Diocesan 175th anniversary celebrations come to Wellsville
“We have to feel, as we leave here, that I can make a difference in my world today.”
Those were the words of Msgr. Vincent Becker to a congregation of approximately 130 people Sunday, Sept. 18, during his homily in a special afternoon Mass inside Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville.
The Mass was the latest in a series being held among the vicariates throughout the Diocese of Buffalo, as part of its ongoing celebration of its 175th anniversary.
Sunday’s Mass represented the celebration for the Allegany Vicariate. The parish is one of several making up the Catholic Communities of South Eastern Allegany County, which also includes Blessed Sacrament (Andover), Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (Belmont), St. Mary (Bolivar), St. Brendan Oratory (Almond), St. Jude Chapel (Alfred), and St. Joseph Oratory (Scio).
Bishop Michael W. Fisher led the Mass but left it to Deacon David Harvey and Msgr. Becker to deliver the Gospel and the homily, respectively.
Msgr. Becker recalled that over several weekends, readings at weekend Masses focused directly on discipleship and being a follower of Christ, including the warning from Jesus that such discipleship would be difficult, but worth it. It was from there that he led into his remarks about the 175th anniversary of the diocese, and the roots of Catholic faith and places of worship that were planted even before the official foundation of the Diocese of Buffalo.
He made mention of a cemetery in Scio, where according to the monsignor, many graves are those of people who donated land so that a church, as well as that cemetery, could be constructed. Becker also recalled how St. John Neumann’s ventures through Western New York included visits to the towns of Sheldon and Java. His visits came at a time when priests would travel to provide the Eucharist and other sacraments, but the nearest diocesan seat was in Rochester.
The archbishop of New York, Msgr. Becker stated, realized that was not a practical model, which set the stage for the birth of the Diocese of Buffalo.
“Way back then, 175 years ago, in fact even 10 years earlier than that, (Neumann) was in this area. And all of them came with that same desire to be disciples to get Jesus’ mission across to most people,” Becker said.
He continued by speaking of the challenges the Diocese of Buffalo and Catholic Church at large continue to face in more modern times.
“Indeed, the Church today is trying to reach out at a time when it’s difficult,” he said. “You know the difficulties that exist, we all know at least some of our young people today, kind of see the Church as old fashioned, it’s outdated, it’s irrelevant. There are quite a few former Catholics around who were baptized Catholic, but they identify themselves now as former Catholics, which means ‘I ain’t a Catholic anymore. And I don’t want to be.’ And in our modern culture, too, there seems to be something where people like to say ‘I can take care of myself, I know what I want, I don’t want that.’ And the church, in all of this, has to continue to remain faithful to the mission of Jesus, of reaching out to especially the most needy of all people.”
Peter Vero and Holly Scott carried the Mass’s offertory gifts to Bishop Fisher. Vero is originally from Cheektowaga but owns property in the Town of Belfast.
“One of the big differences between living in Buffalo and going to church and coming out here, I mean, Buffalo is just a mile away to get out to church. My parish here, I’m driving 20 miles one way to get to the parish. So, there’s one of the big differences,” he said.
He also spoke of how the monsignor’s sermon resonated with the congregation.
“We do need to work hard, you know, to spread the word and to be good Catholics and be good examples,” said Vero, who also volunteers as a eucharistic minister and made his debut earlier in the weekend as a lector.
Scott, meanwhile, grew up in the town. She, too, is a lector and volunteers as a eucharistic minister, but is awaiting completion of certification for the latter.
“I have to go through the classes, because I didn’t get the certificate,” she said. “So, when Deacon Dave starts the classes, I have to go through those.”
Upcoming Vicariate Masses include two scheduled for the Chautauqua and Southeast Buffalo Vicariates. The first will be held Sunday, Sept. 25 at Chautauqua Institution, while the next will be held Sunday, Oct. 2 at Our Lady of Charity, Holy Family site in Buffalo. Both Masses are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.