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6/23/2016 9:00:00 AM
All about Auriesville
A 2015 MASS AT THE SHRINE. "What we envision," writes the Bishop, "is a plan to operate the shrine in much the same way that the first martyrs carried out the work of evangelization: with cooperation among laypersons (as some of those martyrs were) and clergy; with respect for the talents, gifts and traditions of all the collaborators; and, one might say, in an ecumenical spirit." (John Salvione photo)
Readers who have watched "Table of the Lord," the weekly televised Sunday Mass produced by the Albany Diocese, are asked to share your feedback as the Diocese plans for the future of its programming. Please email communications@rcda.org, call (518) 453-6618 or write to Diocese of Albany, Office of Communications, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY 12203.

Saturday, June 18, was a great day for our Diocese of Albany -- who we are and who we are becoming. I had the incredible joy of ordaining four fine men to the priesthood in our beautiful Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.

I didn't have time to count, but over 700 people were packed into the worship space, not to mention 65 or so priests concelebrating and more than a score of deacons.

What really made me reflect about what we are and where we are going was the presence of Jacob Finkbonner, as he approached me for communion. He is the young man who was cured from a devastating flesh-eating bacteria he had contracted from a cut on his lip while playing basketball.

Through the intercession of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a miracle occurred, which led to her canonization. Many of you remember how we packed the coliseum at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville for a celebration of that joyous occasion in 2012.

As always, the Auriesville shrined has never been just about the Albany Diocese or even New York State. Although pilgrimages from far and wide may have diminished from the times many of us still fondly remember, its story is no less compelling now. In fact, it just needs to be told again - now, more than ever -- for all to discover its vital relevance for today.

The Albany Diocese has always long been respected and much admired for its ecumenical and interfaith traditions, nourished by good leadership and by the shared understanding that God is not just the center of any one religion, but the very ground of all humanity, the one who created us out of love in His image and likeness. If we are God's children, then we are brothers and sisters.

That sense was my experience at an interfaith prayer gathering last week at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, where people of all faiths prayed after the June 11 massacre in Orlando, Fla.

That was also the vision of the first martyrs who brought the Gospel of God's love to the heartland of New York State. Contrary to the charge of certain historical revisionists, theirs was not a crusade of exploitation of the indigenous residents -- the nations whose land all "settlers" came to occupy over the continental migrations, beginning in the 15th century.

These Jesuit Fathers, who came to be known by the native Americans as "black robes," and their message are precisely what attracted Kateri Tekakwitha to a deeper friendship with God through the cross of Jesus Christ, whose redemptive death resolved for her the mystery of so much suffering with which she was all too familiar for following her conscience.

This good news of God's mercy, which the Gospel is all about, first came to our region with the arrival of the Jesuit Fathers and their lay associates, whom the shrine at Auriesville commemorates.

It is my joy to announce that the shrine is alive and well. We will continue to tell that story and to welcome pilgrims from far and near for years to come. Thanks to the generosity and evangelical spirit of the mission of the Jesuit Fathers, we have been able to enter into a collaborative relationship -- a kind of "concelebration" -- for an ongoing sacramental presence at the shrine and the development of resources to accommodate pilgrims.

Contrary to some rumors I have heard, the Diocese of Albany is not "taking over" the funding or operations of the shrine. Nor, as should soon become clear, are the Jesuit Fathers or any of the bishops in our state set on abandoning it.

Instead, what we envision is a plan to operate the shrine in much the same way that the first martyrs carried out the work of evangelization: with cooperation among laypersons (as some of those martyrs were) and clergy; with respect for the talents, gifts and traditions of all the collaborators; and, one might say, in an ecumenical spirit.

Toward that end, I have formed an independent, not-for-profit supporting organization called The Friends of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine, Inc. ("Friends," for short), to assist not only the Jesuits and local dioceses in fostering the growth of this holy ground, but also to engage the interests and resources of bishops, priests and laypersons beyond our region.

Considering what it represents, I think many would agree, the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs should become a national shrine!

We have a great challenge ahead of us, but that is the nature of any evangelizing mission: to go into the world and tell the good news, person to person, one step at a time.

Over the months ahead, watch for more information about events at the shrine, including scheduled Masses. The mission of the shrine is not to compete with local parish families and their celebrations and activities, but to include all of us in what we envision to become a center for evangelization for not only our own region, but well beyond.

The Gospel is such an attractive force, and the stories of St. Kateri and the martyrs the shrine commemorates have much to teach us about patience, perseverance and trust in power of Jesus to save us, through the personal encounters with Christ and one another that our faith is all about. Celebrating these connections through the intercession of Our Lady, St. Kateri and the first martyrs will fire up our evangelical courage. Pray to them for us all!

Look for more good news at www.auriesvilleshrine.com -- or, better yet, pay a visit to the shrine! The grounds have never looked so beautiful, thanks to the upkeep overseen by the Jesuit Fathers and the Friends who are now maintaining the operation of the Visitors' Center.

Stay tuned. There's more to come.

(Read previous stories about the shrine's future at www.evangelist.org and follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishop Ed and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2016
Article comment by: Michael Glenn

As someone who participated in pilgrimages in the 1960's it is great to see the mission of the shrine will continue. Tonight I am meeting with a group that is reactivating for the 2nd year in a row that same pilgrimage for the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Last year we have 40 participants and hope to have a least double that this year if not more.

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