Bishop Matano thrills Owego congregation - Catholic Courier
Deacon Mike Donovan (left) assists Bishop Salvatore R. Matano duringMass Jan. 18 at St. Patrick Church in Owego. Deacon Mike Donovan (left) assists Bishop Salvatore R. Matano duringMass Jan. 18 at St. Patrick Church in Owego.

Bishop Matano thrills Owego congregation

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano has quickly made clear that his personal connection with the Diocese of Rochester won’t be limited to easily reachable places.

On Jan. 18, just 15 days after being installed as the ninth Bishop of Rochester, Bishop Matano celebrated the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church in Owego. His first official appearance in the Southern Tier occurred on a blustery, frigid evening and involved a 150-mile journey from Rochester, located in the northeast corner of the diocese, to Tioga County in the opposite corner. The new bishop was accompanied by his secretary, Father Daniel White.

Father William Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes, said the bishop — who said he plans to visit as many diocesan parishes as possible during his first year — initiated the visit to St. Patrick himself.

"The people’s response seemed very positive. One person commented that he seemed very approachable. Another said, ‘I think he will be a good shepherd,’" Father Moorby said.

"Many parishioners have commented to me what a wonderful experience it was to be at Mass with our new bishop," added Father Brian Carpenter, Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parochial vicar.

Helen Kowalewski — who sat in the second row with her husband, Jack, while he took numerous pictures of the Mass — was among those to come away with strong first impressions.

"The bishop was very warm to all of us and it seemed as if he was speaking to each of us personally," she said.

Jim Ross, a longtime St. Patrick parishioner who served as lector, said all went smoothly with his duties: "I didn’t have any problems. I was really honored to have that opportunity." On the other hand, Father Carpenter said the altar servers were a bit jittery, with one freezing up when Bishop Matano asked him his name.

"The bishop then told the altar servers not to be nervous, then he turned to the priests and deacons and said, ‘Does a miter and crosier really make Mass more complicated?’" Father Carpenter recalled, adding that Bishop Matano’s humor also was on display when he told the congregation that "he got dolled up to visit us, as he had his first haircut as Bishop of Rochester earlier that morning."

Fathers Moorby and Carpenter, as well as Ross, observed that Bishop Matano stressed the importance of the Eucharist during Mass.

"What I found powerful was that Bishop Matano’s devotion to the Eucharist could easily be seen in the way in which he celebrated Mass. Especially powerful was his reminder during the homily that Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time, and that this promise is fulfilled in the Eucharist," Father Carpenter said.

Kowalewski, meanwhile, was struck by Bishop Matano’s emphasis on reaching out to those who are not attending church, particularly the young, and the need to invite them back. She said she and her friends have agreed in follow-up discussions that this is a vital concern.

"As older adults, we remember going to Mass on Sunday with our children. Now many of those same children do not attend regular Sunday Mass and so, of course, neither do their children — our grandchildren," she remarked.

Kowalewski and her husband were among several from St. Margaret Mary Church in Apalachin who came to St. Patrick to see Bishop Matano. Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s other two churches are St. James in Waverly and St. John the Evangelist in Newark Valley.

After Mass Bishop Matano warmly welcomed worshipers in a receiving line. Those moments yielded a particularly fond memory for Kowalewski, who posed for a photo with him.

"The first picture Jack took was a little blurry, and when the bishop heard my husband sigh, he immediately said, ‘Take another one, I don’t want you to be disappointed,’ and he smiled generously at us. We both thought that was so nice of him to do," she said.

Yet the nicest gesture of all was seemingly the mere fact that Bishop Matano traveled so far for a personal appearance so soon after his installation.

"We were all very excited to have the bishop visit and to see him in person, since we are not exactly around the corner from Rochester," Kowalewski said.

"It really emphasized that even though we are far from our bishop in terms of distance, we are certainly not far from his mind and heart," Father Carpenter added.

Ross said that when he had initially heard the bishop was coming, he assumed it was for some special occasion.

"He just came to be at a regular Mass, and that was not lost upon us," said Ross, adding that he and his wife, Sandy, were impressed with the special attention Bishop Matano devoted to children since they had three grandchildren in attendance.

Bishop Matano’s journey to Owego marked the first part of a bishop-rich stretch for Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick in early 2014. The parishes’ Lenten mission, to be held March 23-25, will be presented by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, who led the Rochester Diocese for 33 years until his 2012 retirement.


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