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Kmiec brings change and a whole new style

   In the world of Catholic prelates, where most men come from the same mold, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec and his predecessor in Buffalo, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., are almost nothing alike.

   Imposing and intellectual, Mansell was a prodigious reader. He was shy around the Buffalo media and revealed few clues about his personal life. He was known within the Buffalo diocese to have kept a tight rein, and his own schedule was a series of precisely timed meetings in which he had everyone's full attention.

   He operated on only a few hours of sleep each night and almost never took a day off - Type A traits that began to wear on some priests who expressed relief when Mansell was promoted to Hartford.

   By the time of Mansell's departure, many people in the diocese were looking forward to a fresh face, and they got him in Kmiec, a chummy and chatty Polish-American priest who likes cigars and an occasional scotch on the rocks, and knows how to delegate.

   Kmiec may be overseeing the most tumultuous changes in the history of the diocese but he hasn't let it consume him.

   Unlike Mansell, he'll engage in conversation on less weighty matters, such as his love of college basketball or unwinding from a long day in front of a television with the Discovery Channel.

   He talks regularly about his own boyhood interest in becoming a priest, and he enjoys sharing tales about his vacation travels back home to Trenton, N.J., where he still owns a home, or to Florida during the winter months.

   He even met with young adult Catholics over beers and pizza at Pearl Street Grill & Brewing Co., where he answered various questions and admitted a penchant for talking too much.

   For all of Kmiec's personableness, though, some critics of the current bishop say they wish Mansell were back in town to steer the diocese again.

  -- Jay Tokasz

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