ROCHESTER — With three firm knocks that shook the doors leading to the interior of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano formally announced his arrival in the Diocese of Rochester.
The door-knocking was part of a Jan. 2 evening prayer service held the day before Bishop Matano, leader of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., was to be installed as the ninth Bishop of Rochester.
Inside the poinsettia-festooned cathedral, Syracuse Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, apostolic administrator of the Rochester Diocese; Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark; and Sacred Heart’s pastor, Father Kevin McKenna, waited to open the doors and greet Bishop Matano. Bishop Matano then entered, kissed a crucifix and blessed those gathered with holy water.
Outside the cathedral, snow gusted and winds chilled; earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had declared a state of emergency and officials advised no unnecessary travel.
Bishop Matano noted that the storm made a logistically complicated event even more complex. Many dignitaries who had expected to participate were not able to travel through the storm, and he said a prayer for all those attempting to get to Rochester for the installation festivities who were stuck in airports or bus and train stations.
He thanked the several hundred people who attended the service despite the weather, including former staff from Burlington and friends and family from his native Providence, R.I., and other parts of the country.
"They are calling this a Herculean storm, but it has been matched and overpowered by all of you present here tonight," Bishop Matano said.
He also spoke at length about the Blessed Mother, noting that she never faltered in her commitment to bringing people to her son, Jesus.
"As I soon will become the ninth Bishop of Rochester, I repeat the words of Jesus: ‘Behold your mother,’ Bishop Matano said. "The only possibility to heal the pain felt in today’s world of sorrow and in so many circumstances is that faith so found in our Blessed Mother."
He compared the tabernacle to the heart of the cathedral.
"If you look to the left, there you will find the heart of this cathedral: Christ in the most holy Eucharist," Bishop Matano said. "Your heart is on the left side. Isn’t that what keeps everything going?"
He acknowledged and thanked many in attendance at the evening prayer service, including his brother priests, whom he noted have lived through difficult years recently. Bishop Matano had spent much of his time in Burlington dealing with fallout from sex-abuse scandals.
"We continue to go forward with an undivided heart praying for all God’s faithful people, praying for the wounded, the hurt and the victimized," Bishop Matano said.
Yet he lightened the mood when he cautioned Rochester’s priests to drive safely through the storm.
"Please be careful when you travel home tonight, because you could cause me major personnel problems," Bishop Matano joked, prompting laughter throughout the cathedral.
Bishop Clark, who retired in September 2012 after 33 years as Rochester’s eighth bishop, said he was so pleased that everyone made a special effort to attend the prayer service.
"I’m looking forward to tomorrow," he said, referring to Bishop Matano’s Jan. 3 installation.
Bishop Cunningham, who was appointed apostolic administrator of Rochester Sept. 21, 2012, said he has commended the Diocese of Rochester to Bishop Matano.
"I have told him often of your dedication and love," Bishop Cunningham said.
Father McKenna, who has gotten to know Bishop Matano as plans were being made for the bishop’s installation and move into the residence at the cathedral, said it is clear Bishop Matano has come across as a person who enjoys visiting parishes throughout the diocese.
"He’s a strong people person," Father McKenna said. "People will appreciate opportunities to visit with him and welcome him."
Bishop Matano’s sister, Vanessa Danielson of Providence, described her brother as humble, brilliant and as having a very big heart. She said she has not been surprised over the years the path that his vocation has taken, especially because faith was an integral part of their family.
"My brother was always a very special person," she said. "I was never surprised. He used to like to build little shrines in the back yard."
Glowing recommendations also came from Stephen Ticehurst, director of maintenance for the Diocese of Burlington, who wound up driving nine hours on snowy, slow roads to attend the prayer service. He said he will miss Bishop Matano tremendously.
"You look forward to going to work every day because he was there, just by the way he smiled and greeted you," Ticehurst said. "It was refreshing that somebody was happy that you were there."
Susan O’Brien, director of alumni relations for Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Vt., said Bishop Matano is very hands-on.
"He’s a true leader," she said. "We are very sad to lose him, and Rochester is very lucky to gain him."
Friend Bobby Collette of Brooklyn said Bishop Matano is one of his role models.
"Everything he says is straight from his heart," Collette said. "He is a 100-percent sincere human being. There’s no phoniness."
Several Diocese of Rochester parishioners said they didn’t want to miss the chance to get to know their new bishop.
Laura Saxby Lynch, chair of the Diocese of Rochester’s Stewardship Committee, said she was honored and excited to proclaim a reading for the service and be a part of a historic moment for the Diocese of Rochester.
"This is a moment in history for our diocese and I really look forward to getting to know our new bishop and of course to work with him, but to also share in his immersion in our diocese," she said.
The sentiment was echoed by Rose Marie Lombard, wife of Deacon Dick Lombard and a longtime parish employee.
"I liked the prayerful attitude of evening prayer," Lombard said. "It was a good way for us to participate in his tenure as bishop with an attitude of prayer."
Anne Sherman, a parishioner of St. Louis Church in Pittsford said she was so determined to attend the prayer service, weather notwithstanding, that she paid for a taxi to take her to and from the event.
"We’ve waited long enough for a bishop, and thank the Lord, Bishop Matano looks like he will be fine," Sherman said.