Upstate Friar Speaks at NYC Clergy Series

HNP Communications Friar News

NEW YORK — A friar from Western New York spoke May 5 with approximately 40 clergy members from the Metropolitan New York area at the Cardinal Bernardin Series for Clergy at St. Francis of Assisi Church here.

James Vacco, OFM
, an instructor at St. Bonaventure University who has been active in various roles for the Buffalo, N.Y., Diocese, was the closing speaker of this year’s Cardinal Bernardin Series for Clergy, hosted by St Francis of Assisi Church. 

The 12-year-old series is named for Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He died in 1996. 

The series is offered on Tuesdays from September through May. The day consists of morning prayer and a speaker, usually a priest, who presents for about 45 minutes and then takes questions, said Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, who hosts the series and invites the presenters. The program was begun by John McDowell, OFM, who now serves as a campus minister in Loretto, Pa.

James has been involved for the past few years in the Diocese of Buffalo’s program for integrating, closing and linking parishes, and has developed a spirituality of trust and conversion, Kevin said, adding that James spoke about the importance of looking toward the future in response to current needs for change.

“My talk was on the experience of the planning process of the Buffalo diocese’s “Journey of Faith and Grace,” James said. 

“One of the focuses of the Journey initiative was on the spiritual revitalization of the diocese and having a spiritual foundation underlying the practical concerns that usually overwhelm people’s attention. Part of the presentation focused on how the priest as a leader was so essential. Where the priest took a constructive leadership role, the process was better received.

“I concluded the presentation by stating that ‘the priest as a leader need not just understand the reason for a strategic planning process but must approach the process as a practical experience of conversion,’” he said. “The priest must see and understand within himself that conversion is not a negative but a modality for revitalization. This modality, when applied to the practicalities of changing demographics, decreased number of clergy, and other factors, then becomes not a ‘last one left turns out the lights’ but a ‘journey’s end in order for a new journey to begin.’”

Speaker topics vary during the Bernadin series, but usually cover spirituality, priestly life, morale, prayer and scripture, Kevin said. In the early afternoon, participants can take part in a penance service, followed by confession.