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Father Muench Says...

Cathedral events spark great memories

Nov. 1, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

On Sunday, October 22, Bishop LaValley celebrated the 65th anniversary of the dedication of our cathedral, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg. 

At that celebration, Bishop LaValley consecrated our diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – remembering the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother of Fatima.

Celebrating the anniversary of St. Mary’s Cathedral brought back to mind for me many wonderful memories.  I was present at that dedication ceremony of St. Mary’s Cathedral so many years ago as a student at Wadhams Hall, our diocesan seminary in Ogdensburg.  I remember the occasion so well.  Forgive me as I reminisce a bit.
We, seminarians, were well aware of the building of the “new” cathedral for our diocese.  We visited the site often and observed the progress.  Often on those visits, we would come upon Bishop McEntegart as he was looking over the progress.  He became a sort of a tour guide for us.

The highlight of the construction was the installation of the stained glass windows.  To this day, they continue to be such a spectacular sight in the Cathedral.  The windows give a wonderful review of the Gospel message of Jesus and the teaching of our Catholic Church.

In addition, these windows also give a review of the history of the Catholic Church in our country and in our diocese.  I hope you have had the opportunity of looking over all the windows.

The day before Mass and celebration of the dedication of the cathedral several bishops came to Ogdensburg to attend the Mass.  Many of them stayed overnight at Wadhams Hall.

The bishop who received much attention was Bishop Fulton Sheen, was a celebrity due to his weekly television show.  It was truly popular and not just with Catholics. (I still watch some of the videos of those programs on you-tube; his messages are still relevant and I often use many of his stories in my homilies.)

When we students saw that Bishop Sheen was arriving at Wadhams, we hustled down to the front entrance.  I remember how friendly he was and how he took time to talk with us. 

A reporter showed up and wanted an interview with the bishop.  Bishop Sheen invited all of us students into the room for the interview.  Later that evening, we gathered in the chapel for our regular evening prayers and we didn’t miss seeing Bishop Sheen slip into a back pew.

The next morning – the day of the dedication – the bishops came to the chapel, individually, to celebrate their private Masses.  In those days, there was no concelebration at Mass so each priest and bishop offered a private Mass each day.  On that day, my duty was to serve several Masses.

I still remember one of those Bishops well –Bishop John O’Hara whose Mass I served that day.  At that time, he was bishop of Buffalo and had been president of Notre Dame University.  He belonged to the congregation of the Holy Cross.  I remember well how spiritually impressed I was as I served this bishop’s Mass.  I also remember that he took a moment to chat with me after the Mass.  I learned later that Bishop O’Hara became the Archbishop of Philadelphia and was named a Cardinal of the Church by Pope John XXIII.  I was pleased – after all we were friends.

After the Masses, that morning, my next duty was to help in the kitchen and serve breakfast to the bishops.  I must tell you I enjoyed overhearing the bishops talking about rather mundane things like football scores.
As we were cleaning up and preparing to go the ceremony two cars pulled up to the seminary.  They contained several priests from Boston, including Cardinal Cushing.  Cardinal Cushing was to be the preacher at the dedication Mass.  Suddenly, we were called into action to prepare some sort of breakfast for them.
I am surprised how well I remember that event. I continue even now to enjoy attending the various diocesan events at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

I still try to impress others by showing them the spot in the sanctuary floor where I prostrated as part of the ceremony as the choir sang the Litany of the Saints just before I was ordained a priest.

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