Renewal Mass reignites and refocuses faithful
The Diocese of Buffalo celebrated its third annual Renewal Mass bringing the diocese closer together and noting the progress being made on the Family of Parishes structure.
Held Aug. 27 at OLV National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, the Mass was preceded by a recitation of the rosary for the renewal of the diocese. Parish representatives and pillar leaders brought knotted ropes symbolic of the problems the diocese has faced in recent years. Five knots represent abuse, indifference, mistrust, lack of faith, isolation and individualism. Guests were asked to undo one knot as a sign of progress while praying the rosary.
Father Bryan Zielenieski, vicar for Renewal and Development for the diocese, took a quick attendance at the start of Mass, asking who was a parish representative, who was a pillar member, and who “came for a Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Victory today and got a surprise.” There were a few that raised their hand on the last one.
Listening to the radio while driving to parishes across the eight counties of the diocese, Father Zielenieski found a Billie Eilish song containing the lyrics, “I used to float, now I just fall down, I used to know, but I’m not sure now what I was made for, what I was made for … Think I forgot how to be happy, somethin’ I’m not, but somethin’ I can be, somethin’ I wait for, somethin’ I’m made for.”
“That song caught my ear. Why? Because it speaks to what renewal is all about. This world, our society is striving and yearning for meaning. But the question is, where do we look for that meaning? Where do we find our identity? Where do we find our value? Is it something we truly believe we’re made for? A purpose? Are we made for love? Are we made for relationships? Unfortunately, our culture tells us we can identify who we are on our own. But we as Catholics realize that’s not the case.”
Looking at the Book of Isaiah, Father Zielenieski sees Shebna, the leader of the chosen people, getting distracted from his purpose. He becomes focused on himself. He even prepares his own tomb.
“Shebna allowed the power and authority of his office to color the vision that he had for the chosen people. Instead of leading them toward God, he worried about caring for himself,” Father Zielenieski explained.
Seeing this, Isaiah threatens to give his power to Eliakim. But Eliakim also gets caught up in his own power.
“Why do we need a third renewal Mass? Because it’s easy in our culture and in our world and our Church to get distracted by today, and forget the vision of where we are going and the renewal that really needs to be at the heart of all that we are doing as God’s people. We need to be reminded that there have been mistakes in authority and leadership. Not just with the hierarchy, but with all of us,” Father Zielenieski said.
“We’ve all been distracted from what is important in our lives and that is being God’s chosen people, of living out our baptismal call. Isaiah reminds us today, just like he was doing to Shebna, to don’t get distracted.
“When we get distracted, who suffers? The world, the people of God around us, the communities, the poor, the marginalized. They are the ones who suffer because we are called to be that body of Christ that builds the world up. But when we lose our focus, when we lose our vision, they are truly the ones on the fringes suffering the most.”
Father Zielenieski again addressed the necessity of a diocesan renewal.
“We need this third Renewal Mass to reignite that mission and that purpose, and to turn the heat up on the Renewal, if you will, to continue to drive forward in bringing hope and changing our culture in bringing the Gospel by the gift of our lives to a world so in need,” he said.
He closed out this homily with a few words of encouragement.
“The work that you as the lay people of Western New York are doing in your parishes is the work of Christ in the field. You are the ones bringing the way, the truth and the life, to the areas and margins of the world that need it the most. And we must continue to work collaboratively to do that.”
Janet and Steven Vant were just a couple of the guests who attended the Mass and reception. Janet is on the Liturgy Pillar for Family #5, while her husband serves as the Stewardship chairperson. They loved the Mass. Janet called it “Beautiful, spiritual, spirit filled.”
Their Chautauqua County family has just begun the process of planning the important pillars of liturgy, spiritual life, forming disciples, outreach/inreach, stewardship and administration.
“We’re working on stewardship of taking care of the parish finances, the parish facilities and getting them so they will carry on for the next generation,” Steven explained about his role.
Educating the youth and public communication have also been ongoing concerns.
“Our problem is the size of the family in area,” Steven said. “It’s half of Chautauqua County. So, it’s a huge area to cover and to try and get people together to meet to do things together, to understand that even if we’re 40 miles apart, we have to work together.”
The solution they found is to rotate meetings and use a centralized location to cut down on the driving times.
“It’s change and people don’t deal with change well. It will be OK though,” said Janet. “We will make it through.”