OLEAN — Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo offered words of faith and reflection to some of the area’s youngest Catholics.
The bishop celebrated Mass with 185 members of the Southern Tier Catholic School and Archbishop Walsh Academy community, as well as local clergy, on Monday morning. His visit was his first to the local Catholic school since being installed as head of the Buffalo diocese in 2012.
During his homily the bishop called upon students to emulate Jesus of Nazareth each day.
“Every single day it’s good to remember that just like Jesus invited Simon and Matthew, James and John and his followers, he invites us to be his followers, too,” Bishop Malone said. “Every single day we have the opportunity to realize that, and every single day we have the chance to say, ‘Yes, Lord, I will be your follower.”
Answering that call is not something to be taken lightly, as it takes a deep spiritual commitment.
“It’s a matter of realizing every day what a gift and what a privilege it is to know that Jesus Christ loves us and trusts us enough to be his friend and follower,” Bishop Malone said. “He has loved us and trusted us and has called us to be his people and to make a difference in the world.”
The bishop’s message to students is similar to one he offers Catholics across the diocese.
“The challenge the church faces in every age is that all of us — every
single one of us who’s baptized — are doing all that we can to follow Christ faithfully and live our baptism fully,” the bishop told the Times Herald after Mass.
Bishop Malone noted the diocese is now making a concerted effort to call back its members who have drifted away from church life.
“We are really encouraging our good Catholic brothers and sisters who have been away from the church to give some consideration and prayer to returning, both for their own sake so they can be enriched by church life and to do the work of Christ in the church,” he said. “We need all hands on deck to do that work.”
But cultivating a life of faith starts in places like parochial schools.
“The very best way we can form our young people in the faith is in our Catholic school,” he said. “When you have students who are in school all day long, five days a week, not only do you have a religion class, but you can integrate the elements of faith into the whole culture of the school. The Olean area and Southern Tier can be very, very proud of what’s happening at Southern Tier Catholic Schools and Archbishop Walsh.”
The estimated 1 billion Catholics across the world can also be proud of the work being done by Pope Francis in making all feel welcome to the church.
“The pope, while very traditional, is bringing a new style and tone of the papacy,” Bishop Malone said. “I consider what he’s doing is giving a new face through his own, unique way. He has a special gift for that and is really building bridges.”
(Contact reporter Christopher Michel at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, OTHChris.)