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Catholics gather in Ogdensburg to hear bishop’s vision for the diocese’s future

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It was standing room only as hundreds of north country Catholics gathered in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg on Wednesday to hear Bishop Terry R. LaValley share a new vision for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

“This is a very exciting, hope-filled time for the Diocese of Ogdensburg,” Bishop LaValley said to the crowd of priests, deacons, lay clergy and worshippers. “During the Year of Faith, we have been re-energized to recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ and to share our faith with our sisters and brothers. With these priorities and goals, the faithful throughout the north country will engage, in a focused manner, in building up this church that we love.”

A shortage of resident pastors and an increasingly secular society have motivated the church to a more evangelical approach in the “new leg of our faith journey,” Bishop LaValley said.

“Let’s be honest,” he said. “We look around us and know that things simply cannot stay the same. This is a new moment in the life of the church. If it ever existed, the church of ‘pray, pay and obey’ is no more. No longer can we be merely consumers at church. No, we must live, celebrate and share our faith. It is my hope that our priorities and goals will focus our efforts, fill us with hope and unite us in our common purpose.”

During the Chrism Mass, a traditional blessing for the celebration of sacraments during the coming year, two representatives from each of the 97 parishes in the diocese received a framed proclamation containing the goals and priorities that have been established for the next two years.

Since February 2013, Bishop LaValley has held monthly meetings with an 11-member Envisioning Leadership Team made of representatives from throughout the diocese, which includes 102 parishes.

As part of its work, the team conducted a series of “listening sessions” allowing a broad cross-section of Catholics to talk about their experience, hopes and concerns for the Catholic Church in the north country. The diocesan vision, priorities and goals are Bishop LaValley’s response to what he heard in the listening sessions and other sources of input on the needs of the diocese.

The proclamation offers the five-year vision with three priorities and six goals for every parish, ministry and institution in the diocese.

The priorities and goals include encouraging parishioners to work together to find a vocation inside and outside the church that suits them, establishing a youth ministry in 25 to 30 parishes by June 30, 2015, and providing family Catechesis for the seven sacraments for every parish by Feb. 1, 2016; chartering a planning committee with a clear mission and broad representation by Sept. 1. Representatives from each parish will complete a diocese-wide “Find Your Home in Christ Census” of all households between Oct. 1 and Aug. 1, 2015.

“You can take my word for it,” Bishop LaValley said. “Every man and woman, boy and girl will be visited at their home by one of their local parishioners by the time the census is completed. Every person in the north country will know that there is a faithful Roman Catholic living nearby to joyfully invite them to become a vibrant body of Christ that we know and love as the church.”

Bishop LaValley was quick to defend the plan against those who might see it as too ambitious and unpractical.

“Of course it’s natural to be skeptical when something new like this arrives on the scene,” he said. “But we will proceed with our goals in a step-by-step fashion to help us address our priorities. I call upon the can-do north country spirit of all the faithful who call this place home. It is essential to understand the urgency of the moment — that we never remain on the sidelines of our diocesan march of living hope begun today.”

After the service, the Rev. Phillip T. Allen of Indian Lake called Bishop LaValley’s homily “arousing.”

“We needed to hear it,” Father Allen said. “That’s the direction we’ve needed to go. We need to focus on bringing families together and those are important goals to follow.”

The Rev. Joseph A. Morgan, rector at St. Mary’s Cathedral, said the speech was “hope-filled” and “enthusiastic.”

“People were really engaged. You can feel the energy in the room,” Father Morgan said. “His goals are perfectly attainable. We just need to harness the enthusiasm of our parishes in order to fulfill them.”

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