Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Gettysburg

     July 3rd in 1863 marked the end of a three day battle of the American Civil War that took place in the small town of Gettysburg.  Located in south central Pennsylvania (about a three hour drive from my home) Gettysburg was transformed from a sleepy country town to the scene of one of the bloodiest battles to take place in the United States.  The army of the South came to this crossroads town from the Northwest while the Northern army came from Maryland in the South (one of the little ironies of the battle).

     July 1, 2 & 3 marked the encounters, with the unsuccessful Picket's Charge on the afternoon of the 3rd turning the tide in favor of the North.  One hundred and fifty-six years ago at this time Lee's army was retreating to the South, and even though there would be two more years of bloodshed before the war's end, this battle marked a turning point.

     Growing up in grade school we read about the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg, and I remember learning the Gettysburg Address by heart [I can still recite the Address].  But it was in 1992 that I was reintroduced to this peaceful place of carnage through a good friend, Mike Ripple, who knew the place well.  He had a relative [I believe it was his great grandfather] who stood in reserve outside of Gettysburg during those three days.  My interest was aroused and I have visited often, read much, and collected some powerful battle artwork over the years.

     My interest was less in battle tactics and more in terms of the human costs of this struggle of brother against brother.  There is much to remember and to honor in this struggle, on both sides, but there is also much to learn.  We cannot learn the lessons of life taught in this terrible civil war if we desire to change history or deny the struggle that touched the hearts of those from the South and from the North.  It pains me that we are changing names and tearing down statues and finding offense at what were things of the past.  We still do it in our day, judging the past by the standards and sensitivities of our day.  If we have not grown or moved on, then that judging may be valid.  But if we have learned from the mistakes of the past, then we must focus on looking ahead to celebrating our accomplishments and re-establishing our goals.

     On this anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg we must remember that while it was brother against brother [sometimes literally] it was a struggle of a family for her freedom.   That freedom is not yet perfect in our experience, but it is the best that we have and worth the ongoing struggle to make it more perfect.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tempus Fugit

     "Tempus fugit" is an old Latin saying that translated means "Time flies".  There is another old adage that hints that as you get older, time moves by more quickly than you would want.  I find truth in both of these sayings.

     Yesterday, July 1st, we entered into the second half of 2019!
Unbelievable!  And yet it is clear that this year is flying by with great speed.  I thought that in retirement things would slow down, but no such luck.

     The month of June saw many things happen.  It saw our diocese bidding farewell to one of our priests.  Father Tom Lukac, a priest of the Greensburg Diocese for fifty-six years, was laid to rest with a funeral Mass on Tuesday, June 18th, at Saint John the Evangelist Church in Latrobe, his last assignment as pastor.  He had retired from active ministry in 2008 and in these last years had suffered from the loss of memory and recognition of others.



     Father Tom was a quiet and gentle man who was born and raised in Uniontown, my home town.  (There have been many vocations to the priesthood from the four parishes of this Fayette County town).  He served in three parishes as a Parochial Vicar and then as pastor in six parishes during his active ministry.

     He was a true gift to the faithful of this diocese and his memory will live long in the hearts of many of his family and friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     But as we said good-bye to Father Tom on Tuesday, on the following Saturday we welcomed into the clergy of this Diocese Deacon Mark Dunmire, who was ordained at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral to the transitional Diaconate.  Mark will be ordained to the priesthood next year, God willing.  

     Mark's home parish is Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Lower Burrell.  He has been participating in a Pastoral Year at Mother of Sorrows Parish in Murrysville, under the guidance of Msgr. James Gaston.  Mark is completing his studies at Saint Mary Seminary in Baltimore.




     The ordination ceremony was wonderful.  Our Shepherd, Bishop Ed Malesic, once again led the celebration with ease and prayerfulness and joy.  I watched Mark uncomfortable at the center of attention and saw how the bishop put him at ease.  I also saw the pride and joy of his family, especially his Mom and Dad, as they saw their son embrace this call to service.  We continue to pray for Mark and look forward to his joining the presbyterate of our diocese.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Honoring ... with gratitude

     Last Tuesday we celebrated locally ... with gratitude ... 730 years of priestly service by 15 of our priests on Jubilee Day in the Diocese of Greensburg.

     On Thursday of last week we as a nation and indeed most of Europe and a great many in the world family honored ... with deep gratitude ... the deep and awesome sacrifice of so many on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy and a turning point in World war II.

     In the news and on TV we saw images of this devastating yet inspiring force that fought for freedom and for the freedom that we now share.  The images of the battle and of the honoring of those who remain were moving, and the pictures of the graves in France and the remembrance of the growing number of this "greatest generation" that have died in these last 75 years brought a great sadness to many hearts.



     My Dad was one of those that stormed the beaches of Normandy that day.  He was wounded but thankfully survived.  He spoke little of those days until a number of years ago when Tom Brokow began to reveal the sacrifice of who he called "the greatest generation."  Dad took great pride in his service during the war, but never boasted.  Rather he viewed those days with respect and humility.



     A short time following his death I made a trip to the National D-Day Memorial near Staunton in Virginia.  It is not as well known as some memorials, but it is inspiring as it honors those who fought and died on those beaches 75 years ago.  Janie and I also were able to be present a number of years ago for the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.  Another place to visit and honor ... with gratitude ... the veterans of the D-Day invasion.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

... with gratitude

     There are three events last week that had me looking back and giving thanks for the people who have touched my life.

Celebrating … with gratitude

     On Tuesday, June 4th, our bishops and priests gathered for our annual celebration of significant Jubilee years of our priests.  Traditionally we recognized 25 and 50 years, and those 60 and over in five year increments.  As the years have gone by and we have become an older priesthood, we this year include one 25th, six 40th, one 50th, three 55th, two 60th and two 65th.  

     The Jubilarians this year include one of our newest Filipino priests, Father Elmer Alforque, who celebrates his 25th. 
He has only been with us for a few months (on a five year loan from his home diocese) and is assisting Father Mike Crookston at the parishes of Epiphany in Monessen and Saint Sebastian in Belle Vernon.

     Celebrating their 40th year of ordination we have Father Dennis Bogusz who was serving as Chaplain at Saint Anne Home in Greensburg, but whose retirement was just announced this past weekend … Benedictine Fathers Ronald Gatman, Chad Ficorilli and Damian Warnock, all of Saint Vincent Archabbey.  Father Chad has served as pastor in our diocese … Monsignor Raymond Riffle, rector (pastor) of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral as well as Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Greensburg … and Father Stephen West, former pastor of Saint Joseph in Derry and presently retired.
Father Dennis Bogusz
Father Stephen West
 Msgr Ray Riffle with myself and our friends Rich and Joanne Stillwagon.
Rich and I are High School classmates.

[ no picture available for Fathers Chad, Damian & Ronald ]

     Celebrating 50 years of ordination is our bishop emeritus (our retired bishop) Bishop Lawrence E Brandt.  Originally a priest of Erie, he served in the Vatican Diplomatic Corps for a number of years and served as our fourth bishop.

Bishop Brandt

     Celebrating 55 years were Father Donald Conroy who is still active in parish work in northern Indiana County.  Joining him at our gathering were Father Earl Henry, Prior of Saint Vincent and  Father Jerry O'Shea, a retired priest of Pittsburgh who lives in Greensburg and helps out in many parishes.  Both are great friends of all of us. [I have no picture for Fathers Earl or Jerry]



     Father Don Conroy
     Celebrating 60 years are Benedictine Campion Gavaler and our own Father Anthony Wozniak.  Father Anthony is in Saint Anne Home recovering from an illness.  He was our Assistant Pastor when I graduated from 8th grade at Saint Joseph school in Uniontown and is a god friend.


     Father Anthony Wozniak
     And celebrating 65 years of priesthood are Benedictine Fathers Noel Rothrauff and Daniel Wolfel.

     There were about 70 of our priests who gathered for Mass and dinner last Tuesday.  We celebrated … with gratitude -
the 730 years of dedicated service as a priest of these 15 men.



Outstanding!  What a blessing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Decoration Day"

     Yesterday this nation celebrated the first holiday of the summer months as we celebrated Memorial Day.  As is done in more recent times, the remembrance was celebrated on the last Monday in May ... although, those of us of a certain age remember it celebrated on May 30th.  I remember that date specifically, because I always thought that they displayed the flag and had a parade on my birthday.  But then they moved the holiday to the nearest Monday.


      
     Decoration Day was created at the end of the Civil War to honor those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" - their lives - in that terrible conflict.  On May 5, 1868, General John A Logan of the Union declared the following:

     "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land."

     The Southern States held similar observances at different dates for their fallen heroes, until the observance expanded to include all of those who died in the various conflicts of the world.

     There are many cities that claim to have begun the tradition, but Waterloo, N.Y. has been designated as the founding observance.

     There are two key sayings that speak of our respect for those who gave their all.  From the Scriptures we read in John 15:13:

     "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

    The other words that speak of why we celebrate this holiday are found in words that I remember learning in elementary school - the Gettysburg Address of President Abraham Lincoln.
Do you remember these words?

     "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
     Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
     But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  (November 19, 1863, Gettysburg National Cemetery Dedication)


     The tradition of decorating the graves of those who died in conflict has been expanded to included all veterans who have died, and in many of our traditions, all of our loved ones.  We were discussing this at table the other day and noted that our cemeteries are not as flower and flag strewn as they once were.  But for those who uphold the tradition - including my sister, Jane - we are most grateful.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Transitions and moving on

      This is the time of the year for the celebration of transitions.  The end of May, early June sees a series of graduations with the inevitable farewells and the anticipation of new things ahead.  In my years of priesthood and in the many years of my life these moments were usually accompanied by great joy and celebration.  In my brief years of retirement so far, these moments are cherished as I see them touching the lives of those important to me.  In almost every case I rejoice with those who acknowledge their accomplishments and transitions, and in the circumstances that were more painful I share my prayers and support.

     Graduations in our area include those who have received degrees from Saint Vincent College and Seton Hill University in our Diocese, our two Diocesan High Schools - Geibel and Greensburg Central Catholic, our parishioners who graduate from our public High Schools, as well as those transitioning from our local parochial schools.  We wish all of our graduates well and assure them of our prayers and our pride.

The High School Graduates of 2019 from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish,
my last assignment

     One of our young priests, Father Daniel Ulishney, this past Saturday received his License in Canon Law (JCL) from the Catholic University of America in Washington.  Father Dan is serving as Parochial Vicar at the Connellsville/Dunbar area.  Receiving a degree in Canon Law while continuing in full time ministry is a challenge deserving of respect and congratulations.   I've included a few pictures of his event that I borrowed from his fb page.

 Father Dan Ulishney
 Commencement Program
Father Dan with his Mom and Dad

     Very recently there was another graduation accomplishment celebrated for a group that completed an intensive Diocesan Formation Program entitled Pathways.  There were four in this year's group that I had the honor of serving as pastor at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.  I wish them well as they use their learning to help educate our children in the Faith.

 Back row from left: Gail Henderson, Judy Gazda, Julie Henry and Rose Martin
from Sait Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

The 2019 Pathways "graduates" with
Bishop Edward Malesic

     These are but a few of the moments of transition that are taking place with the life of God's People, but these have touched my life and been a source of blessing.







Monday, April 29, 2019

The Gift of Family

     This past Holy Week was a great experience of family for me, in it's various dimensions.

     Palm Sunday morning I shared the liturgy with my priest family at our chapel at the Neumann House, the priests' retirement residence for the Diocese of Greensburg.  It was a great way to begin this week that we call Holy.

     Later that afternoon I joined with a large group of parishioners at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg for a parish Palm Sunday dinner.  I was graciously invited and welcomed again this year to this annual event.  I served as pastor of Saint Paul from 1992 to 2000, and in my retirement they have become my adopted parish were I often join them for liturgy.  Great people and many wonderful friends.

     On Thursday morning I missed the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral for only the third time in my priesthood.  A visit to Uniontown of eight family members from Costa Rica - a cousin, two of her children, a spouse of her son, and four grandchildren - led me home to join them for lunch along with my sister, Jane.  We had a great visit, a delicious lunch, and the joy of the youngsters.


My cousin Joy Stoviak Flores and her daughter, Jenifer

 Jenifer and her two children


Joy's son, Isra's wife and two chilren

     Thursday evening I returned for our Neumann House Evening Liturgy celebrating our priesthood, followed by a social and then a special dinner for this special day for priests.  There are fifteen of us in residence here.

     Good Friday (for the afternoon service and for the evening Tenebrae Service) and the Easter Vigil on Saturday night I spent with my Saint Paul family, with beautiful and prayerful liturgies, music and decorations.  A truly holy experience.

     And finally on Easter morning I traveled home to Saint Joseph Church in Uniontown to celebrate the 10:00 am Mass.  In addition to the standing room only crowd were my Costa Rican relatives and a host of other local cousins and their families.  We posed for a group picture (by the way, there are more cousins not pictured here: some from out of town and some who went to the 8:00 am so that they could prepare brunch).




A part of the Stoviak Clan including the Kula, Flowers and the Flores families: in this picture I believe I count five cousins, their children and grandchildren.

     Family is a great gift ... where ever that experience of family manifests itself.  As I have been saying more and more often in my "old age", I am truly blessed.

     I hope that you know the joy of family and that Easter continues to be a time of blessing for you.