Bishop Cunningham introduces himself regionally
by Connie Berry
DeWITT — More than 200 people gathered at Holy Cross Church June 2 to take part in a centuries-old practice with the newly installed 10th bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse, Bishop Robert Cunningham. The vesper service, or evening prayers, brought together people from all over the Western Region of the diocese and some from the surrounding regions. Vespers is part of the Liturgy of the Hours and is made up of hymns, psalms, canticles, a Scripture reading, responsory, intercessions, the Our Father and a concluding prayer. In this case, Bishop Cunningham also offered a brief homily after the Scripture reading. He will lead vespers in all the regions of diocese in the upcoming weeks.
The bishop cited the strong faith and charity that he said characterizes the people of the diocese. He asked that they pray for and, if possible, on Fridays “or any other day of the week,” fast with the intention to increase vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He asked that “families be open to this possibility.”
The prayer service at Holy Cross was the first opportunity for the bishop to meet the people of the diocese since his May 26 installation.
Lay people who waited in line to greet Bishop Cunningham were happy to meet him.
“He’s wonderful. He’s soft-spoken and you want to listen to him,” said Vi Conti, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse.
Matthew Rawson, a 17-year-old member of the Valley of Faith Youth Group at St. James and Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse, came to “see what he’s [Bishop Cunningham] all about.”
It may take some time for the new bishop to get to know the people of the diocese, but the vesper events certainly lend themselves to a one-on-one opportunity to greet Bishop Cunningham and get an idea of what he’s “all about.”
Bishop Cunningham has turned several times to the diocese’s past, aware of the great benefits understanding history can provide. During his homily he stated that the foundation of the Syracuse Diocese, built years ago by the parishes, schools, religious, pastors and lay people, planted seeds of faith.
“We need to be aware of our roots because our roots give us wings. I come here today to hear about your own journeys of faith,” Bishop Cunningham said.
Before the vesper service, the bishop met with priests of the Western Region. Many of the seminarians were also at the service. Deacon Chris Ballard is already pleased to know Bishop Cunningham, who will ordain him a priest for the Syracuse Diocese in June 2010. Bishop Cunningham called Deacon Ballard to congratulate him before his April 25th ordination to the transitional diaconate.
“I think he’s great. He came to talk to the seminarians already,” Deacon Ballard said. “He has a gentle spirit and kind of a fatherly spirit. It shows that he cares for us and wants to get to know us, each of us as an individual. That’s like a father — to know each of his children.”