Bishop Richard J. Malone is the first to admit that he wears two hats for the Church. He is not only the "chief shepherd", but also the CEO of a corporation that is the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
On Thursday, June 23, Bishop Malone addressed about 70 guests at The Saturn Club as part of the Catholic Businesses and Professionals Speaker Series, sponsored by the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The theme was "The State of the Diocese: A Bishop's -Eye View."
"The ship is sailing as it should," said Bishop Malone, referring to the way current fiscal operations are within budget and acknowledging that the Upon This Rock capital campaign is nearly half way to reaching its $100 million goal. "Our job is to keep the Diocese moving forward and flourishing."
Bishop Malone addressed the reality that the Catholic population has dropped more than 23 percent since 1990. The number of Baptisms and Catholic Marriages has also fallen over 60 percent in that same time. "A lot of the people have been Sacramentalized but not Evangelized," said the bishop. "They've received the Sacraments of Initiation, but maybe not much else."
He encouraged those in attendance to simply reach out with invitations to their own churches on Sunday. "For most people, as we look at the inactive Catholics, they haven't stopped believing. What happens is people have let their priorities shift. Those folks are very often waiting for a simple, gracious welcome home."
Bishop Malone singled out the Church Growth project as one of the many strong and positive initiatives to reach out to fallen away Catholics. "It is a way of helping Catholics become more intentional about the living of our faith, that our Catholic faith is not an add-on but it's at the heart of who we are."
A positive trend is the recent increase in men studying to become priests. There are currently 40 seminarians at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. Bishop Malone also noted how local Catholic schools consistently rank high in an annual listing by Business First. Catholic High School graduates garnered $38 million in scholarships this year, while our local Catholic elementary school graduates generated more than $3 million in scholarships entering high school. "It shows the quality of what happens in our schools, and that will be even more apparent as the STREAM initiative moves forward."
"There are some very encouraging things happening and there continue to be some challenges," said the bishop to the gathering of local business leaders. "The most important reason for our hope is that it is the Lord's Church."