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Archives A conversation with Bishop-elect Lucia

June 19, 2019

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – The North Country Catholic sat down with Bishop-elect Douglas J. Lucia to discuss his reaction to the appointment, leaving the North Country and shepherding the Diocese of Syracuse. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

You’ve had a bit of time to process the appointment. How do you feel?
I’m excited in the sense that it’s nothing I would’ve ever thought of doing, but I like a challenge. This is going to cause me to stretch and grow, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, it’s intimidating in the sense that I go from basically being pastor of local churches to being pastor of a diocese. I kind of ask myself, “how am I going to do this?” I keep saying, “I’m going to do it like I try to do in the parishes I’ve served – by getting to know people and by consulting. One of the themes I’ve been sharing is that I just want to accompany them. I want to be there for folks and accompany them on their journey with the Lord. That’s how I’ve lived as a parish priest, and that’s how I intend to live as bishop.

What was your initial reaction to the announcement?
Total shock. I was not expecting it. The morning I got the call, Memorial Day, I did not have my cell phone with me. I went back to the rectory after spending my morning at both cemeteries, and I saw I had two calls from Washington within 15-20 minutes, but no message. I thought, “who’s trying to get ahold of me?” First, I thought maybe it was one of my cousins – I have family in Washington. Then I checked to see if it was a scam. Nothing suggested it was a scam. I knew the day before, Bishop (Terry R. LaValley) had received a call from Washington. I was with him when the call came in. I sent a text to him, saying “I received two calls from Washington this morning. Any idea what this is about?” The message I got back was in bold letters: “Make the call now.” I responded back, “But there wasn’t a message.” (Bishop LaValley) said “tell them you have caller ID.” I called. The Nuncio, asked if I was alone and said, “I have something to talk to you about, something to tell you.” He told me I had been named bishop of Syracuse. I was stunned. I think he knew I was stunned. He said,” you do know Syracuse.” I told him I was. He said, “do you accept?” I said, “I do, archbishop.” It went from there. I was totally shocked. I remember sitting in rectory completely stunned.

You’re from here. How do you feel about leaving the North Country?
I love the North Country, but there’s the excitement of getting to know another part of the state. There’s excitement and newness. But after 30 years of ministry in this diocese, I never really thought of serving any other pace. This is a change for me. I’ll miss the people more than anything, but I’ll greatly miss the St. Lawrence River. I’ve lived on that river for many years.

How has your experience in the North Country prepared you for this next step?
First, Central New York is like Northern New York, as far as it’s a lot of small towns with a few bigger cities. I’m used to rural. I’m used to driving to get places. Having to traverse our diocese has been helpful. Second, dealing with parish mergers has given me an insight into what goes on in that process and how communities react. I think that will help me, since that will be one of my challenges in Syracuse. Third, my work in vocations will help me work in vocations in Syracuse, as well. Finally, I think of the pastoral experience the people in the North Country have given me. The people of the north country have made me the man and the priest that I am. I bring that with me to Syracuse.

You and Bishop LaValley are good friends. Has he given you any advice?
To be myself. And I find myself going back to a piece of advice he gave me back when I was ordained: “Choose your words wisely.”

What will be your motto and why?
“In the name of Jesus.” During the week I couldn’t say anything about this announcement, when I had time to be by myself, those words kept coming to me. They’re from Acts 3:16, the encounter of Peter and John with the paralytic in the temple during the afternoon hour of prayer. Peter meets him along the way. The man is stuck. Peter looks at him, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus, walk.” That encounter gives that man new life. That’s the model of what I want ministry to be.

What will be your initial priorities as bishop?
Get to know the diocese of Syracuse. I would like very much over course of next three years or so – it’s going to take me that long – to spend a weekend in each of the parish clusters/communities in the diocese, just so I can get to know people and see parish life in Syracuse. It’ll also help me know the needs better. Based on my first impressions, they’re very welcoming in Syracuse. There’s an excitement right now. As I have said to the people of Syracuse, I come to serve. That’s really what I want to do.


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