Bishop promises ‘more impactful ministry’ at Chautauqua Mass
Out of the 12 vicariate Masses being held to mark the 175th anniversary of the Diocese of Buffalo, the Chautauqua site has to be the most unusual. Instead of a church, more than 100 people gathered at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater on Sept. 25 to hear from Bishop Michael W. Fisher and the clergy from the Southern Tier vicariate.
The readings for that Sunday involved a parable of a poor man being comforted in the afterlife. Bishop Fisher compared the fate of Lazarus to those experiencing the fears and uncertainty of the diocesan Renewal process. The diocese is restructuring parishes into Families of Parishes that will share resources and leadership to deal with the “harsh, but undeniable realities that threaten the sustainability of our parishes and our communities across the diocese.”
“We have embarked on a path to consider a more collaborative approach to meet the needs of our faithful and our brothers and sisters with whom we share this common bond of faith, hope and love. Sharing the abundance of resources that collectively are more available and considering how we can better provide for and support those parish families that despite the determination in the faith are struggling and future is uncertain. It’s about coming together. It’s about being Catholic. Indeed, as a family ultimately concerned about its other members,” the bishop said.
“We, who are many, are one body of Christ, and individually we are members, one of another. So, while the Road to Renewal is certainly about addressing the realities of limited resources, financial constraints, declining church attendance, the challenge of providing sufficiently for the sacramental needs of our people and our obligation to provide faith-inspired education for our young people and for our adults, it has everything to do with the renewal of mind and heart, such that we think and act, not only think in the interest of our own particular parish family, but in the interest of others, one of another that we are.”
Much like Lazarus, the bishop is confident we will see comfort at the end of the Road to Renewal.
“As we are setting out on our Road to Renewal, we cannot be fearful. We cannot be preoccupied by our fears of what we might lose, rather we should be secure in that in which we stand to gain.
… I promise that if we continue on this journey of faith, this journey that we celebrate in our anniversary, this journey of renewal, this journey of revival, this journey of rejoicing, we will engage in more impactful ministry, enjoy great abundance in God’s grace, and experience even more profoundly the presence, grace and innumerable gifts of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that has called each of us by name by our baptism and gathered us as one at this eucharistic table.”
The Chautauqua Institution is dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life through a program that explores the important religious, social and political issues of our times. The amphitheater has hosted such popular acts as the Beach Boys and Sheryl Crow.
The unique setting for the Mass was the idea of Father Todd Remick, vicar forane for the Chautauqua Vicariate, who reached out to the Chautauqua Institution to host the celebration.
“Of course, we said yes,” said Maureen Rovegno, director of Religion for the Chautauqua Institution, to Father Remick’s suggestion. “We’d love to do that because we have a very active Catholic community here.”
The Chautauqua Institution sees visitors from around the country and around the world coming for a few days, a few weeks, or its nine-week active season.
The Felton Family from Sacred Heart Parish in nearby Lakewood, stopped by. Craig Felton described the Mass, which featured a mixed choir with members of the 14 Chautauqua parishes as “Beautiful.”
“We love the choir and the organ. It was great to have the bishop here and celebrate with the rest of our community,” he said.
Sacred Heart is currently without a pastor. “We’re sharing priests right now, which is going OK. We’re adjusting to it,” said Craig Felton. “We’re eager to learn more about the renewal and how that will impact our parish community and get to know parishioners from the other parishes as well.”
The parish has been working with others in the vicariate in preparation of becoming a family.
“We’ve been getting together with some young adults trying to start a group of young adults and families,” said Kaity Felton. “We met a couple who moved here from Chicago. They are trained missionaries to the family. So, they are going to be leading some of our small groups. Which is something we’re excited for. Father Paul (Cygan, parochial vicar for Holy Apostles Parish in Jamestown) is going to be starting a family adoration which is something we never had before. I think the whole Renewal process is shaking things up in a good way for us. We’re kind of being forced to meet people from other parishes and connect and share resources like they said in the Mass today.”
The next anniversary Mass will be Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m., at Our Lady of Charity Parish (Holy Family worship site) for the Southeast Buffalo Vicariate.