Not surprisingly, as I approach the end of my six years as Rector of Christ the King Seminary, I am in a reflective mood. It has been a wild ride. No challenge in my 46 years of ministry as a priest has been quite like it. I thank the many people who have been supportive of me and of the Seminary in so many different ways. We are stronger because of you.
Where shall I begin?
A special joy of these six years has been working with our seminarians. I am delighted that the number of seminarians for the Diocese of Buffalo keeps growing, nearly doubling in the last six years, so that now we have 28 men in seminary training, including two in the college seminary of St. Mark in Erie, PA. May the growth continue. Here I offer kudos to Father Walter Szczesny, who works so tirelessly and with such joyful enthusiasm as the Vocation Director of the Diocese of Buffalo.
I also am honored to work with our committed, hard-working candidates for the permanent diaconate and the women and men who study as lay ecclesial ministers. Collaborative formation for collaborative ministry is alive and well at Christ the King Seminary and its effectiveness is apparent throughout the diocese. It is a joy that the Diocese of St. Catharines in Ontario also sends students to Christ the King Seminary. It has been a pleasure to work with Bishop Gerard Bergie, who is a member of the Seminary's Board of Trustees, and the seminarians and other students of that diocese.
Next, let's address the finances. The financial situation became strained shortly after I became Rector, when the world stock market took its deepest plunge since the Great Depression of 1929. But the Board of Trustees and the Seminary faculty and staff all pitched in to keep the Seminary strong. In addition, there have been so many faithful donors, who have helped with their financial support, including in the annual parish appeal, the special events (such as the Merrick Bednar Golf Tournament and the Curé of Ars Awards dinner) and the spring and fall appeals — all have been a great help! Thank you.
Within the last few years another important process took place. I refer to the regular accreditation review. Christ the King Seminary is accredited by two agencies. One focuses on seminaries and theological faculties, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The other attends to all educational institutions at every level, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It is a pleasure and a joy to report that both accrediting agencies have renewed full accreditation of Christ the King Seminary.
In August 2012, Bishop Richard J. Malone was installed as Buffalo's Bishop. Upon his arrival in Buffalo, Bishop Malone began to study carefully all that is happening at the Seminary, including the formation of seminarians for the priesthood, the formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate, and the formation of lay women and men to serve as lay ecclesial ministers in so many various positions throughout the Diocese. Bishop Malone paid many visits to the Seminary in his first months in Buffalo. He saw that the campus is also a marvelous venue for diocesan meetings and retreats and workshops. As someone who has himself served on the faculty of a Seminary, both as professor and academic dean, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of two seminaries, Bishop Malone concluded that Christ the King Seminary is so valuable an asset to the Gospel of Jesus and his Church in Western New York that he wants to be sure that the Seminary continues even more strongly as we head into the future. I am happy to say that the Bishop's announcements to this effect at various events have been met with enthusiastic gratitude and support by so many.
And now it is time for me to hand on the baton to Father Joseph Gatto. I know he will lead the Seminary forward with great effectiveness. Many thanks to all for your support and assistance to me and the Seminary during my tenure. Please extend Father Gatto the same hearty support.