Bishop Matano set to take reins of ‘beautiful diocese’

GATES — Calling his soon-to-be new home "this beautiful Diocese of Rochester," Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano was introduced as the ninth Bishop of Rochester during a 10:30 a.m. press conference Nov. 6 at the diocesan Pastoral Center. His appointment, made by Pope Francis, was announced by the Vatican earlier in the morning.

The Providence, R.I., native will be installed Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, Rochester. Bishop Matano, 67, comes to Rochester from the Diocese of Burlington — which encompasses the entire state of Vermont — where he has served as bishop since 2005.

Sitting at his right at the press conference was Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham, who has been Rochester’s apostolic administrator since the September 2012 retirement of Bishop Emeritus Matthew. H. Clark, who sat at his successor’s left. After the press conference, Bishop Matano proceeded to Sacred Heart to celebrate Mass at 12:10 p.m.

These events marked Bishop Matano’s first-ever visit to Rochester.

In expressing his feelings about his second assignment as a bishop, he invoked the example of the Virgin Mary and her willingness to bear the Son of God: "Thy will be done." He said he will seek to extend the same basic priority of all eight of his predecessors.

"In the history of your diocese, every bishop has a common theme. He has worked for unity," Bishop Matano said, also noting his desire to follow the model of faith set by St. John Fisher, the patron saint of this diocese. He expressed "deep gratitude" to Bishop Clark, saying he can’t hope to achieve a legacy comparable to his predecessor’s 33-year legacy, since he is less than 10 years away from age 75, when bishops are required to submit their resignations.

In the Rochester Diocese’s 12 counties, Bishop Matano will shepherd approximately 350,000 Catholics — three times the number he currently leads in the Diocese of Burlington. He said he won’t start making plans for the diocese until he better knows the lay of the land.

Yet he said his primary goal will be to do whatever possible to get more Catholics coming back to Mass, and said doing so is the work of all: "You can become a bit too preoccupied with persons in leadership and forget we’re all John the Baptists."

Like Rochester and many other dioceses across the United States, he said Burlington has been plagued in recent years by declining Mass attendance, fewer children in Catholic schools and fallout from the priest sex-abuse scandal.

In fact, Bishop Matano noted — without being prompted by reporters — that much of his eight years in Vermont has been spent addressing the abuse scandal, for cases involving priestly misconduct many years before he became bishop.

"It has been very, very painful — a very painful time for the victims and all affected by this crisis," he said.

With such challenges facing the church, Bishop Matano said it’s more important than ever for Catholics to seek unity by sharing in the Eucharist. In fact, his motto as Bishop of Burlington is In Unitatem Fidei — "In the Unity of Faith."

"We’ve become too divisive in society and in the church," he said. "There are just too many divisions, too many agendas. It really is time to come together."

Father Jesús Flores, the diocesan coordinator of migrant ministry, said that he looks forward to welcoming the new bishop and working in collaboration with him, as Bishop Matano mentioned during the press conference.

"He appears to be a very spiritual person who loves the Eucharist and Scripture," noted Father Flores. "He also has a pastoral sensitivity for the people of God and the community of this diocese."

Consistently humble throughout an address that began the press conference, Bishop Matano asked several times for the people of Rochester to pray for him.

"Being a bishop today is, at least in my experience, quite challenging," he said, adding that he’ll strive to be a good bishop by being respectful of people, performing his duties well and setting good examples by the way he lives his own life.

Contains reporting by Annette Jiménez.

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