Bishop James M. Moynihan laid to rest

Bishops and priests celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Bishop James M. Moynihan at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception March 10. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)

By Katherine Long, Editor

Most Rev. James M. Moynihan was laid to rest surrounded by family, friends, clergy, religious, and faithful during a moving liturgy celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception March 10.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Moynihan’s successor as ordinary, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, had been scheduled to celebrate, but a canceled flight prevented him from attending.

Concelebrants included retired Syracuse Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Costello; Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester; Bishop Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg; Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz of Buffalo; retired Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield, Mass.; retired Bishop James Timlin of Scranton, Pa.; Chorbishop John Faris, pastor of Saint Louis Gonzaga Maronite Catholic Church in Utica; and numerous priests of the Dioceses of Syracuse and Rochester. Seminarians of the diocese assisted in the liturgy.

Bishop Moynihan’s family sat close to their beloved brother and cousin: Caroline Anne Moynihan, bishop’s sister, and cousins James E. Moynihan, John Moynihan, and Thomas Moynihan were seated in the front pew, as was bishop’s caregiver Julie Merola. Behind them were many of the nurses and others who cared for Bishop Moynihan over the years.

Dr. Richard Hehir, Dr. Seth Greenky, Dr. Gregory Kenien, Edward King, Michael King, Mark Klenz, Christopher Mominey, and Christopher Parker served as pallbearers. Father Clifford Auth, Father Andrew Baranski, Father Amedeo Guida, Msgr. James Lang, Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, and Father Joseph Zareski served as honorary pallbearers.

Also in attendance were students from diocesan Catholic high schools, as well as members of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St. John, the Knights and Dames of Malta, and the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.

Bishop Moynihan planned his funeral liturgy before his death, selecting songs and readings that were particularly meaningful to him, Chancellor and Director of Communications Danielle Cummings said.

The first reading, Isaiah 25:6-9, was proclaimed by Cummings. She was hired as communications director by Bishop Moynihan soon after his tenure began; he later appointed her assistant chancellor. Bishop Moynihan also presided at her wedding.

The second reading, Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13, was proclaimed by Parker, diocesan Director of Stewardship and Development. He, too, was hired by Bishop Moynihan, and the bishop also presided at his wedding to Debra Sochan, who, at the time, served as diocesan chief financial officer.

The Gospel, Matthew 11:25-30, was proclaimed by Deacon Matthew Lyons, who will be ordained a priest of the diocese this June.

Father Clifford Auth, who served as chancellor under Bishop Moynihan, offered the homily.

“I’m grateful today to be able to share these words about Bishop Moynihan, someone who I consider a mentor and also a friend,” he said.

Over the past several days, hundreds of people walked by Bishop Moynihan lying in state, Father Auth said. “And as they walked by the bishop, they set aside their differences — their differences of race and nationality, ethnicity, creed, orientation, gender, religious fervor, and denomination. They set aside all those differences to walk on common ground: the common ground of faith.”

Father Auth spoke of the opposing bookend of that faith — the doubt that can plague us all at times.

“I’m here to share with you that Bishop Moynihan was an individual, a person just like you and just like me who doubted. And there were things in his life, beliefs in his life, that gave him faith: his belief in the mission of the Church, his belief in a saint that he advocated, his belief in the unborn and the vulnerable and those on death row that he defended, his belief in the advancement of Catholic schools, his belief in the scores and scores of religious throughout our diocese and their unequivocal partnership with us. He believed in so many things.

“But of those things that he believed, three were paramount: they were the belief in his priests, the belief in the people of God, and the belief in the cross that he was preordained to carry,” he said.

Father Auth drew on the words of his predecessor as chancellor, the late Msgr. Michael Minehan: “There’s not a day that goes by that the bishop does not want to pray with his priests and continuously prays for his priests.”

At his installation as bishop, Father Auth said, Bishop Moynihan was asked questions about building up the Church as the Body of Christ, sustaining the people of God, and showing kindness to those in need. “To every single one of those questions, Bishop Moynihan said yes. But I believe he said yes to remind us that the exercise of bishop is less title and more function.”

Father Auth recognized the bishop’s family members as well as his many caregivers, remembering especially his longtime secretary Kate Anderson and longtime caretaker Simone Smeltzer, both deceased.

“In the season of Lent, we are reminded that no one can come to our Lord unless we pick up our cross…. Bishop’s caregivers, you were the hands of Christ. You were the hands of Christ that permitted him to carry with grace that cross in his final days,” he said.

Father Auth shared a quote from St. Marianne Cope, the Franciscan sister who grew up and ministered in the diocese in the 1800s: “May God give us the strength to teach and to lead all we encounter that there is nothing more important in our world than the love of God.”

“Bishop Moynihan exercised his leadership in the pursuit of that goal,” Father Auth concluded. “Our question: In what way will we exercise our leadership?”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Moynihan was committed to the Cathedral crypt. He rests there with six of the diocese’s late clerics: Bishop Patrick Ludden; Bishop John Grimes; Bishop Daniel Curley; Bishop Joseph O’Keefe; Msgr. James McPeak, who served as rector of the Cathedral for 43 years; and Msgr. Joseph Champlin, who also served as Cathedral rector.

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