The Most Reverend Terry R. LaValley,
Fourteenth Bishop of Ogdensburg
(2010 - Present).
Significance: The episcopal heraldic achievement, or as it is more commonly known, the Bishop’s Coat of Arms, is composed of a shield with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornaments.
The shield, which is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms that are archaic to our modern language. By heraldic tradition, the arms of the Local Bishop (called the “Ordinary”) are joined to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the arms of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
The left side (dexter) of the Coat of Arms represents the Diocese of Ogdensburg. It is composed of a blue field with a scattering of oak leaves and a silver castle tower with a window in the form of a cross. These arms of the See symbolize its name: “ogden,” which is derived from “oakdene,” represented by the oak leaves, and “burg,” which is represented by the tower, a common symbol in heraldry for a fortress or a fortified city.
Ogdensburg was the site of the French mission of La Présentation, founded in 1749 by Abbe Francois Piquet to minister to the Iroquois. After the demise of New France, the British refurbished Fort La Presentation and renamed it “Fort Oswegatchie;” it was held by them until 1796.
The settlement that grew up about the fort was named after Samuel Ogden (1743-98), a New Jersey lawyer who bought land there. This makes the oak leaves on the diocesan impalement even more appropriate because the Ogden family bear oak leaves as an integral part of their coat of arms.
During the early part of the War of 1812, Ogdensburg was important on the American line of defense and on February 22, 1813 both the fort and the village of Ogdensburg were captured and partly destroyed by the British.
The village incorporated as “Ogdensburgh” in 1817, was chartered as the city of Ogdensburg in 1868, and became the cathedral city for the new Diocese of Ogdensburg in 1872.
The right side (sinister) of the Coat of Arms contains the Bishop’s personal arms reflecting his familial and personal background. The silver crescent honors the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Immediately above the crescent is the fleur-de-lis, recognizing the Bishop’s French heritage and honoring the Blessed Lady as the “lily of the thorns.” To the right is found the symbol of a bundle of wheat. This recognizes the Bishop’s family roots in farming. At the same time, it carries Eucharistic overtones calling our attention to Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life - Food for the journey.
Immediately below the crescent an anchor is situated. The anchor is a reminder of the Bishop’s service to the nation as a sailor in the Navy. The symbol also points to the Bishop’s deep devotion to Mary, the Mother of Priests, our Lady of Hope. To the right of the anchor is found three stars arranged diagonally, displaying a portion of the LaValley Family Crest.
For his motto, His Excellency Bishop LaValley has chosen Follow Me. In this phrase, found in all four Gospels, we hear Jesus’ invitation to His apostles and disciples to follow Him. By the use of this phrase, His Excellency expresses his firm belief that we are all companions on a faith journey. He prays that his leadership as Shepherd of the Diocese of Ogdensburg will provide sure and compassionate guidance to the Kingdom for all God’s holy people entrusted to his care.
By: Deacon Paul J. Sullivan