It was a busy week here in the Diocese of Syracuse, with events for families, evangelists, and anyone looking for a little mirth and mercy. Here’s a look at some highlights:

Reboot! Live with Chris Stefanick

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Chris Stefanick speaks at Reboot! Live at Sacred Heart Church in Cicero April 13.

International Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick brought his Reboot! Live renewal events to the diocese April 12-14, speaking to hundreds in packed churches in New Hartford, Cicero, and Vestal. The intergenerational evenings of talks and music were organized through the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

With a mix of humor, personal stories, and scripture, Stefanick countered some secular objections to the faith and reminded those listening at Sacred Heart Church in Cicero, “All this Catholic stuff, this love story of salvation history, is actually real.”

“There is a God and that God loved us enough to become flesh out of love for us, enter space and time, claim divinity, rose from the dead to verify his claims…. This is what the maker of the universe thought about you,” he continued.

“Somehow on the scales of the Father’s love, you outweigh everything,” Stefanick said, and despite our problems, our sins, our questions, God’s “love for you is bigger than your ‘but.’”

Stefanick drew on the examples of Blessed Chiara Badano, an Italian teenager who died from cancer; Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, a teenager killed for his faith; and St. John Paul II. “Heroic souls are only chiseled out from the rest of us by suffering,” Stefanick said, but their stories were ultimately more than tragedy. The same love that rewrote the stories of the saints “is here right now, giving us everything… and is inviting a response from us. What’s your response?”

“If we stay closed in our self-centeredness and our comfort and our sin and we don’t say yes to God, we miss out on something eternal,” he said.

Because the beauty and power of the Gospel also needs to translate to concrete realities, Stefanick left the crowd with some practical takeaways, his “seven habits of holy people”: love yourself, pray, live a pure life, community, forget yesterday, serve, and share the faith.

Bob Walters, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said he was elated with the success of the events and the relationships that were built in the course of organizing them. “It doesn’t end [tonight] — it just begins,” he said.

For more on Reboot!, visit

Easter Saints and Endless Mercies with Brother Mickey McGrath

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Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, presents “Endless Mercies,” his second of two workshops in the diocese, April 16. Brother McGrath stands in front of a projection of one of his pieces, which features text drawn from Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel): “Mary is a sign of hope for people who suffer the birth pangs of justice.” (Thanks to Brother McGrath for letting us use this photo of his work.)

Artist Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, presented two workshops in the diocese last weekend: Easter Saints on April 15 and Endless Mercies on April 16. The author and illustrator of many books, Brother McGrath’s colorful, whimsical art offers a unique perspective on faith. About 50 people attended each of the presentations, which were sponsored by the diocesan Office of Faith Formation and Pflaum Publishing.

During Endless Mercies, Brother McGrath shared his paintings of saints and scripture, featuring some familiar faces including St. Joseph, St. Marianne Cope, and Pope Francis. He offered insight on the symbols present in his art and the stories of the figures who inspired it, all centering around the notion of mercy.

Maria Tsohonis, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Endicott and a candidate in the Formation for Ministry program, said she was not familiar with Brother McGrath’s art before the session, but that she felt she “was meant to be here today.”

“What he’s saying is really touching my heart in a personal way today,” she added.

To see more of Brother McGrath’s art, visit

New Evangelization Summit

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The crowd participating in the New Evangelization Summit April 16 is riveted by Sherry Weddell’s presentation on parish renewal.

Some 90 people from across the diocese participated in the New Evangelization Summit, a two-day evangelization conference live-streamed from Ottawa, Canada, to WCNY Studios in Syracuse April 15 and 16. The local viewing site was organized by the diocesan Office of Evangelization.

The annual conference offers speakers aiming to inspire, form, and connect Catholics as evangelists. This year’s lineup included Bishop Christian Riesbeck, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, and well-known authors Christopher West and Sherry Weddell.

Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, focused her April 16 talk on “Parish Renewal: The Fruit of Forming Intentional Disciples.” Reminding participants that there should be no fruitless liturgies or sacraments, she outlined the first steps of parish renewal, which include prayer, witness, opportunities to encounter Christ, and planning for conversion.

Mary Hallman, director of the Office of Evangelization, described the event as a training, after which those in attendance would return to their parishes to implement what they learned.

In addition to a sense of hope, Hallman said she wanted attendees to walk away with an understanding that “the diocese is prepared to support them in their efforts for parish renewal” and “that we have resources already in place and resources that we’re bringing in for the next year to help parishes form missionary disciples.”

Amy Sullivan, business administrator at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, said she appreciated the wide range of speakers and perspectives offered by the conference. Every talk might not speak to every individual, “but it’s giving us a really wide range of resources to go back to our parishes, because you have to meet so many different needs,” she said.

Sullivan’s takeaway from Weddell’s talk was the piece on intercessory prayer, which she was eager to bring back to OLS. “That’s a first step — we can go back and do it right now,” she said.
Learn more about the New Evangelization Summit at

Stay tuned for more highlights from all of these events on this week’s edition of “Around the Diocese.”

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