Reflections on My Attendance at the Diocese of Western New York Convention

Why I signed up: I thought it would be a fun weekend in a nice hotel with my husband at my side. I love our Diocesan Convention – this year will be my eighteenth – and I thought it would be interesting to see how other dioceses run their annual conventions.

What I found out: Whoa, there, lady! This was not just a getaway weekend for the Wilds! This was a vitally important encounter with the members of the DioWNY churches and their clergy. The responsibilities were hefty. It was work! Yikes! As I sat at our sparsely occupied table, #39, I realized that I had a job to do for my diocese and my bishop: Lord, help me to be a positive, effective member of our delegation. Help me to allow the dedicated people of Western New York to see our diocese and our bishop as loving, creative, and honest. Help me to do your will, always.

I found myself praying this little prayer a number of times during the weekend. Geoffrey, (my spouse) and I sat alone at Table 39 until we were joined by a priest from our own diocese. He encouraged me to move to another table. I sat down beside a lady and said, “Hi, my name is Cheryl, and I’m from Grove City, PA.” She told me her name and we began to make connections. It turned out that Geoffrey and I had vacationed near and in the town where she lives and attends church and that she and I were born ten miles apart in the Southern Tier of New York State. I met a priest at that same table. She was personable and genuine. The ladies at the table seemed a bit skeptical about the arrangement being suggested by the bishops. I got the feeling that they were afraid that they would be giving up control and would be absorbed into the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Lord, help me to be a positive, effective member of our delegation. Help me to allow the dedicated people of Western New York to see our diocese and our bishop as loving, creative, and honest. Help me to do your will, always.

As Friday continued, Bishop Sean was able to answer some of their concerns. He did so in his usual outgoing straightforward manner. My favorite question and answer were as follows:

DioWNY member: (paraphrasing) We would like to see our bishop more than once every three years. Would this mean we would see you only every four years?

Bishop Sean: Yes.

He did go on to explain how he would be available in many different ways to the folks in Western New York and their clergy as well as those in the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania. But that simple “Yes” said more about him than his explanation.

It is my belief that his answer impacted many people who were worried about what our bishop was up to with this proposal he and Bishop Bill had made. There was no sugar coating. It was simple and honest.

My favorite part of the weekend was the Eucharist at St. Andrew’s Church. This beautiful structure was packed with people from both dioceses, and I felt that I was among friends. We were all Episcopalians with a common purpose: to share the body and blood of our Lord and Savior and to honor Him and one another.

I came away from the weekend with a huge sense of pride in our bishop and our diocese. I have known Bishop Sean since he was nineteen years old and a member of our congregation at Epiphany. I have seen him grow as he has been called to different positions within the Church. His calling is clear: he is to lead the Church in new directions in order to save the Episcopal Church from a slow, painful decline. He and Bishop Franklin are stepping out in faith to do something that has never been done before: to share administration of two dioceses under one bishop. The benefits of doing so are enormous.

I cannot wait for our Diocesan Convention next weekend at which I will see some of my friends from the Diocese of Western New York!

Lord, help me to be a positive, effective member of our delegation. Help me to allow the dedicated people of Western New York to see our diocese and our bishop as loving, creative, and honest. Help me to do your will, always.

Cheryl Wild, as the wife of a priest who is assigned to more than one congregation, attends both Epiphany, Grove City, and Memorial Church of Our Father, Foxburg.

Trusting the Call

This is the first in a 3 part series highlighting the stories of the three members of our diocese who will be starting seminary this year.  Click here to see the second installment about Nick Kuchcinski.

1381374_309843139154662_231990307_nNicholas Evancho is a smart young man with a strong faith. He grew up in a single parent home attending the Presbyterian church where his mother was an elder. He began playing the organ at the age of 8 and read the Suma Theologica (the 3000 page compendium by Thomas Aquinas) for fun when he was young. He graduated Valedictorian from his high School in Hamburg, N.Y. and headed off to Grove City College for pre-med. He received a rude awakening and found his faith challenged by the theology at Grove City College. Now, almost 4 years later, he is going to graduate a changed man.

Nicholas is one of three members of our diocese beginning seminary this year, our diocese’s first seminarians since 2010. He has always been interested in religion and was very supported by his mother who took him to church and Sunday School. Nicholas thought about becoming a priest in high school but didn’t think he would actually go through with it. He felt that becoming a doctor was a more financially stable profession. However, the call kept gnawing at him. He continued to play the organ at his home church in New York and continued meeting with the Presbyterian pastor there who made him believe he had what it took to become a priest. It was on a trip to Boston that he attended Trinity Church in Copley Square (a 280 year old Episcopal church) and felt called to become an Episcopalian. This led him to Church of the Epiphany in Grove City and to his own epiphany.

Church of the Epiphany became a refuge for Nicholas. They not only helped him with practical things like rides but they also helped him emotionally. He had a hard time at college and it became a place where he could talk. He often had tea with Epiphany’s deacon, the Rev. Tricia Lavery when life got stressful. “They have given me more than I could have asked,” Nicholas says. He has found a church home there as well. He has played the organ, served as an acolyte, sung in the choir, led morning prayer, and been a Eucharistic Minister and a Eucharistic Visitor. Church of the Epiphany is also where Nicholas found answers to the questions about his faith that were started when he began to attend Grove City College. It “gave me a more loving interpretation of what I always believed.”

It turns out it was only a surprise to himself when he discerned the call to the priesthood.  Looking back he remembers going to graduate school fairs and spending more time talking to the seminaries than to the medical schools. His mother, who Nicholas describes as “the biggest influence in making me believe I could make it to where I am now,” was not surprised at all by this decision. Early on during a bible study at Church of the Epiphany, after a comment Nicholas made, Cheryl Wild (wife of the Rev. Geoff Wild, the vicar at Church of the Epiphany) said, “And thus spoke our next Episcopal priest.” Nicholas remembers thinking she was insane at the time. Then Nicholas attended the diocesan convention during his sophomore year. Getting to meet all the clergy and getting to participate in the church cemented the decision for him.

Nicholas is a changed man: “I finally decided to let my judgment go and trust that the rest would be taken care of.” He no longer needed the notion of financial stability through becoming a doctor. Nicholas will attend Virginia Theological Seminary this fall. He anticipates enjoying the Chapel as well as the tight knit community there, eating and worshiping together every day. He also looks forward to having his faith and views challenged so he can grow and be sure his faith stands up. We too are eager to see the priest Nicholas becomes.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania