(The full homily will be published in The Evangelist beginning with the Nov. 7 issue.)

My focus today, first and foremost, is one of gratitude: gratitude to God, who has given me the precious gift of life and the treasure of the priesthood; gratitude to my parents, Elizabeth and Howard; my aunt, Loretta Burke; my sisters, Joan and Kathy, and their spouses, Dick and Con; my 13 nieces and nephews and their spouses; my 27 grandnieces and -nephews and my great-grandniece and -nephew for their love and support, which have grounded me in the everyday challenges and triumphs of family life...gratitude to the priests, deacons, religious and laity, who have been coworkers in the ministry at the Pastoral Center, in our parishes, grammar and high schools, colleges; in our faith formation, youth ministry, campus ministry and parish nurse programs; healthcare institutions, Catholic Charities agencies and institutions for children and at-risk youth; our Consultation Center and counseling services, homeless shelters and housing for seniors; our commissions for women, peace and justice, restorative justice, pastoral care and the elderly; cemeteries; our diocesan newspaper and camps, shrines, prayer houses, retreat centers, jails and prisons throughout our 14-county Diocese; as well as gratitude to the members of the Spanish, Black, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and Deaf apostolates and the members of organizations like the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of Columbus and Columbiettes, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, Residents Encounter Christ, Charismatic Renewal, the Ladies of Charity, the Christ Child Society, the Catholic Women's Service League and the Right to Life groups.

I also express my deep gratitude to my colleagues from other Christian denominations and from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities, who have been partners in breaking down historical, social and doctrinal barriers, developing bonds of mutual understanding and respect and working for the common good. I believe that the ecumenical and interfaith climate we have in our area is as good or better than anyplace in the nation.

Gratitude to our elected representatives past and present for the cooperation and collaboration in supporting programs and policies serving the economic and social needs of our communities, especially on behalf of the least among us.

And, of course, gratitude to the people of our 14-county Diocese, who have taught me so many lessons about love, caring, courage, justice, resiliency, community-building and generosity.

* [The] mediator role of the priest or bishop is not to be exercised apart from the people he serves. Rather, it is for them that the priest exists and it is from them that he learns....That's why I chose as my episcopal motto, "Rejoice, we are God's people," taken from Psalm 100.

It is the members of the Church who first made God present to me; who first revealed the love, mercy and forgiveness of God; who have supported me with their prayers, inspired me with their zealous witness to and living out of the Gospel life; and who have reminded me constantly that it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life - and if I have been half the priest and bishop that you and those past and present whom you represent have been to me, then I'll be a very lucky man when I go to meet the Lord.

* I have tried to fulfill faithfully the mandate given to a bishop on the day of his ordination: "to be a devoted father, seeking to guide the people of God in the way of salvation and to sustain them with the help of the priests and deacons who share in the bishop's ministry."

* Over these 36-plus years, there have been great joys in this episcopal ministry: celebrating the Rite of Election and the ongoing call to conversion at the beginning of the Lenten season, wherein candidates enter their final period of preparation for membership in the Church, culminating in their baptism or acceptance into the Church at the Easter vigil service...confirming more than 120,000 candidates as Christian disciples...ordaining 226 deacons, 162 priests, as well as our native sons Harry Flynn and Joe Estabrook as bishops... speaking at 10 to 15 commencement exercises each year...observing milestone anniversaries with those celebrating 25, 40, 50, 60 and even 70 years of married life...working with Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester to establish the Albany site of St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry and presiding at the baccalaureate for its graduates, as well as for those completing their lay ministry program at the Kateri Institute...rejoicing with the members of the Charismatic Renewal movement on the Pentecost Feast...commissioning young adults who have completed the Christian Leadership Institute...conferring religious awards upon our Boy and Girl Scouts...blessing the first natural-environment cemetery grounds in upstate New York...observing the anniversaries of parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, housing projects and Catholic Charities agencies...commemorating the silver and golden jubilees of our priests, deacons and religious... overseeing the restoration of this venerable and historic cathedral...observing our diocesan sesquicentennial, which consisted of a series of parish and regional events, culminating with more than 6,000 people gathered for the Eucharist at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs in Auriesville, that sacred ground where St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born and Ss. Isaac Jogues, John Lalande , Rene Goupil and their companions were martyred...advocating for the canonization of Rev. Patrick Peyton and Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory, both of whom served in our Diocese and who now have been declared venerable...conducting the "Always His People" TV retreats...promoting "Renew" and our present "Amazing God" evangelization program...attending World Youth Day events and the National Catholic Youth Conferences... dedicating 17 new churches and rededicating 25 renovated and expanded churches and 57 renovated churches - just to mention a few of the joys of ministry I have experienced these past 36-plus years.

* I have sought to underscore how God's love and providence guides and directs us in surprising ways we never would have expected or anticipated. And that is how I look upon retirement: a new opportunity to be surprised by God, to be led by the Spirit, to learn from others and to serve in ways yet to unfold.

* May God bless you and may we always rejoice, knowing "We are God's People."