The Year of Faith is almost over, and the Diocese of Buffalo came together AT St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo Sunday afternoon to celebrate the theme, as well as move forward with a renewed focus on New Evangelization.
The prayer service was designed to celebrate many of the different cultures of the Catholic faith, as well as regions throughout the diocese. Representatives from every county joined the opening procession, as Nigerian music was performed. Prior to the celebration, dozens of people from different nationalities prayed the rosary.
It was also an opportunity to continue one of the Year of Faith's main themes - renewing faith - by the diocese creating a commission for the promotion of New Evangelization. Bishop Richard J. Malone installed 19 people to the new commission, which will advise him on new proposals designed to enrich the vitality of the Church, work with vicariate leaders to reach out to inactive Catholics, help implement a diocesan strategic plan for evangelization and look for new methods of outreach. The bishop called for Catholics to "an even stronger commitment by all of us to bear witness to Jesus Christ."
"It is God's will, after all, that people come to know Him, hear His word and to find in Him the road to salvation," Bishop Malone said. "Those 72 first disciples, and we, are instruments of that saving will of our God. When we evangelize, it's God's work into which we have been drawn, His mission in which we have been sent."
In his homily, Bishop Malone said 77 percent of Catholics don't attend Mass regularly not because of "challenging" Church doctrine like abortion, but because of the everyday, practical realities of life. However, he said many of these fallen away Catholics are family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
"Good people, but away from the Lord's table," the bishop said. "We know that many Catholics point to their busy lives. Lack of time, family responsibilities, work ... all very real things, but they point to those as the reasons for a gradual drift away from active involvement in the Church."
Several Catholics delivered personal testimonies of their journey of faith during the service. Jeff Papia, a recently married teacher at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore, said his Catholicism wasn't popular in college but he continued to live the faith. He said he learned it's hardest to be Catholic when nobody's watching; holiness is a habit and being involved with other Catholics in parish life helps you maintain the faith.
"Without them, I wouldn't be able to stay Catholic, without the strength and support of the Church," he said.
Sister M. Carissima Ogbu, DMMM, a missionary woman religious from Nigeria, told the audience how proud her mother was when she declared her vocation. Christie Thein, a mother involved with Lighthouse Media, described how she leaves Catholic media, like books and CDs, on airplanes for other people to find.
"I believe there is so much power in a simple invitation," Thein said. "The books, CDs and others are tools. Media can go where no Catholic can go, but we need people to get them there."
Finally, college student Stephanie Arroyo described how she uses her Catholicism by listening to cashiers she trains at her job at Wegman's.
"That's just not incredible customer service; that's loving thy neighbor as I love myself," she said. "Loving Christ is never the coolest thing to do, but that doesn't mean I won't do it."
Bishop Malone said those who attended Sunday's service, and who continue to preach the Gospel to others, inspired him.
"For all of the ways that you, and so many others, are living faithful Catholic lives and intend to continue in this mission, perhaps in very personal quiet ways ... whatever the setting for all of this, my brothers and sisters, I am so grateful. You are an inspiration to me and I hope, to one another. You are, speaking as your bishop, a reason for my hope."
The day began with a world mission rosary, a ritual that was created by Archbishop Fulton Sheen in 1951 as a way to pray for the whole world, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. About 40 people stood on the altar of the cathedral reciting their prayers in 11 different languages, including Burmese, Korean, Spanish, Swahili and Polish. The rosary beads were a variety of colors, each representing a different section of the world, such as blue for the Pacific Ocean, red for the Americas and the fire of the Christian faith, and green for Africa's forests and grasslands.