June can be a wonderful time of year, with the school year having come to an end and vacations beginning for so many families. Throughout the summer, there are so many times to gather as families, sharing one another’s company and enjoying the beauty of the created world around us. This is all the more true in our beautiful Mountain State, with its many parks, scenic views, and summertime events of all varieties. I hope you and your family are able to enjoy the summer together.
For me as Bishop, June is usually about two kinds of important events: Confirmations and Ordinations. As I always say, Confirmations are one of the best things I do as Bishop: I am able to enjoy being with our beautiful candidates and their great families and friends, all of them living the faith and sharing it. These sacramental moments, taking place in parishes across the Diocese, afford me a great focus on the heart of our Diocese and the lives of committed Catholic families. I am truly grateful to God for this experience as your Bishop. As I write to you, I have just finished my Confirmations for the summer and am thankful for a wonderful season which took me to so many parishes in the Diocese. I am thankful to Msgr. Annie, who helped me with these celebrations this year and to the many parishes who welcomed me.
On the first Saturday of June, I ordained Nye Joseph Wiley to the Diaconate. This was a beautiful celebration for him and for me. Joseph spent last year at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling, getting to know the Diocese and parish life better. I am very grateful for the wonderful role that Msgr. Paul Hudock, Father Gary Naegele, and the wonderful parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish played in Deacon Wiley’s formation. After a summer at the Basilica Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, Deacon Wiley will return to Theological College in Washington to complete his seminary education and formation. I ask you to join me in praying that God, who has begun this good work in Deacon Wiley, will bring it to completion.
At the end of the month, I will ordain Deacon Martin Smay to the Priesthood, another joyous event for our Diocese to which I look forward. He is a wonderful and very intelligent young man, who will be an excellent priest. After ordination and a summer assignment, Deacon Smay will return to Rome to continue his studies in Canon Law.
Together with these two men, our other seminarians are also assigned to parishes across the Diocese. I thank the pastors and parishes which have accepted seminarians this summer: having a summer pastoral experience is very important for our seminarians in their discernment and formation. If your parish has a seminarian, I ask you to reach out to this young man who is discerning a vocation: thank him for considering priesthood and encourage him in his formation. Most of all, please make him feel welcome in the same wonderful way that you always make me feel welcome in your parish. Please pray for Deacon Smay, Deacon Wiley, and all of our seminarians. June is also a time when the new priestly assignments take effect in our parishes. I am aware that this can be a difficult time for many of our priests and parishioners. There are wonderful priests retiring this year, whose health and age make it difficult for them to continue in the very challenging responsibilities they have shouldered. When a priest retires, this requires many other changes to be made. In years when we have a number of priests serving as associate pastors, the new assignments necessitated by retirements are simple. However, we currently only have two priests serving as associate pastors. This means that, even with the blessing of a number of International clergy and religious clergy, there will have to be many transfers this June. I ask you to pray for our priests making these moves, which can be challenging for both the young and the older clergy. Their lives are changing and that can be very challenging, especially as good friends and important networks of support are left behind. We have a very large diocese, where our geography can impose a serious amount of traveling and can sometimes separate people and make it difficult to maintain important relationships. All of us must be aware of these challenges. We all constitute a very diverse state with interesting and diverse history and economics. This leads to many challenges and new learning experiences for priests and people. Please pray that good decisions have been made for the priests and parishes affected and pray that parishes will work together with their new priests to strengthen our faith.