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KEEPING THE FAITH
THOUSANDS OF CATHOLICS MARK DIOCESAN ANNIVERSARY

Joyce Lamendola sensed that the Holy Spirit was surely there.

Stephen Sailor was impressed with the turnout, the organization and the production.

Krista Minnick thought it was "neat -- pretty cool."

Those were the feelings of some of the nearly 12,000 people who came to Marine Midland Arena Saturday to take part in a Mass celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

"A lot of love went into this," said Mrs. Lamendola, a member of Christ the King Parish in Snyder. "It was very moving. You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit."

"This drew more (people) than a Sabres game," observed Sailor, who is taking classes at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy to become a Catholic. "It was the beauty of the whole body of Christ coming together."

A junior at Immaculata Academy in Hamburg, Ms. Minnick was one of dozens of teen-agers who served as communion ushers, seeing to it that the distribution by more than 100 priests and deacons went smoothly.

"I thought the choir was really good," she said, adding that she also was impressed with the size of the crowd.

Although it was no secret that Bishop Henry J. Mansell had hoped to fill all 19,000 seats in the arena, the bishop clearly was not concerned about empty ones. Both before and during the Mass, he thanked those attending, as well as those involved in planning and conducting the liturgy, for being there.

"I'm so grateful for the presence of so many here," Bishop Mansell declared at the start of the two-hour Mass.

"Thank you for continuing to proclaim God's marvelous works," he told them later. "Thank you for continuing to be God's marvelous works."

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Mansell said that because a "jubilee year" traditionally is a time to help the poor and needy, the diocese is giving special grants to agencies in several counties to support shelter, feeding, migrant, domestic violence and similar ministries.

The diocese also will fund a new "job-finding program" in each of the eight counties of Western New York to help the unemployed, the bishop said.

Bishop Mansell was joined at the altar by Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz and retired Bishops Edward D. Head and Bernard J. McLaughlin. Three hundred priests, dressed in white vestments, concelebrated the liturgy.

The entrance procession lasted 15 minutes as the long line of priests climbed the five steps to the 90-by-37-foot cross-shaped platform that held the altar, snaked along its length and then climbed down to the seating area.

Many of the faithful, including Kathleen Rizzo of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Jamestown, said they were impressed with the way the red-carpeted platform gave the celebration the feel of a papal event.

The setting, Mrs. Rizzo said, helped make the Mass "a tremendous celebration of God's word and Eucharist."

The smoothly flowing service featured music from a 57-piece orchestra and a 350-voice choir composed of singers from throughout the diocese.

The music selection was broad. It included a traditional Gregorian chant "Kyrie," a hand-clapping, Gospel-style "Gloria" by African-American composer Grayson Warren Brown, British composer Christopher Walker's "Celtic Alleluia," and the reflective "Eat This Bread," a communion hymn by the Taize community in France.

Delores Waligora of Buffalo's Assumption parish rated the celebration "magnificent" and the music "terrific."

"It was cathartic, very emotional," added Harry Ginty, a member of Annunciation parish.

He was particularly moved, he said, by the different cultures and languages represented in one of the Scripture readings and by the variety of intentions -- senior citizens, religious, teens, single people -- remembered during the Mass.

For nearly an hour before the Mass, dozens of men, women and children from all walks of life, led by liturgical dancers, filed into the arena in four processions under banners proclaiming Heart, Mind, Body and Soul.

The processions were accompanied by music and preceded by videos on the arena Jumbotron showing some of the work of the organizations and institutions.

Among groups represented in the processions were hospitals, colleges, cemeteries, religious orders, Boy and Girl Scout troops, Catholic Charities, parochial elementary and high schools, renewal centers and diocesan offices.

A video presented during the "Soul" procession showed people receiving the sacraments of the Catholic Church at Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion and Holy Matrimony.

As she gazed at the 277 patches of the four sesquicentennial quilts that hung just inside the arena's Perry Street entrance, Marcelene Lederhouse of St. Mary's Parish in Lockport reflected that "a lot of heart went into them."

"They are really beautiful. They are representative of all of the parishes," she said.

John Ash, a member of St. Joseph's Parish in Olean, and the city's mayor, said the long drive to Buffalo was "well worth it."