Since last week’s "Along the Way" I have made two trips to the Albany area. The common draw in those travels was the company of women and men religious — sisters, brothers and priests who profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and who spend their lives in service of others, living out the charisms of their religious orders.
The first occasion was organized by my alma mater, Catholic Central High School in Troy. It was a eucharistic liturgy thanking God for the gift of women and men religious who have dedicated themselves to Catholic-school education through the last 100 years. Invitees were those who have served in any of the Catholic schools of the Albany Diocese, not only at Catholic Central.
There were some 200 of those teachers gathered for the liturgy together with the whole student body of CCHS. A spokesperson for CCHS introduced the program with a brief but substantial summary of the contributions their honored guests have made to Catholic schools over the years. At the end of the program the presentation of a collection of photographs told that same rich story in a different way.
The celebration was a fitting tribute to some generous people who for many years made an enormous contribution to the young church. And, I think, it was a gift to the students at CCHS. They were clearly attentive to the two presentations mentioned above, and to Bishop Howard Hubbard’s beautiful homily. I know that the occasion was a gift to me in that it evoked memories of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sisters of Mercy and the diocesan priests who were my teachers at CCHS. They were remarkable people — competent educators, committed religious mentors whose first concern was that those of us in their care were given every opportunity to mature in our humanity and in our faith.
The second event was a meeting at the Provincial House of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Latham. Members of Region II of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembled for their autumn meeting and invited four bishops to join them for an afternoon to discuss matters of common interest.
Bishops Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg, Robert Cunningham of Syracuse, Howard Hubbard of Albany and I discussed with the sisters some themes that are important to all of us — and, I believe — to the whole church: What is our hope for the church? How do we strengthen relationships between bishops and religious in their respective dioceses? How do we honor each other’s mission in the church? What might stand in the way of honest dialogue among us? What are the common challenges we face? How can we support one another as coworkers in the vineyard?
It was a pleasure to be in the company of those remarkable women and to engage in such a candid and thoughtful conversation with them. During the drive home my mind — stimulated by the afternoon’s conversations — went back to the many ways in which the presence and ministry of the women religious of this diocese have contributed to my own growth as a human being and as a minister of the Gospel.
A final note about religious life: Our Sisters of St. Joseph will be hosting a team of visitors this week, participating in the Holy See’s program of visitation of women religious in our country. I know that the visitation team will be as impressed by our sisters as we are. Please take the occasion of the visitation to pray in gratitude not only for the Sisters of St. Joseph but for all of the women and men religious who have poured out their lives in service of the people of our diocese since our diocese was established 142 years ago.
Peace to all.