Missionary spirit still thrives in Niagara County
“Last but not least,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher as he welcomed the congregation to the final vicariate Mass marking the Buffalo Diocese’s 175th anniversary. Those who worship in the Eastern Niagara-Orleans vicariate met at St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport on March 24.
“Such richness in history,” Bishop Fisher said. “I welcome in a very special way all of you who come to celebrate in the legacy and history of our diocese.”
Father Richard Csizmar, who recently retired from Holy Family Parish in Albion, gave his pedigree while opening his homily. The first 25 years of his priesthood were spent in Niagara County. The next 25 were in Genesee County. He has served in Orleans County for the past 20 years.
“I’m at heart a Niagara County boy,” he said.
He called the diocesan anniversary, “Our chance to reflect upon what our lives have been like and what they were like for those who prepared for us. So, as we are here now, reflecting upon where we will be yet again with the Road to Renewal, it’s good to look back a little bit at where we’ve been. It’s been a long tradition of handing out the Catholic faith in Eastern Niagara County and Orleans County.”
St. John the Baptist Parish was established back in 1834, when New York state was one large diocese. Other parishes began to spring up shortly after. St. Mary’s in Medina 1840, St. Joseph in Albion 1852, St. Stephen in Middleport 1854, St. Bridget in Newfane 1859, St. Patrick in Barker 1865, and St. Mary in Holley 1866.
“Missionaries came to this area to share their faith with us. Those who became entranced sacrificed much of their lives so that our faith would be flourishing,” Father Csizmar said.
St. John Neumann was one of those missionaries who came to preach at St. John’s.
In that day’s reading from Exodus, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai. While waiting 40 days, the people down below started doing “all kinds of bad things.”
“They were about to abandon their God,” Father Csizmar explained. “So, Moses reminds the people to be faithful to their God. And Jesus reminds us centuries after that to also continue to rely on the teachings of the Father.
“That continues to be our challenge today. Sharing our faith with others – those who are practicing their faith with us every day, those who practice once in a while, and those who have lost their way somewhat. So, we’re asked to really help people to see the more that is available in our faith. The more that Jesus Christ provides. How could you not want Jesus in your life?”
“I hope you have days of encouragement in your faith life and no matter how challenging things have been in recent years … we need to walk more closely with the Lord. That’s what we’re encouraged to do during this Lenten season,” Father Csizmar concluded.
Bishop Fisher commented on the homily. Noting the references to the “goodness and the beauty of our diocese.”
“One of the great advantages that I have as bishop is to be able to see the big picture, you might say, and the wonder of the faith that is here in Western New York in all of our vicariates, our parishes, the beauty of our Church. But most importantly the beauty of our people. The faith is strong, and as Father pointed out so wonderfully, it is our time to keep the strength of that faith moving forward. The world needs Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bill Higgins, a longtime parishioner of St. John’s, called the service, “Outstanding.”
“It’s not often we get to see the bishop do a Mass. With the congregation of the priests of Niagara County, it was kind of special,” he said.