Fourteen months after accepting the resignation of Bishop Matthew H. Clark, the Vatican announced Nov. 6 that the current Bishop of Burlington, Vt., Salvatore R. Matano, will be the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Rochester. He will be installed Jan. 3, 2014.
Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse Robert J. Cunningham, along with Bishop Emeritus Clark, introduced Bishop Matano at a Nov. 6 press conference held in Rochester’s diocesan Pastoral Center and streamed live on the website of the Catholic Courier, the diocesan newspaper. “Over the past 14 months, we’ve all been waiting and praying for a worthy successor to Bishop Clark,” said Bishop Cunningham, who has served as apostolic administrator of the Rochester Diocese since September 2012, when Bishop Clark’s canonically required resignation at age 75 was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. “We’re delighted that he’s here with you, and he will be a wonderful shepherd of souls.”
Ordained a priest of his native diocese of Providence, R.I. in 1971, Bishop Matano has held a variety of pastoral and administrative positions in his more than four decades of ministry [see timeline at right]. Since 2005, he has served as the bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, which encompasses the entire state of Vermont. With more than 300,000 Catholics in Rochester’s 12-county diocese, Bishop Matano will lead about three times as many Catholics there as he currently does in Vermont.
At the conference, Bishop Matano spoke with affection of the people and the state of Vermont, a place he, “a city boy from Providence” who once “really didn’t know one cow from the other,” said has now become home.
Bishop Matano also said, however, that not all of his time in Burlington has been idyllic. “We, too, suffered greatly because of the sexual abuse crisis,” he said. “You probably will read that much of my administration was dealing with these situations.” According to a report from the Associated Press, during his tenure Bishop Matano oversaw the settlement of dozens of abuse cases and sold both the diocesan chancery and a camp property to help pay about $30 million in settlements. “It has been a very, very painful time – a very painful time for the victims and all affected by this crisis,” he said. “I take this opportunity again to apologize to the victims of sexual abuse for what they endured at the hands of those whom they have trusted. I pray I handled those circumstances as best I could.”
Asked about his plans for the Diocese of Rochester, Bishop Matano said he first needs to learn the lay of the land; the press conference, he said, marked his first visit to Rochester. However, “my strategic plan is the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “My agenda is to model the service of those who have gone before me as the shepherds of the diocese. My agenda is to try to make people holy.” He also said his priority would be to bring people back to Mass. “If you’re not practicing the faith, please come home. Come home. We miss you. Come home, the Lord is awaiting you. Come home, because again his arms will be opened,” he said.
The bishop also stressed unity at several points during his remarks, noting that every past Bishop of Rochester “has worked for unity.” “We’ve become too divisive in society and in the Church,” he said, later adding that “There are just too many divisions, too many agendas. It really is time to come together and work together and to find our guidance in the Gospel.”
Saying “I am a small man with a big job” and big responsibilities in Rochester, Bishop Matano asked a number of times for the prayers of the people. “Being a bishop today is, at least in my experience, quite challenging,” he said.
In an interview with the Sun the day after the press conference, Bishop Cunningham called Bishop Matano a “very gifted pastor and canonist” who will serve the Diocese of Rochester well. Bishop Cunningham said he got to know Bishop Matano when they were “neighbors” — the Diocese of Ogdensburg, which Bishop Cunningham led from 2004 to 2009, borders the Diocese of Burlington — and that he was present the day Bishop Matano was ordained a bishop. Bishop Cunningham said he and Bishop Matano had a chance to talk about the Diocese of Rochester’s strengths and customs, the people he’d meet and work with there and other questions in advance of the press conference.
Bishop Cunningham will remain apostolic administrator of the Rochester Diocese until Bishop Matano’s installation. The installation Mass will be celebrated Jan. 3 at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, Rochester.