Bishop discusses importance of hope at latest vicariate Mass
You could think of Bishop Michael W. Fisher’s ongoing series of special vicariate thanksgiving Masses as being “on tour.” Since the series of Masses marking the Diocese of Buffalo’s 175th anniversary began earlier this year, he has visited many parts of the diocese well away from St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo.
His latest “tour stop” was in Niagara Falls, Nov. 6, at the St. Joseph Site of Holy Family Parish, where he presided over Mass for the Western Niagara Vicariate.
Bishop was joined by priests from the chancery, as well as most of the priests representing the parishes within the vicariate.
“We are reminded of our own need to have hope, as we carry forward the mission of the Church, the mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Resurrection,” he said. “And we embrace those traits needed to continue to proclaim this mission of hope. Part of that mission is to share a message of hope in a world that sometimes sees no hope.”
Bishop Fisher, during his homily, coupled the theme of hope in the weekend’s Gospel, taken from Luke, to the hope for better times as the diocese moves forward with its Road to Renewal. The ongoing journey aims to invigorate the Catholic faith among local believers, while helping parishes work more successfully with limited resources.
“It’s about coming together,” the bishop said. “Indeed, it’s about becoming family, ultimately concerned about its other members and their well-being, spiritually and materially. 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, it has everything to do – more importantly – with the renewing of our minds, our hearts and our souls, such that we think not only in the interest of our own particular parish, but in the interests of others. Members, one of another, that we are.”
Attendance was impressive, considering the weekend’s unusually warm weather and a Buffalo Bills game coinciding with the Mass provided potential distractions. Yet, at least two thirds of the pews were filled with worshippers of varying ages. Children were among the participants, as a group of students from Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls sang during the offertory.
In addition to addressing the 175th anniversary and the ongoing Road to Renewal process, Bishop Fisher shared a personal story in homily. He recalled when he was preparing to begin his seminary studies, and sought to purchase a copy of the Jerusalem Bible. He had entered a shop, and as part of his inquiry engaged in a conversation with a small group of women who asked him, “Have you been saved?”
The bishop, continuing his story, told the congregation that as he spoke of being baptized, and taking the steps toward a holy life, one of the women revealed she was a former Catholic because, as she had put it, the Catholic Church does not provide a feeling of hope.
That, Bishop Fisher told those inside the St. Joseph Site, is simply not true.
“I have always gone back to wondering about that discussion that we had, and the idea that we don’t have hope. Actually, when we have hope, doesn’t it really affect the way we live our life? Is it that with baptism, where we begin that life of hope? Baptism, where we’re called to a life of holiness. And this life of holiness should direct the way that we treat people, the way that we live out our life, the direction that we choose to go in our life,” he said. “Many of you have chosen to be husbands and wives, parents. Many of us have chosen to become priests, deacons, religious, to teach the faith. This is because we have hope in our hearts, hope that all that God promises will come true, if only we are faithful, if only we follow what the Lord is asking us to do.”
The Western Niagara Vicariate Thanksgiving Mass was just the latest in a series of such Masses to be held throughout the Diocese of Buffalo as part of its 175th anniversary celebrations. Bishop Fisher has presided over similar masses in Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties. More are scheduled early in the new year in the Niagara-Orleans, Genesee-Wyoming and Northwest Central vicariates.