(Buffalo, NY) It was a special day for retiring Bishop Buffalo Edward Kmiec.
Never did Bishop Edward Kmiec imagine such an honor. His retirement date is quickly approaching. Wednesday, loved ones and the City of Buffalo held a celebration of Bishop Kmiec's eight years of leading Buffalo's Catholic Community.
Kmiec told his co-workers "people embrace you and even if they don't know you, they like what they see in you and they really facilitate the work you do in the diocese."
The celebration included a big surprise ... a special honor by Mayor Byron Brown. The mayor proclaimed August 1st, 2012 a day to recognize Bishop Kmiec's decades of service to the Catholic Church.
Mayor Brown told News 11 "he's always had a kind word, a word of encouragement, a word of faith and is just someone you feel good to be around."
However, the last few years have not been easy. Financial challenges in the diocese forced Bishop Kmiec to consolidate churches and schools.
Kmiec told Eyewitness News "we closed a lot of churches. But we also sold them, thank God."
The Bishop remembers this time as traumatic and shocking for many people. However, he believed parishioners would stay with the church, telling Eyewitness News "I always prayed to the Lord, especially that we would get understanding and acceptance"
It wasn't easy for Kmiec or his co-workers. Those worked closest with Kmiec say his compassion brought the community through this tough time.
Kathleen Heffern, who works for the Diocese of Buffalo, says "he did it. But it was a great deal of kindness. And he listened to the parishes and what they needed, so he did what was best for them."
Millie Holbel, the Bishop's secretary, adds "he's very lovable. He loves everyone and I don't know anyone who doesn't respect him back."
The love and respect from Western New York is something that Bishop Kmiec will always look back on with his own love.
Bishop Kmiec officially steps down on August 10th, when Bishop Richard Malone of Maine will be installed.
Kmiec says he will be staying in Buffalo and plans to remain active in the church.