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Father Muench Says...

Celebrating our diocese’s history

February 16, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to join in the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the formation of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Personally, I was not born in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. I grew up in Syracuse. As a child, I do remember family trips up north to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Lets see if I can remember the places we used to visit – Chaumont, Hogansburg, Carthage, Old Forge, Inlet. Then, later as a Boy Scout, I remember trips to the Adirondacks. I remember the names of a few towns that I visited – Lake Pleasant, Speculator, Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Raquette Lake – and a few others.

Then as a senior in high school, I became are of my vocation from the Lord to the priesthood. For various reasons, I was led to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. My own pastor was close to the bishop of Ogdensburg. In those days, it was Bishop Bryan J. McEntagert. My pastor was also close to the vicar general, Father John Hammill. So, after high school I entered the minor seminary for the Diocese of Ogdensburg at Wadhams Hall.

On of the first things I learned at Wadhams Hall was that this seminary was named for the first bishop of Ogdensburg, Bishop Edgar P. Wadhams, who became bishop when the Diocese of Ogdensburg was formed on February 16, 1872. He had been the vicar general of the Diocese of Albany. The Diocese of Ogdensburg was formed from several counties of Northern New York that were separated from the Diocese of Albany.

Another early thing I learned as a student at Wadhams Hall was the names of places in the diocese. These were names that were new to me, places where my fellow students were from, places like Chateaugay, Peru, West Chazy, Lake Clear Junction, Gouverneur, Massena, Saranac Lake, and on and on. And, of course, I discovered Ogdensburg. All these places were to become important parts of my life as a priest.

One of my memories of that time at Wadhams Hall was the building of the new St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was built after the former cathedral was destroyed by fire. My classmates and I were able to watch the building going up block by block. We watched as the magnificent stained-glass windows were put into place.

I remember well the day of the dedication of the new cathedral 70 years ago. There were many well-known cardinals and bishops who came to Ogdensburg for the ceremony. Let’s see who I can remember being there: There was Cardinal Spellman of New York, Cardinal Cushing of Boston, Cardinal O’Hara of Philadelphia, Bishop Fulton Sheen and others. I remember how impressed we were. It was truly an exciting occasion.

After my years at Wadhams Hall, I was assigned to the major seminary of St. Mary’s in Baltimore, Maryland. So, for the four years of seminary, I was separated from my diocese, the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Then, I remember when I was called back to the diocese for ordination as a priest. Our Bishop at that time was Bishop James J. Navagh.

Then began my years of ministry as a priest of this Diocese of Ogdensburg. Each time I drive across the diocese these days, I remember the former parishes where I lived and served. Let me share some with you.
I began in Gouverneur. From there, I was on to Chateaugay and then Lowville. There was teaching at Immaculate Heart Central, time in Sackets Harbor then on to Ticonderoga.

I want to tell you that God was very good to lead me to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. I have been so very happy to have served the Lord for all these years as a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

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