lead others to holiness and that they should lean on themselves, were adoration, a love of the Church, and apostolic zeal, which he defined as “a special quality of being a missionary.”
“Love the Church and make her known,” Bishop Fisher said.
He closed by sharing his excitement over his appointment to Buffalo, calling it the “best Christmas gift I could have received” and showing his openness to meeting with and hearing from the priests of the diocese.
“I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you, to listen to your joys of ministry, and your struggles, to hear about your people and your parishes, your ministry. Know that my door will always be open to you and I invite you to come and talk with me. At the same time, I intend to come to you to get to know you and your parish communities, your people and the cultures, traditions, the things that define the personalities of your parish communities as unique families of faith.” He promises to always be “candid with you, clear in conversations.”
Following the service, a few of the flock offer their thoughts on the new leader of the diocese.
“He comes off as a shepherd, as a pastor, which is what he says he is. He really comes off as someone who just wants to serve the faithful of the diocese,” said Father Michael LaMarca, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Warsaw. “I really believe our diocese at this time needs a pastor. I think that is exactly what the Holy Spirit has given us.”
Father Paul Cygan, parochial vicar of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville, is very hopeful about the new bishop. “He started off on the right foot. From the very beginning he said, ‘Call me Bishop Mike.’ So, from that moment on, I thought he was going to be a pastoral bishop, one that cares about the priests of the diocese as well as the lay faithful. I sense that this is a new chapter in the diocese; we’re able to turn the page with Bishop Mike.”
His pastor, Father Leon Biernat, agreed. “Listening to his homily tonight was awesome,” Father Biernat said. “I think he is just a very pastoral man and seems to have a genuine concern for the priests, which is really wonderful because as the community is hurting, so too are the priests. He seems to be a joyful person and a prayerful person.”
Bishop Fisher will be installed as the 15th bishop of Buffalo on Friday, Jan 15, at 2 p.m. the service will be livestreamed at www.buffalodiocese.org.
Photo – Bishop Michael Fisher concelebrates solemn vespers at Our Lady of Victory Basilica with the priests of the diocese. The liturgy was held the night before Bishop Fisher is to be installed as the 15th Bishop of Buffalo.
Patrick McPartland/Managing Editor