Past and future are examined as diocese begins 175th anniversary
With an opening procession of 36 lay people representing the newly-forming families of parishes in the diocese, the Diocese of Buffalo’s 175th Anniversary Mass held Sunday afternoon on May 1 kicked off a yearlong list of activities to commemorate its founding by Pope Pius IX in 1847.
Bishop Michael W. Fisher, concelebrants retired Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone and retired Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham, with a large contingent of diocesan and religious priests and deacons, celebrated the Mass that not only touched on our diocesan history, but spoke to its present and future.
“Why are we here to celebrate, why are we here as a diocese, why are we going to church but to spread the good news that the Lord is risen,” Bishop Fisher explained.
He welcomed his brother priests and sister and brother religious and thanked them for their contributions of growth and diversity of the diocese these past 175 years and beyond. He also thanked the representatives present from the more than 160 parishes throughout the diocese.
The bishop spoke of the Archbishop of New York John Hughes who traveled to Buffalo to install John Timon as Buffalo’s first bishop to meet the needs of a growing Catholic population 175 years ago. At that time, the diocese was 20 counties with a handful of priests and churches which served the faithful and began to expand rapidly.
Bishop Fisher touched on the Gospel from John and the need of the disciples to get back to the basics of serving the Lord and not themselves.
“As we look to our own day, we need to pay close attention to this, and we need to ask ourselves as Church today, are we taking care of the Lord’s business or are we mostly concerned with our own business.”
For the past 175 years the Church in Western New York has been engaged in our call for discipleship and mission. Times were difficult in the 1840s as Catholics were persecuted, but Bishop Timon persevered to build St Joseph Cathedral, completed in 1855, and build the diocese.
The bishop highlighted the works of St. John Neumann and Blessed Nelson Baker for their outstanding work, as well as the great religious orders who came as disciples, missionaries and evangelizers to establish and maintain our outstanding education institutions as well as our health care organizations.
“We are so thankful and so grateful for what they have done.”
Looking to the future, we seem to have insurmountable challenges ahead of us. How do we bring healing to those who have been harmed or abused by those who forget their call to protect and serve the people, especially those most vulnerable among us?
“How do we see this time and pastoral need as one that we as Church continue to seek forgiveness for our lack of love and losing sight of our call to holiness and not protecting God’s loved ones? How will our future diocese be defined by our need and desire for healing and justice? What is the character and legacy of that discipleship if not one of love – true agape love that Jesus called his disciples and calls us to,” he continued.
“As we celebrate our present and our future may the Lord bless us in our endeavor and bring healing and strength and the grace that we need to be the disciples that we are called to be and embrace that mission that He gave his disciples along the Sea of Galilee so many years ago.”
The anniversary celebration will continue with Parish Days of Prayer throughout the diocese, as well as Bishop Fisher celebrating a 175th Anniversary Mass in each of the 12 vicariates in the diocese.
A Day of Service on the vicariate and parish level will happen on Oct. 22, and a Diocesan Pilgrimage Guidebook will be published later this year inspiring the faithful to rediscover the spiritual treasurers of the diocese.
For more information on the 175th, please visit, www.buffalodiocese.org/175th.Also, the church-wide Synod is an opportunity to listen to many voices within the Church. We encourage you to get involved. Please visit www.buffalodiocese.org/synod.