Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Buffalo, Moving Days

From Buffalo Chancery, Bishop Richard Malone's opening statement on his arrival in Western New York....

Via the local News, meanwhile, more footage from this morning's rollout... complete with the Boston-born prelate's profession of baseball loyalties....

On an interesting context note, the transfer of the head of Maine's statewide diocese -- and the resulting vacancy likely to approach a year's duration -- portends to leave the Portland church bishop-less in the run-up to a November referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage, the Pine Tree State's second in three years.

While Malone took ample doses of both praise and heat for leading a successful, high-profile charge against the measure's passage by voters in 2009, earlier this year the onetime chaplain at Harvard laid out a more teaching-oriented strategy toward the coming vote, anchored by a 24-page pastoral letter on marriage. (As most will remember, New York state enacted full recognition for same-sex unions in a legislative vote last summer.)

Home to some 700,000 Catholics today, the Buffalo church -- which numbered close to a million members in past decades -- is over three times the size of Portland's. Yet in what could be the most emblematic sign of American Catholicism's historic demographic shift away from the old Northeastern bastions toward parts South and West, a metro Atlanta parish has been engaged in a years-long effort to move a closed, basilica-style Buffalo church (above) to the Georgia suburbs to serve as its worship-space.

Dubbed "preservation by relocation," the campaign to haul stone by stone of the onetime St Gerard church 900 miles south has raised close to $3 million to date.

Perhaps Buffalo's most famed church, however -- and still open -- is the mammoth basilica-shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, the spiritual heart of the "City of Charity" built by Fr Nelson Baker, the local cleric whose cause for beatification was bolstered by last year's declaration of his heroic virtue.

With today's twin appointments, the number of vacant Stateside dioceses (Latin-church) rises to seven. The additional count of local churches led by a bishop serving past the retirement age, meanwhile, will stand at nine on tomorrow's 75th birthday of Bishop Walter Hurley of Grand Rapids, then tick up to ten as Bishop John Kinney of St Cloud marks the milestone on June 11th.

Among other domestic nods widely expected by the Vatican's summer recess at June's end is the appointment of a new archbishop of San Francisco to succeed the venerable George Niederauer, who turns 76 in mid-June.