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New director finds Holy Name ‘exactly what I was looking for’

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Please welcome Bill Schuster as the newly-named executive director of the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies. He has been with the fraternal organization for 15 years and hopes to maintain the good service the members have provided.

Bill Schuster, executive director of the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies

His first order of business is to introduce himself to the leadership of the 39 active societies in Western New York, and remind them that the central office at the Catholic Center still exists. He hopes to open up lines of communication and have the parish presidents know they are part of something bigger.

“Even though they may be a small rural parish in Allegany, Chautauqua or Cattaraugus county, they’re still part of the diocese, the diocesan union,” Schuster said. “I want them to feel like they can contact me through this office and I have immediate contact with every other member in the diocese.”

Schuster’s day-to-day duties include running a monthly lottery, keeping track of dues, and maintaining correspondence with other dioceses.

“The executive director is the person who runs the central office,” he explained. “It’s also a seat on the board of directors. This is a union. We have a president, a vice president, etc. Their duties mostly preside over the meetings. But, as executive director, I’m pretty much the go-to guy for any member that has any questions or concerns.”

He encourages all members to call with questions and concerns.

Although Schuster would like to see the number of members and parishes with Holy Name Societies grow, he realizes the difficulties in getting people to commit to Catholic organizations nowadays. He believes the Road to Renewal will have a positive effect on membership, which he admits has been dwindling in recent years.

“With this Road to Renewal initiative, we see that as a positive,” he said. “So, for instance, if there is a family of parishes where one parish has a Holy Name Society and the other two or three or four do not, there’s an opportunity for that Holy Name Society or any other lay organization to reach out to the other parishes in their family and perhaps begin a new chapter with a larger group.”

Schuster, who lives in Clarence, joined the union through Our Lady of Peace Parish after searching for involvement in the parish community beyond Sunday Mass.

“I had been an usher for many years at my church. I was looking for a spiritual connection; something more than just helping out with fundraisers. I was really looking for that extra spiritual connection,” he explained. “The first Holy Name meeting I went to had a guest speaker. Father Leon Biernat gave a us a talk on the history of the Holy Name Society. I thought that was very interesting. I already knew some of the guys in the group, and I was impressed with their prayerfulness, with their attention to spirituality, with the mission statement itself. So, I joined with that first night. It was exactly what I was looking for.”

The primary objective of the society is to bring about love and reverence for the Holy Name of God and Jesus Christ. The secondary goal is to suppress blasphemy, perjury, profanity, and, as far as the members can, to prevent those vices in others.

It had its origin in the Council of Lyons which prescribed that the faithful should have a special devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, that reparation might be made for insults offered to it by Albigenses and other blasphemers. The Friars Preachers were preaching everywhere with the zeal of St. Dominic; it was natural, then, that Gregory X selected the Dominicans to preach the devotion, which he did by a letter to Blessed John of Vercelli, master general of the order, Sept. 20, 1274.

 “There is a big push right now nationwide for the canonization of our patron, Blessed John of Vercelli, a 13th-century Italian priest who founded the Holy Name Society,” Shuster said. He plans to host a pilgrimage to Fatima Shrine in Lewiston where there is a statue of Blessed John.

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