I had the opportunity recently to spend a Sunday evening at St. Bonaventure University. There were three components to the evening: dinner with about 50 students, a post-dinner conversation with them, and a liturgy with the dinner group and several other students who joined us in prayer.
It was a wonderful experience to spend time with these gifted, faithful, genuine women and men. They were most hospitable before and during dinner. Their questions and comments during conversation time were probing and thoughtful. The spirit they brought to the liturgy and the style of their participation were inspiring and were powerful reminders of the Holy Spirit active in the assembly. Much of all of that had to do with their individual goodness and gifts. But, I do think that those qualities are deepened and made more evident by the sense of Franciscan peace and hospitality so evident in the community.
We talked that night about the future of ecumenical and interfaith relationships, about ways in which we can represent the church as a welcoming and life-giving community, about how to encourage and include people who are different from most others and can often feel excluded. I had the sense as I conversed and prayed with these friends that we are blessed by them and the good gifts and spirit with which they are endowed.
No less a blessing to me was the joy of meeting the fifth- and sixth-graders of St. John of Rochester School in Fairport. Father Peter Clifford hosted the press conference that launched our Catholic Ministries Appeal. Father Peter also gave strong support to the CMA, citing in concrete ways the many benefits he and the parish realize through the effort.
The boys and girls came to support the effort; by their very presence, they symbolized the benefits to young people supported by the CMA. In the course of conversation with the children, we learned that even at their young age they have noble ambitions. For example, among them are two who aspire to be architects, another who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, still another who hopes to have a career as a marine biologist.
I loved talking with them. They are alive with hope and optimism and trust in the Lord. They were beautiful reminders of the joy and responsibility we have to do all that we can to support their growth, to help them come to a deeper love and knowledge of the Lord.
Just this morning, I made my usual September visit to the Nazareth Schools in Rochester. The liturgy in the school auditorium gathered the four distinct components of their student body — pre-K children, Nazareth Hall, Nazareth Middle School and Nazareth Academy. It’s the one school in our diocese that educates young people from pre-K through grade 12 on the same campus.
Liturgy with them is a joy. The music is lively. Students praise the Lord in dance. The very young and the more mature participate in liturgical ministries.
After Mass, I enjoyed some conversation — also orange juice and chocolate chip cookies! — with the leaders of the schools and with the readers, servers and dancers who contributed so much to the celebration.
As I drove from the Nazareth Schools to my next commitment, I remembered the thought that I have heard Diana Duell, principal of Nazareth Hall, express more than once — that whenever she feels the least bit down or discouraged, she spends some time with the little ones.
I appreciate that sentiment all the more as I look back on the events I have mentioned above. Mature and adult as so many of them are, they are all young to me. I thank them all most sincerely for the reminders they are to me of God’s abiding love for the human family and the beautiful ways in which God continually renews our lives.
Peace to all.