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Summertime and the livin’ is.... busy!

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Sept. 7, 2016

I don’t stay home much during the summer months.  I enjoy making pastoral visits to our beautiful parishes tucked away in the North Country.

These visits give me an opportunity to celebrate Eucharist with so many faith-filled Catholics.  I experience their deep faith and see the great love that parishioners have for their priests, deacons, and consecrated religious. 
Let me share with you my travels of a recent weekend.

The last weekend in August began for me with the annual diocesan picnic held behind my house on Friday afternoon. Occasions such as this remind me of how fortunate and truly blessed we are to have such dedicated and highly competent women and men who serve our parishes in our diocesan offices. 

The next morning, I enjoyed breakfast with a young man who is discerning the call to be a priest.  Our conversation gives me confidence in the seriousness with which our youth reflect on the role their faith plays in choosing a vocation.

I then enjoyed presiding at the annual Founder’s Day Mass at Our Lady of the Adirondacks.  Many individuals joined us for Eucharist in this small prayer house dedicated to Mary followed by a delicious spaghetti lunch.
Our Lady of the Adirondacks provides many programs through the year that helps participants respond to the Lord’s call to holiness.  I encourage you to check out our North Country Catholic for their schedule. 

Saturday concluded for me with a beautiful Mass at St. Alexander’s Church in Morrisonville followed by the baptism of my great-nephew, Carsen Michael. 

Sunday morning, I was greeted by Father Chris Carrara, Deacon Ken Seymour and the faithful of St. Peter’s Church for Mass in Lowville.  I, also, had the opportunity to meet little Jamison Joseph who was soon to be baptized, and his parents. 

After Mass, Father Chris led me to Whittaker Park for Mass and the annual parish picnic for the folks of Lowville, Glenfield, Houseville and the surrounding area. 

I met Mildred, a delightful parishioner who has seen 102 summers and many young children!

Parish picnics such as this are grace-filled occasions to share our faith and enjoy time together on a beautiful summer day.

After the picnic, I traveled to St. Cyril’s Church in Alexandria Bay to enjoy the 8th Annual Summer Concert performed by St. Cyril’s Choir. 

This year’s theme: Raising a Peaceful Joyful Noise provided all present with an inspiring, hope-filled expression of faith by a very talented and dedicated group of women and men.  What a wonderful prayer for peace it was!
You’ll notice that nestled in the midst of all these events, were the celebrations of two baptisms.  They led me to ask our Chancellor to do a little research.

According to our official diocesan records, there were a total of 1,959 baptisms celebrated in our diocese in the year 2000.  In 2015, that number was 818!

There are a number of factors that have contributed to such a precipitous decline in baptisms-some we can control, others we can’t. Demographics indicate, and we see in our own families, that many of our young people are leaving northern New York, seeking good jobs and raising their young families elsewhere.  Today, many of those choosing to marry and raise families opt for smaller families than our parents and grandparents raised. 
The faith factor is troubling.  More and more, parents are choosing not to have their children baptized.  Yet, in John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell Nicodemus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (3:5) Baptism is necessary for salvation.  The Church teaches: “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude” (CCC, #1257). 

With trends in membership and active participation in the Church headed in the wrong direction, it is urgent that everyone of us do our part in addressing our Diocesan Priorities:  Creating a Culture of Vocations, Strengthening Faith Formation in Family Life and Building our Parishes with Living Stones.  It is timely that we come together as a diocesan family of faith to gather in Lake Placid to celebrate our Catholic faith.  Each of us hears again the resurrected Christ’s great commission to His followers: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt.28:19-20).  Baptism is a gift that we must cherish and nurture.   Please be sure to register today to attend our vocations summit:  INSPIRE: Called to Love. 

Baptism is crucial for eternal life. Let’s joyfully live out our baptismal promises and reverse the trend.  Baptism makes all the difference in the world (this and the next).

Hope to see you in Lake Placid!

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