Southern Tier visit nourishes faith - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Southern Tier visit nourishes faith

On this last day before Lent, I bow in gratitude to the faith
communities in the southeastern section of our diocese with whom I
spent most of the last three days — All Saints Parish in Lansing, St.
Catherine in Ithaca, Immaculate Conception in Ithaca, and members of
the Catholic communities of Cornell University and Ithaca College.

My gratitude goes to them because the events in which I participated
were important reminders to me of the communion of life to which we are
called, and to which we are meant to contribute.

Let me offer some concrete examples of how that happened:

1) Weekend liturgies

I presided and preached at three weekend liturgies — on Saturday
evening at All Saints and twice on Sunday morning at St. Catherine. In
every case, I noted and was deeply nourished by the engagement of the
ministers and the assembly in the mysteries we were celebrating. The
readings were beautifully proclaimed and, because of that, those in the
assembly were deeply attentive to what they heard. In similar fashion,
there was a vitality to the liturgical music. Two adult choirs and one
children’s choir enriched our common prayer. The cantors in every
instance drew the assemblies to prayer. As I observed it, their musical
dialogue was mutually enriching for them. It was for me, too.

The enthusiasm, the radiant excitement of the young altar servers
was delightful. It is so good to observe that their communities
encourage their participation by good training, ongoing support and
generous encouragement.

At one of the liturgies it seemed, until the very last minute, that
one boy of 9 or so years of age would be the only server. I asked him
if he was OK with that. In response he indicated that he is accustomed
to multi-tasking.

2) Parish events

Part of the evening at All Saints was a dish-to-pass supper in the
parish center. I have always maintained that it is at such affairs that
one enjoys the best food in the world. No exception here.

But the food, great as it was, took second place to the spirit of
the event. For example, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a young
man who told me he had recently been participating in the life of the
community after being away from any church group for 17 years. I asked
him what drew him back. He turned to his left where a young woman sat,
and said with a great smile on his face, “She invited me”. The young
woman triggered his return, but the young man added that, once there,
he became deeply impressed by the life of the community. Something very
important is happening in his life because others cared for him. I will
be curious to follow his continuing journey.

A second event was a Mardi Gras-type celebration organized and
carried out by the middle-school age group at St. Catherine’s. This
event, held after the 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, was designed for fun and
celebration but also to draw attention to two causes selected by the
children — the prevention of cruelty to animals and the support of
endangered children.

The kids had games, raffles, face painting, an information booth, a
bake sale and raffle to raise funds. All of the events tied into the
outreach in some way. I had a wonderful time. But what impressed me so
much was the level of engagement present among the 200 or so people who
were present. It was a pleasure to observe the way in which adults of
all ages were drawn into something important by the creativity of
children.

3) Confirmation

Last night candidates, their families and friends from the five
communities mentioned above gathered at St. Catherine’s for
confirmation. Once again all ministers and assemblies present enriched
the liturgy by their presence and active participation. The particular
feature of the celebration that most fed my prayer was the way the
diversity of the assembly drew me to an awareness both of the diversity
of our church and of the deep realities that make us one.

Some examples: I confirmed a 7 year old and a woman just a bit
younger than I am. One candidate, a woman from Italy, is a professor of
mechanical engineering at Cornell University. Several candidates are
elementary school students. There were people in the assembly who came
from Hungary, Korea, Italy and Canada.

For all of the above, I am most grateful to everyone from these five
lively faith communities.

4) One final note of congratulations and thanks

Once again to a parish in the Southern Tier. You may be aware that
Father John Mulligan, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral, invited all of
the youth groups in our diocese to prepare a decorative plywood panel
to adorn the construction fence now surrounding our cathedral property.
The idea is to remind people that Sacred Heart Cathedral is the Mother
Church of the diocese and so, in a special way, is home to all.

Father John has had a very positive response to that request and now
the first sign is in place – a bright and beautiful one prepared by the
youth group at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Elmira. Great job kids!
Many thanks.

Peace to all.

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