If anyone is looking for me on Feb. 14, I will be in Portland, Maine - and not on a vacation! That day, the memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius (and, though not in the official liturgical calendar, St. Valentine's Day!) is the long-awaited date for the Mass of Installation of the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Portland. Bishop Robert P. Deeley, my successor, was a seminary classmate when we began our studies for the priesthood in Cardinal O'Connell Seminary in Boston in September of 1964. We offer him our prayers for a blessed and fruitful tenure as Maine's new chief shepherd.
Monday marked a year and a half since my own installation as 14th Bishop of Buffalo on Aug. 10, 2012. While it has been a privilege to serve two great dioceses during these 18 months, I must admit that it has not been easy.
Weekly video conferences from our Buffalo Chancery with my former senior staff in Maine, along with regular visits to Portland and daily communication by email, texting, phone and scanning of documents, made the pastoral governance of the Maine diocese possible, if strained. What concerned me most was the length of time the Catholic community in Maine had to endure without the presence of a flesh and blood shepherd in their midst with, as the Army would say, boots on the ground. So, Feb. 14, is a day of joy for Maine, and of relief for me.
In a couple of days, I am grateful and happy to say, I will be "all yours," Catholics of Western New York!
I am grateful that now I will be able to focus all of my time, energies and pastoral leadership on our Catholic community of Western New York, the Diocese of Buffalo. While I will continue to serve in several roles of national responsibility within the USCCB, my service as our diocesan bishop will be able to be deepened and broadened as we move forward in faith.
We have much to do together to strengthen Catholic life in Western New York. We are strong in very many ways. But we can grow stronger. We must.
Every Catholic can, with God's abundant grace, deepen his or her friendship with Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to follow His way more faithfully. We can learn more about Christ, His Gospel, and the teachings of our Church through the many opportunities for lifelong faith formation offered by our parishes, our diocese and Christ the King Seminary.
We will need to work together to strengthen our Catholic schools, not only for their survival, but that they all flourish as the communities of excellence in faith and learning that they must be to serve our students and families, and to encourage new enrollment.
And we all need to engage more directly in the Church's mission to build here, with God's help, a true culture of life and civilization of love. We do that by the holiness and witness of our personal and communal lives, and by informed participation in the political process, "scrutinizing the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel" (Gaudium et Spes).
Now that I will soon be free from my responsibilities in Maine - don't get me wrong, I love the good people I know there - I look forward to even more presence to our parishes, schools, colleges, religious communities, human service sites and other institutions within our Western New York Catholic community.
I am grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for entrusting to me the pastoral care of our Diocese of Buffalo. Let's pray and work together to build up the Kingdom of God in Western New York through holiness of life and enthusiastic commitment to the mission of the New Evangelization.
God bless you all!