Bishop Edward Kmiec, turns 75 today, and he’s required to submit hisresignation to the Pope with the turning of this page. In the past year of being here I’ve gotten to know the Bishop a bit. And having been around a good deal of Bishops in my career, I have to say he’s one of the better ones.
Bishop Kmiec is personal and listens well to his flock. He was in the no-win situation of having to close many parishes and schools in Buffalo, a move that was sorely needed as Buffalo’s population has dwindled. School closings, in particular, are never easy. But Bishop Kmiec has done it all with grace even amongst resistance at times.
He had to foresight to let the building of the new North Campus Newman Center here be built. And nobody was more excited when Fr. Pat Keleher, the Center’s director won what essentially is a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Campus Ministry Association.
I remember talking with the Bishop when the new center was opened and I said to him. “Hey Bishop, thanks for coming!”
His quick response, “I’m glad I get to open a place instead of closing one. You can’t imagine how painful it is for me to have to close places. Never easy.”
Secret to many is that the Bishop lives a majority of his time in pain. He’s got severe back problems which forces him to now sit while preaching (a Bishop’s right, but in his case, a necessity). His secretary, Msgr. David LiPuma, is constantly telling him to sit down and rest. Often the Bishop listens, but just as often he tries to press on to remain active.
The Buffalo News reminded people today:
But when the pope names a new bishop for Buffalo, Kmiec will become “administrator” of the diocese, with reduced faculties, until his successor is installed.
The whole process is expected to take several months, and possibly longer than a year.
Six bishop seats in the United States already are vacant. In addition, six dioceses currently have bishops serving past the age of 75, and five dioceses, aside from Buffalo, have bishops turning 75 this year, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The significant number of openings and pending openings — as well as the relative stability of the Buffalo diocese following a tumultuous few years of parish restructuring — could mean that the Vatican will ask Kmiec to stay on for quite a bit longer.
With the Bishop’s health in question, that might not be the case if that becomes a Vatican consideration. A new administrator could be named, as well as, a new Bishop as soon as the Papal Nuncio and the Holy Father can agree on someone. Archbishop Dolan, the New York Archdiocesan Bishop might be kingmaker here as well, suggesting an auxiliary Bishop from his diocese to run things here to the Holy Father. Or perhaps there’s another selection that the Papal Nuncio has in mind. Or the diocese may have suggested someone locally that the Nuncio could well recommend to the Holy Father. It’s anyone’s guess. Place your bets.
In any event, at some point, Bishop Kmiec, will hand the keys over to someone new, and that will bring some sadness for those of us who have gotten to know him personally and enjoy his company.
So let us pray for Bishop Kmiec and for the people of Buffalo that they can embrace his leadership for a bit longer and welcome his replacement when that day comes, knowing that he has been left with a good hand to play thanks to the man who has done much to get this diocese ready for the future.
Happy Birthday, Bishop and thanks for all you’ve been for Buffalo.