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Father Muench Says...

‘Why? Why is all of this going on?’

Oct. 5, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I was walking down one of the hallways of the Olympic arena, traveling from one breakout session of “Inspire: Called to Love” to another when a lady came up to me and asked to interview me.  I could tell from her cap that she represented a local radio station.  She had a microphone in her hand.  So, not being very bashful, I agreed.
Her initial question was, “Why?” “Why is all of this going on?”  I had to stop for a brief moment and do some quick thinking.  What should I say that would make sense to her and her listeners?  What would sum up all of my feelings?

Here is my answer: “We had all come here to reaffirm and understand who we are as Catholics.”  I was thinking that this gathering of Catholics from all over the Diocese of Ogdensburg is a call and challenge to us and to all Catholics in the diocese to remember who we are and to challenge us to bring new life into our Catholic parishes throughout our diocese.

So, there we were – our Bishop, our priests, our deacons, all of our people from every parish in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. All of us had gathered  in Lake Placid to celebrate our Catholic faith.  This was truly a “fiesta.”
In addition, we were joined by people and priests from neighboring diocese – from Burlington, Syracuse and Rochester – as well as people and priests from several Canadian diocese.  Bishops from each of these diocese came to join us, to speak to us and to challenge us.

However, most of all it was about people.  Personally, I renewed friendships with friends from the past and with former parishioners from the parishes where I was once pastor.  It spent so much enjoyable time just talking and sharing with friends. 

The one thing I noticed as I wandered around that day was that everyone was having a good time.  I also found myself meeting all sorts of new friends.  Please forgive me here for bragging – but I was frequently stopped by someone – a complete stranger to me who happened to be a reader of this column – offering me gratitude for my words.  That was pretty neat.

There was one place in the arena where folks had to climb a set of circular stairs.  I remember at one time I was heading in one direction and ended up joining a crowd who were going up the stairs.  At the same time, another crowd was coming down.  I noticed that often the motion was slowed down as someone spotted someone they hadn’t seen as yet. So they slowed us down with hugs and a bit of conversation.

So, what did I learn?

For me, the presentations were great so let me try to summarize some of what they said.  The speakers were rather important in our American Catholic Church – there was Bishop Barron, Bishop Coyne, Bishop Durocher (from Canada) as well as the author, George Weigel. Each speaker reminded us of our call to holiness – our personal holiness – through our Baptism as Catholics.  The challenge for us now is to live out our Baptism in our daily lives through the vocation that we were called to follow, whether as a married couple, as a single person in the world, as a religious Sister or Brother, as a priest or, finally as a Bishop. 

Each of us has been blessed through the Spirit to live that life in following Our Savior, Jesus Christ. In this way we bring Christ to our world and to all those others who we meet along the way.  We become evangelizers.  We become prophets in our time.  It may be in simple, little ways and it may be in great and challenging opportunities given us by God.  As we follow Christ’s call, we cooperate to transform our parishes into new life.

And all of this day – the people and the message – was drawn together by the Celebration of the Eucharist. The Mass was such a wonderful liturgy such a prayerful time with magnificent music.  What a sight to see the arena filled with a worshiping people – the people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.  What a sight to see all of us priests joined together in our white vestments in one section.  What a sight to see the several Bishops joined together in the sanctuary.   And to remind us of why we together during the Mass we all – priests and people – joined together in renewing our Baptismal promises, reminding us of our call to holiness.

So, my congratulations to all who made this day possible.  It was a real celebration of being a Catholic and of being a Catholic of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, a Catholic of the North Country. 

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