Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kind Words

     The "winding down" aspect of retirement is challenging.  It involves a series of "lasts" and an emotional roller coaster that leaves you exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. 

     This past Friday was our last day of classes for our Regional Catholic School, and following dismissal, the teachers from Queen of Angels gathered for an end of the year lunch.  Of course, they invited me, and had a cake to celebrate my retirement.  We ate, reflected upon these past years with their blessings and challenges, and prepared to go into vacation mode.  They shared a kind gift as well as the cake, and I am grateful.   My last duties were to sign a last batch of checks, turn in my key fob for the building, and promise to hold the school dear to my heart.

      On Saturday morning I had the delight to welcome Bishop Robert Lynch, retired Bishop of St. Petersburg and a blogger for many years, to our parish.  The circumstance was a sad one, the death of a longtime friend and co-worker at the Bishops Conference - William Kassane.  Originally from this area, Mr. Kassane's family brought him home for his funeral.  The Bishop celebrated the funeral liturgy, and true to my expectations, ministered to those in grief with the heart of a shepherd.

     I have for a long time been a fan of Bishop Lynch, and in the blogging world he is one of my heroes.  He is a delightful man, warm, personable, very kind in his praise and encouragement, and a true pastor.  We spoke of retirement a bit and he gave me words of encouragement.

     Sunday was Pentecost, one of my favorite feasts in the Church year.  The parish had set this day to celebrate my retirement with the 11:00 am Liturgy and a wonderful reception in the parish hall during the afternoon.  The committee did an outstanding job, and the many who attended enjoyed themselves.  I was busy greeting friends and parishioners from 12:15 to 4:00 without a break.  I was truly humbled by the outpouring of affection and love, and the many kind words spoken and written in cards and notes.  It  makes me keenly aware of the need of God's grace and the working of the Lord in our lives despite ourselves.  My gratitude is immense, and it begins with the Lord.  To Him be all the praise!

     Everyone asks "When is the last day?"  The truth is that we are waiting for the Diocesan Priests Summer Assignments to find out the moving date.  So we don't know ... but will soon, I hope.  Until then we continue and we wait with expectant hope.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A hectic pace

     May has been a whirlwind of activities, set within the context of the transition toward retirement at the end of June and all that this event demands of my energies.

     A week ago last Thursday, our Christian Mothers Confraternity held their final meeting of the current year with the annual wine and cheese social following.  They had asked me to install the new officers (usually done in the Fall, but since I will not be here at that time, they wanted to get me to do the honors).  We have had a tremendous crew of officers for these last years and the group has been revitalized and energized and given a new spirit that I am confident the new officers will pick up on and continue.  They support the parish in so many ways and provide two $500.00 scholarships to graduating seniors who submit their applications to help them in their future endeavors.  These were awarded yesterday at our Mass honoring our Graduates of 2017.  Also at the meeting, the ladies brought out a cake with candles to help celebrate my 70th birthday which is tomorrow.  Fortunately they only used two candles - a "7" and a "0".  That was the first time that I saw those numbers used to describe my fleeting youth.  It was scary.

     The next evening, Friday the 19th, Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School that serves our area held a "Casino Night" dinner and fundraiser at a local event facility, Antonelli's.  A large crowd gathered for an evening of good food, fellowship, entertainment and prizes.  All of the pastors were there, and I was humbled to be singled out by my brother, Father John Moineau, in his introduction and welcome and acknowledged for my support of Catholic School Education over the many years of my assignments.  Preparing to say farewell is an interesting experience.

     Saturday evening after the 4:00 pm Mass we recognized our volunteers that worked so tirelessly at our Lenten Fish Dinners.  We had invited them to a dinner catered in our church hall, and assured them that we would not serve fish.  There was no agenda or speeches, but simply a relaxing evening of food and fellowship.  All went away satisfied and hopefully eager for next Lent and our continued tradition.

     On Sunday, after the 11:00 Mass and two baptisms that followed, the Norwin Area Community Resource Center which serves the needs of our senior community members, hosted a Reception and Fine Arts Sale on my behalf.  I have over thirty framed, signed, numbered prints (Civil war, florals, landscape, pastoral scenes) that I need to sale in my downsizing efforts.  The Center was very gracious in organizing and hosting the afternoon event.  The weather was bad, the crowd small, and the sales minimal, but it was a great afternoon.  We were even visited by Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln who graced us with her presence and her accounts of her husband, the late President, and her recollections of the War between the States.  This good lady stayed in character the entire afternoon.  She was good.

     Monday evening saw the eighth grade graduation of Queen of Angels School with a Mass at our place followed by a reception in our church hall.  We had twenty-four graduates who were outstanding on so many levels.  Well over two hundred people attended, and we had seven area priests concelebrate.  Recognitions were made and awards were distributed as the youngsters celebrated their past and looked to the future.  I had the honor of being the celebrant for the Mass.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching up - in pictures

     My last post involved some "catching up".  However, I was not able to include pictures until I upgraded my browser.  That completed, I would like to add the pics that correspond to the last post.

     I wrote of the passing of Sammy, the faithful companion of my sister, Jane and favorite of "Uncle Len".  This is Sammy in all of his cuteness.  We shared eleven years and a month with him, and were blessed.

     On the 5th of May, Janie celebrated her birthday.  She is the best of sisters and a great friend.

Telling the Bishop what a wonderful brother she has

     On the afternoon of the 6th, we were visited by Bishop Edward Malesic for his pastoral visit to the parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Here are some of the pictures of the visit.

 My welcome of the Bishop
 Our deacon, Jeff Cieslewicz

 The Bishop with First Communicant, Wren Peters
 The cake
 With some of our Christian Mothers, who hosted the reception
 With Diana Mikash, our Director of Music
 With Ethan Guyer, a First Communicant
Yours truly, the Bishop, Alex Kahanik, a senior & server & Father Tyler Bandura

     And then, in a change of pace, our Sixth Annual Blessing of Bikes on Sunday afternoon.  Cold weather, somewhat smaller crowd, great time had by all.
Good News Blues Gospel Group
 Diana Mikash as MC
 John Mikash with favors given out

 WPXI Channel 11 news interview
 Heads bowed in prayer

Deacon Jeff enjoying doing the blessing

Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching Up

     I have resolved my computer problems at last (almost), and as of this morning are now able to post once again.  My browser was outdated and my computer was unable to upgrade, so it took an investment into a new set up.  The (almost) referred to above involves not yet transferring my pictures for download, but that too will come.  

     There is much to report from these past few weeks.

     On Tuesday of last week, May 2nd, Sammy, the faithful companion for the last eleven years of my sister, Janie, reached a point of deteriorating health where we had to put him to sleep.  Sammy was a cute little puppy that has brought much joy to Janie and myself, and to so many over these years.  Our vet was very gentle and understanding, which made the experience bearable, but the loss is deeply felt by Janie in particular.  We had almost five weeks since he was diagnosed with a stomach growth and cancer.  This gave us time to prepare and to cherish these precious moments, but it is never easy.   We had his remains cremated, and received them just yesterday from our good friends and funeral director, Frank and Rhenee Kapr of Scottdale.

     Friday the 5th of May marked Janie's birthday (I won't tell you which one) as well as my forty-fourth anniversary of ordination.  After Mass we went out to breakfast and then relaxed for the day.   I have three ordination classmates from our diocese, all still in active ministry - Monsignors Paul Fitzmaurice and Roger Statnick and Father Peter Peretti.  Father Pete's Mom, Mary, died just yesterday morning.  Keep her and Father Pete and their family in your prayers.  Roger and I will be retiring at the end of June.

     On Saturday morning we had the second of our parish First Communion celebrations.  The week before we celebrated with sixteen, and last Saturday we had nine.  I always enjoy these gatherings as I gather the children around me at the altar and share the Lord with them for the first time.  

     On Saturday afternoon at our four o'clock Mass we welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic of our diocese for his first pastoral visit, one long in the planning.  The church was full, our new Generations Choir (made up of those seven through seventy-seven) led the singing, the Lord was greatly praised by our worship, and the Bishop was warm, gracious, generous in his time, and truly delightful.  We are very blessed in having him as our shepherd.   Following Mass was a reception, and then I took the Bishop, Father Tyler Bandura, his MC, our Deacon Jeff Cieslewicz and his wife, Roseann, and my sister, Janie out to dinner.  A delightful evening.

     Sunday afternoon we had our sixth annual Blessing of Bikes at the parish.  Our bikers came to show off their rides, to share in fellowship and food, to listen to a Gospel group called "Good News Blues", and to receive a blessing before we sent them on their way.  The turnout was a little smaller this year (it was breezy and chilly) but those who attending are the most gracious of people.  Some look a bit tough, but all are kind and grateful.  One of the local tv stations from Pittsburgh (WPXI, Channel 11) sent a photographer and they had a nice piece on the evening newscast, interviewing Diana Mikash who planned the event and myself.

     Other things have happened, but these are a few of the highlights of this past week.  The month of May is jammed pact with activities, and then comes the wind down of June

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another in the series of finals

     As I am sure that you know, I will be retiring from active ministry at the end of June, after forty-four years.  Transitions are always difficult, and yet wonderfully challenging.

     On Tuesday afternoon I had another "final event" in the journey - the final scheduled Mass for our Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School family.  I celebrated the feast of Saint Mark for the youngsters from grades one through five, along with a number of parents and guests, in the school chapel.  As always, it was a wonderful expression of faith and love.

     At the close of the liturgy, there was a surprise presentation made by one of the students on behalf of the school family. 

     I was presented with a framed image of a "Heralding Angel" beautifully crafted from words and phrases that the youngsters offered to their teachers to describe me.  I have included a copy of the image for your appreciation.

     A while back, when Bishop Malesic visited the school and blessed the new chapel, he was presented with a similar image.  In an observation at the time I shared my admiration for it's unique beauty.  And now I am the proud recipient of this expression of love that will be for me a life-long remembrance of my time in the Norwin area.  To the school family, a great big THANK YOU!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sacred Days indeed

    Our paschal journey through the week called Holy and the Three Sacred Days of the Triduum has reached its end.  Now begins the true celebration of New Life in the Easter Mysteries which will be the thrust of the next fifty days.  We sat at the Table in the intimacy of a supper meal ... we prayed quietly in the garden with our friend and brother, Jesus ... we contemplated the account of his passion and death, we bowed before the starkness of the Cross, and we found nourishment as we continued our journey ... we entered into the darkness of Good Friday night praying in song and word the prophecies relating to this moment in time as we experienced Tenebrae ... and we waited, waited for the Vigil.

     Then we began the Solemn Vigil.  A new fire dispelled the darkness.  A candle, blessed, lit and set apart, led the people of God into their House to contemplate the mystery of salvation.   A great proclamation, the Exultet, spoke of this night in beautiful terms, and of the Happy Fault, the necessary sin of Adam that brought to us so loving of a Redeemer and the fulfillment of a longstanding Promise.   The Church then invited us to listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God - elaborated through nine readings with psalms and prayer.  After breaking open the Word, we moved into the Baptismal Liturgy.

     This year we at the parish had one young man of catechetical age who we shared the gift of Baptism with and then later brought to the Table of the Lord for Eucharist.  His name is Conner, and he was ready and willing with his "YES" to his desire to be baptized and his "I DO'S" at the Baptismal Promises.  In the newly blessed water he entered into the family of God and all of us, renewing our Promises, were reminded of our baptisms in the Rite of Sprinkling.  Conner was welcomed, embraced by the community, prayed over, washed clean in baptism and anointed, entrusted with the Light of Faith, and made ready for the Table.

    And then we returned to the Table that we had left on Thursday to celebrate with Easter joy the Eucharist which is our life-blood.  Having been inspired, having been renewed, having been nourished, we prepared to go forth and proclaim the Good News.  The blessing that sent us forth prayed:

May almighty God bless you
through today's Easter Solemnity
and, in his compassion,
defend you from every assault of sin.
And may he, who restores you to eternal life
in the Resurrection of his Only Begotten,
  endow you with the prize of immortality.
Now that the days of the Lord's Passion have drawn to a close,
may you who celebrate the gladness of the Paschal Feast
come with Christ's help, ans exulting in spirit,
to those feasts that are celebrated in eternal joy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The vanquished foe

     As our journey through Holy Week continues, I would like to share the words from Preface II of the Passion of the Lord from the Roman Missal which is prayed this week.  We hear it for only a few days, but its beauty deserves our attention.

"It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For the days of his saving Passion
and glorious Resurrection
are approaching,
by which the pride
of the ancient foe
is vanquished
and the mystery of our redemption in Christ
is celebrated.
Through him the hosts of Angels
adores your majesty
and rejoices in your presence forever.
May our voices, we pray,
join with theirs
in one chorus of exultant praise."
     We celebrate our redemption in Christ's passion, death and resurrection, but we also celebrate the defeat, the conquering, the vanquishing of the ancient foe.  There are countless enemies facing us in this world and beyond, but none compare to "the ancient foe".  And it is with confident assurance that we acknowledge his being vanquished and the freedom that his defeat brings into our life.  The power of these days awakens in us great joy.