“Dr. Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College, in Providence, Rhode Island, senior editor of Touchstone magazine and regular contributor to Magnificat. He earned a doctorate degree in Renaissance Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the author of numerous publications, most notably Dante’s Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise(2007); Reflections on Christian Life (2013; Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (2014); Real Music: A Guide to Timeless Hymns of the Church (2016); as well as Out of Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (2017). A prolific scholar, educator and author, Dr. Esolen is a valuable voice in the Catholic Church for what our faith offers to the contemporary culture.”
I personally enjoy the Convocation each year, it offers the opportunity to learn and even more importantly for me, to be with priests and pastoral leaders that I do not have the occasion to see very often. It is a time to catch up and pray and socialize with each other. On Tuesday, the Feast Day of St. Mark, we will con-celebrate the Eucharist with Bishop Matano at St. Mary of the Lake Church, Watkins Glen. At that Mass we usually remember the priests who have died since the previous year’s gathering. Spending these days with the priests of the diocese always reminds me of the priests that I have lived with and worked with through the years.
In my 35 years of priesthood I have been blessed by the support and guidance of pastors who were my mentors. My first pastor during my deacon year was Father John O’Connor who was my pastor when I was ordained at Our Lady of Lourdes in Brighton, NY. Fr. O’Connor is now a Senior Priest who assists on weekends at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the churches around Keuka Lake. My next pastor was Fr. Michael Conboy when I was an Intern Priest at St. Patrick, Seneca Falls. After serving two years with Father Conboy, he moved to take on a new pastorate at St. Margaret Mary Church in Irondequoit, but I was reunited with him seven years later as he became pastor of St. Joseph Church in Penfield. I was again assigned to serve with Father Conboy, this time I moved after two years to begin my first pastorate in Newark Valley and Catatonk. It is such a great pleasure to once again be working with Father Conboy who continues to give so much of himself as a Senior Priest assisting in our parish on Sundays.
I have jumped ahead though in my storyline, when Father Conboy moved to Irondequoit Father Eugene Sweeney became my pastor in Seneca Falls. I was only with Father Sweeney one year; I then moved to Weedsport, and the newly formed Northern Cayuga Cluster made up of St. Joseph Church, Weedsport, St. Patrick Church, Cato and St. John the Evangelist Church, Port Byron. Father George Wiant was my pastor for the first five years of my six years serving in the cluster. My last year there Father Bill Leone was my pastor. If someone called out Father Bill we had two heads swiveling! When I am at the Convocation this year I will think of Father Wiant the most, he passed away last year. I use to room with Father George every year at the Convocation, even after he moved to St. Patrick in Victor and even after he retired as pastor. He was the priest that I lived with the longest and we enjoyed getting together at the Convocation and sharing memories. I will remember Father George in my prayers at the Convocation as well as all the priests I have served with and lived with during my priesthood who have passed away: my third pastor, Father Gene Sweeney and the Senior Priests I had the privilege to live with or work with and who were also mentors to me; Father Leslie Whalen, Father Ray Wahl, Father Tom Watts. I will remember too, Father Gerry Applebee, who passed away recently, he was my college Chaplin during my four years at RIT. I thank God for their support and friendship and the witness of faith and service they provided for me and so many others. May they rest in the peace of the Risen Christ.
Please keep us in your prayers as we gather for the Convocation this week, and know that you are always in mine.
God bless you, Father Bill