Journey Through the Diocese
The national organization of Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities USA, is celebrating its
100th anniversary this year. So, it is fitting that on this occasion we congratulate and extend
heartfelt words of gratitude to our own Catholic Charities. Sister Donna Franklin and her staff,
as well as all their predecessors, fulfill so many of the needs of our sisters and brothers by
providing direct service and advocacy on their behalf. We congratulate and thank them for their
Gospel witness of love.
When I began reflecting on what I might say on this occasion in which we honor women
and men religious, I decided that I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time reviewing with you
the rich theology upon which the consecrated life is founded. But I wasn’t exactly sure where I
wanted to go with this. Of late, I spend a considerable amount of time in my car, providing me
with time to pray. Recently, while praying the second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, I thought it
might be interesting if I invited all of you to join me for the next few minutes in making some
visitations of our own over the many miles of our expansive diocese and through the many years
of our existence as a diocese. During our journey, we’ll make some stops. Best part…I won’t
charge you for gas.
We don’t speak too often about God’s beauty. My sisters and brothers, the beauty of God
is a many-splendored thing. In our travels, we will see the glory of God shining through the
witness of the lives of the Religious. In our visitations, we’ll get a taste of the tremendous gifts
that the consecrated women and men have been to this local family of faith. What better place to
make our first stop than to marvel at God’s beauty as reflected in the person of this year’s Caritas
Award winner: Sr. Gabriel Marie Meyer.
As a teacher from one end of our diocese to another, as Group Mother and Administrator
at St. Patrick’s Children’s Home in Watertown, as social case worker, pastoral associate,
volunteer at Hospice, Women’s Crisis Center, Respite Center, teacher in special education she
lives the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of love of God and love of neighbor so generously.
Doesn’t Sr. Gabriel Marie reflect the beauty of God’s love? Congratulations Sister Gabriel
Our next stop…let’s head northeast to Plattsburgh—and travel back, a few decades or so.
It certainly was no easy task for most, but to the Brothers of Christian Instruction, it was a labor
of love to educate young men at Mount Assumption Institute or what about the tremendous gift
that the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis provided the community and the Church at Our Lady of
Victory Secretarial School. Didn’t we see the beauty of our God’s face in the witness of love of
these faithful consecrated religious?
Now, we’re headed up the military turnpike, connecting with Route 11 on our way to
Akwasasne. No, not the casinos, but the homes, the churches, the nursing homes of the native
Americans living there. In years not so long ago, a religious sister, a brave and fiercely faithful
Sister of St. Joseph traveled dangerous roads where blood was shed, where brother fought
brother. Nevertheless, the Sacraments had to be administered, the sick were to be visited and the
bereaved comforted. This blockade busting Sister of St. Joseph continues, many years after the
glow of the Pax Christi Award has dimmed, to illumine the lives of the Mohawk children of God
with her loving presence. God’s beauty is made manifest in this special religious and the lives
she continues to touch.
Taking a few back roads, we can get back on Route 11 and find that new facility today
that stands as a testament to the vision and hard work of one woman who looks to her founder,
Marguerite D’Youville for inspiration. Hospice in St. Lawrence County continues to be about
the corporal works of mercy, bringing comfort and consolation to the dying. Even in our most
vulnerable and fragile physical condition, the beauty of God shines through. That same
Foundress inspired many dedicated women to our North Country caring for the sick in hospitals,
operating orphanages, teaching in our schools and giving tireless witness of love in our parishes.
As we exit Rte. 11, we meet up with Rte. 68 that will connect us with Rte.37, heading for
the See city. We go by and reminisce about the commitment of those Sisters of St. Joseph who
created a college under the patronage of the Mother of God. Here was provided a loving place
where many of the family of faith, the traditional and non-traditional student, from throughout
our diocese would gather to learn. Didn’t we see the many splendored facets of God’s beauty in
the faces and hearts of all who entered that place?
It’s time we continue trekking south to the house that all in this particular religious
congregation call home. In it you will find many, many faith-filled women, although some
unable to actively minister today, their prayers and presence glisten with divine presence. Here
we’ll find the Sister who for years was so faithful in our Catholic schools, teaching and
administrating. Then the Lord called her to a new ministry of Parish Administrator where she
served God’s people so very well, so much loved. Then, her body resisted her desire to continue
in that ministry. We rely on her prayers today in her infirmity as she shows us the beauty of the
face of Christ suffering.
And, again, in that same abode, there is another woman richly blessed--a pioneer, of
sorts, in our family of faith, where she taught the faith to our Catholic School teachers---a holy,
conscientious woman with so much to give, in love with the Word of God. She, too, experienced
the rebellion of her body and mind and today whose saintly life at the motherhouse causes us all
to hope in the rewards of eternal life gained for one so beautifully faithful in this life.
And while we are in our diocese’s largest city, we must make a visit to those who adore
the Precious Blood of Christ continually. Those who respond to the Lord’s call to live a
cloistered life, one dedicated to constant prayer and veneration of the Precious Blood of our
Savior, praying for the world and our Church outside its cloistered walls.
If we head due east, continuing our journey of this haloed circle of our beloved land of
the north, we’ll come to that place founded years ago as a place of hope and recovery for those
who suffer the scourge of addictions. Religious men, under the patronage of St. Joseph with the
charism of the Atonement Fathers, saw the beauty of the face of Jesus in the countenances of
those whose demons wreaked havoc with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. They were
truly at one with the marginalized.
And our quick trip didn’t include what many of our sisters and brothers are up to in the
rest of the world. If we were to board a jet, we would see what a consecrated sister of St.
Dominic was able to accomplish with a vision, a tender heart, and many associates, a woman on
a mission of hope that helps many of us open our minds and hearts to see the beauty of Christ in
those less economically well off than ourselves. We have become enriched.
And then, there are those Missionaries devoted to the Sacred Heart who have blessed our
local Church for so long whose ministries also take them all over the world, including to the
peoples in the Far East, to Zambia and South America. And then there is the ministry our own
have given to the native people of Alaska. They reveal to us the beauty of God in the faces of
people of all hues and cultures.
It’s been quite a trip, hasn’t it? And there was so much more to see. I hope I haven’t
offended those that we missed on this trip. Time constraints here don’t permit me to continue the
visitations with you this afternoon. But know that your beauty, the beauty of every consecrated
Religious, male and female, is vital to this Body of Christ we call the North Country.
Consecrated women and men are constitutive parts of our landscape of the Church.
You see, my sisters and brothers, the consecrated religious life is an integral part of the
Church: our holiness, our mission. Through the lived experience of chastity, poverty and
obedience, we are gifted with a sign of a radical way of following Christ. It is no wonder that
four out of five of the canonized saints in our Church are Religious. The most recent being, of
course, the consecrated Holy Cross Brother, Saint Andre of Montreal. The Religious have
evangelized the world! Think of how they have evangelized our North Country, just reflecting
on our very, very brief trip around the North Country. Their impact has been tremendous.
Personally, I am grateful for their counsel and active roles in ministry with us. Many of
us have been inspired, encouraged and challenged by these individuals through their faithfulness
to a lifestyle of simplicity and prayer. These individuals were consecrated in the Church, by the
Church, for the Church. Theirs is not a parallel way of following Christ outside the living
structure of the Church. They are intrinsically part of the very fabric of the One Body of Christ.
In a special way today, we recognize and give thanks to women religious who, first
arriving in America 300 years ago, throughout periods of great struggle, established schools,
hospitals, and colleges, and provided social services that have served millions in our nation.
The gas tank approaches empty and we cannot continue our visitations at this special
event. But, we all know of so many more Godly examples of what the consecrated women and
men who have served and those who continue to serve our North Country mean to us. For the
times we might have taken our Religious for granted, we express our sorry. My sisters and
brothers, please continue, through the grace of God, to show us God’s beauty through your
faithfulness, your simplicity, your prayer, your holiness. You are treasured companions on life’s
journey as we all seek to respond faithfully to Jesus’ invitation: Follow Me. Through you, may
God be praised…forever… may God be praised!