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Father Muench Says...

A good bishop is a blessing

Feb. 27, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I was saddened to learn recently of the death of Bishop Thomas Costello, the retired auxiliary Bishop of Syracuse. I have known and been a friend of Bishop Costello since seminary days. Bishop Costello visited our diocese often and was frequently involved in many of our diocesan programs.

There were several times over these years that we all thought Bishop Costello would be chosen as to be the Bishop of our diocese, the Diocese of Ogdensburg. I am certain Bishop Costello would have been a fine Bishop for us here in this diocese.

I have talked with many lay people and priests of excellent experiences that involved Bishop Costello. A friend of mine from Gouverneur shared such an opportunity with me recently after learning of Bishop Costello’s death. Not too long ago she attended her grandson’s Confirmation – I believe it was in Cazenovia. Bishop Costello was the celebrant. She was quite impressed with Bishop Costello’s ability to reach the Confirmation students and catch the attention of these teenagers. I can truly agree – Bishop Costello had a special something in reaching people especially young people.

I want to share with you part of a letter written to the Syracuse newspaper in tribute of Bishop Costello. It is written by a friend of mine, David Pasinski. He wrote: “Bishop Costello was a leader who made the presence of Christ manifest in his commitment to the poor, to social justice, to interfaith work, to peace issues, to women’s concerns, to education, to good preaching, and to the simple but ultimately critically important aspect of pastoral care that are the marks of the best clerical religious impulses.”

In recent years, I have attended the same retreat as Bishop Costello, so I have had the opportunity to visit and spend time with Bishop Costello. Today, I remember him in my prayers – prayers of gratitude that he was a true gift to us all, and I ask that he watches over me.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention to you in gratitude to God that we, the priests and people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, have been led as a diocese by so many excellent Bishops. As I look over the years that I have been a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, I remember the several Bishops that I have served and realize how fortunate I have been as a priest with such great leaders. I realize that some of those Bishops were only here in our diocese for a short time, but in every case, they had a profound influence on our diocese. I also know that all the Bishops of our diocese have found terrific spirit here, and their time in our diocese was very rewarding.

In these recent years, you and I have been blessed with a bishop that was one of our own. Bishop LaValley was raised here in the North Country and ordained a priest for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. This is very important to us. Bishop LaValley began his time as our Bishop knowing the North Country and knowing us all, priests and people. He was our friend, and this has made a difference in his time as bishop. We are certain of his concern and love for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. So, we can be truly grateful for our bishop, for Bishop LaValley.

There are so many challenges these days in being a bishop in our Catholic Church. Please join me in praying for our bishop and all bishops in our country and in our world, and pray for Pope Francis, the Shepherd of Shepherds.

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