The Diocese of Buffalo is cruising down the Road to Renewal and picking up speed. During the second annual diocesan Renewal Mass, held Aug. 28 at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Olean, Father Bryan Zielenieski, vicar for renewal, gave an update on the progress.
Several families of parishes have begun working together, sharing programs and holding gatherings. A Southern Tier family hosted a “Reunion Mass” with 250 guests. Pilot and Phase One families have started Life in the Eucharist programs. The Alpha Catholic program has come to Cheektowaga and Amherst.
“Creating understanding and enthusiasm is needed for our renewal and people in the parishes are realizing what the fruits of working together can be – better programming, greater participation, shared costs, greater understanding of the body of Christ at work,” Father Zielenieski said. “When we look at our presbyterates – our priests – we look at the growing conversation about future assignments. And what priests themselves have revealed to us is that they are actually excited and looking forward to renewal.”
Father Zielenieski also revealed some positive findings from the Disciple Maker Index survey that 19,000 people from the Diocese of Buffalo participated in over the summer. Eighty-seven percent of the people surveyed believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Eighty-eight percent believe Scripture is the living word of God. Eighty-six percent would recommend their parish to others.
“That means they find life and vibrancy in their faith communities. We need to know this in our diocese,” Father Zielenieski said.
On a sadder note, only 42 percent share their personal faith story with others, and 88 percent have never encouraged someone to consider the priesthood or religious life.
The afternoon Mass was preceded by praying the rosary. Parish representatives brought a length of rope that they knotted last year to mark the struggles of abuse, indifference, mistrust, faithlessness and isolation, then untied one of the five knots.
“The untying of a single knot is not identifying any one struggle and saying that it is resolved,” Father Zielenieski explained. “The untying of a knot is symbolic, signifying that the effort the body of Christ in our diocese has made throughout this past year. The people of God have prayed, sacrificed and served, so that the Diocese of Buffalo can be better and experience true renewal. That effort is recognized in the untying of our first knot.”
Bishop Michael W. Fisher served as main celebrant of a Mass along with 11 priests and two deacons joining him at altar. “Today our commitment to the renewal challenges us to put aside our pride and our selfishness and to do things different in order to make sure all are welcome and have a room at the Eucharist table,” Bishop Fisher said in his homily. “All of us are to be given an opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation, evangelistic sharing with others, the joy of our faith. Isn’t that what draws others to the table? Our joy, improving the ways we do things, and not letting our pride keep us from the inclusion of others, and opportunities to teach, to preach to sanctify, a wider group with our work. In collaboration with one another. Whether we belong to the basilica whether we belong St. Bonaventure Parish, whatever parish we belong to, we are one Church. We are a church of God. We are Catholic Church. We are church here in Western New York. Renewal is not easy. It challenges our pride in not allowing us to function only by ourselves. We’re dependent on any one person except for Christ. We continue to call upon that wonderful example of humility in our lives and in our Church, as we call upon our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. Pray for us.”
Following the Mass, many attended a reception and socialized with friends and made new acquaintances.
Bob Schumacher attends Holy Trinity in Medina, part of a Phase 1 family. He said things are going “pretty good.”
“We’re coming along. We have some difficulties here and there. Some of the older people have a hard time with the change,” he said, adding there are concerns that parishes may close.
The family met at a vicariate meeting. “We were talking about the things that we do. A lot of people thought some good ideas from us. We got some really good ideas from (the other parishes). So, I think it’s going to work out pretty well,” Schumacher said.