Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out of sight ...

     We all remember the old saying "Out of sight, out of mind".  It often comes to mind when I am praying the Eucharistic prayer at liturgy.  We pray for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and our bishop, Lawrence.  I have always added, "and for his brother bishop, Anthony".  With that I remember and include our retired bishop emeritus, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, who lives in  Greensburg.   But I wonder how many of us do remember him in our thoughts and prayers?

     Bishop Bosco served as our third bishop here in Greensburg from June 30, 1987 through January 2, 2004 - for seventeen years. Prior to coming to be our shepherd, he served as a priest and Auxiliary Bishop in the Pittsburgh Diocese for many years.  In retirement he lives near the Bishop Connare Center off of route 30 East of Greensburg.  He is close to eighty-four and has served as a priest for nearly fifty-nine years and as a bishop for over forty.  I believe he is enjoying his retirement, keeping busy with a variety of things.

     Bishop Bosco was not always appreciated or understood during his time of leadership with us.  Part of that was his "being the boss" and making difficult decisions, and another part of that may have been due to his personality, for he is a quiet, reserved individual.  But he was a good administrator.  He loved young people and had close bonds with high school and college age kids over the years.  He enjoyed the Diocesan Youth Gatherings.  His respect for young people in his courses at Seton Hill and on-line at the University of Dayton, continued until just recently, drawing the admiration of his students.  He had a clear vision of the role of the laity in the life of the Church, and sought to strengthen their roles. 

     I would like to share three personal memories of Bishop Bosco.  First, years ago three of our priests were visiting in Rome at the same time as the bishop.  He met with us and invited us out to a great dinner, with informal conversation, good food, great wine, and gellato afterwards.  Secondly, when I was in Masontown at All Saints, for the Marian Year in the 80's, we placed a statue of the Blessed Mother on the church grounds, and invited Bishop Bosco to bless it on Mothers's Day.  He came and shared with us (even though his own mother was still living ... and even though we never got "permission" for the expenditure).  We had a wonderful time.  And lastly, in his retirement, he took great joy in the companionship of Joshua, his dog.  After many years, Joshua died.  My sister, Janie, sent him a card expressing her sadness and prayers for him.  One day at our family home in Uniontown, the phone rings and it is Bishop Bosco.  He thanked Janie for her note, and they had a conversation about the closeness of pets in our lives.

     I do not drop him a line as often as I should ... but I keep him in thought and prayer daily. as I pray for him in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Just because he may be out of sight ... please keep him in your hearts and prayers.   Thanks, Bishop Bosco.       

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Often? A Different Question.

     Yesterday in the Gospel Peter asked: "How often do I need to forgive my sister or brother?"

     Picking up on that same question, but with a different approach, I would like to address a question that I am occasionally asked in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - "Father, how often do I need to go to confession?"  Every once in awhile someone asks that question.  The reasons for the uncertainty are many and varied and have grown over the last forty years or so.  I may address them at another time.  But for now, the question is "How often do I need to seek the Lord's forgiveness and that of the community?"

     I usually tell people that we need to confess when we NEED to confess, when we have done something serious (mortal sin) that breaks our relationship with God.  If there is a conscious decision to break the Law of Love and threaten my relationship with Christ, nothing should stop my desire for healing and restoration, forgiveness and reconciliation.  Before I can approach the table of the Lord and be whole in the community of Faith, I need to confess.

     We also need to confess when we "need" to confess, when we feel called to look at and evaluate our lives in relationship to the love that Christ has for us which calls us to holiness.   We "take stock", reflect in prayer and see how we can improve in the way we live.  This self evaluation (our examination of conscience) gives us the imperfections and sin that needs to be placed before the Lord for healing and to be dealt with through grace.   That evaluation will determine what best suits you with the question "How often?" - yearly quarterly, monthly, weekly.

     Lent is a season of Grace and Reconciliation.  It is a time of reflection and penance.  Lent is a time of growth and of responding to our Call to Holiness.   Use the season well.   And if your heart prompts you to ask the question "Should I go?", then the answer is probably yes.  See you there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Often?

     There was a question asked by Peter in today's Gospel passage from Matthew (Mt. 18:21-35): "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?"  We are creatures of habit, prone to repetition in our lives.  In the realm of relationships sin repeatedly raises its ugly head.  Thus the question.

     There has been a modification of the scripture translation for this passage in the lectionary.  When I was first ordained, I remember the translation as having Jesus say:
" Not seven times, but seventy times seven times".  The newer translation says: "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times". I like the older translation.

     Seven is the Lord's number.  It describes perfection, fulfillment, completeness.  To forgive seven times would speak of fulfilling all that would be expected of me.  It was a good observation on Peter's part.  And to say "Not seven times, but seventy times seven times" puts it into the realm of the limitless.  There is never a moment when someone comes seeking forgiveness with a truly contrite heart that we can limit our forgiveness, for we pattern our lives after the heart of Christ.

     For me, to say "seventy-seven times" places it within a limited, tangible reality.  Seventy-seven is within reach, easily able to be done.  Seventy times seven times requires that I work at figuring out what those numbers mean (math was never my strength!) ... and automatically places it in another category.  I like the older translation.

     But whichever translation is used, the challenge remains to forgive as the Lord has forgiven, with deep and abiding love and with limitless mercy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

As Promised

     As I promised yesterday, in light of the 30th anniversary of the dedication of our parish church, I would like to share today the Preface of the Mass of Dedication of a Church taken from the Sacramentary.  I found it enlightening.  I hope you will as well.

          Father, all-powerful and ever living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
The whole world is your temple,
shaped to resound with your name.
Yet you also allow us to dedicate to your service
places designed for your worship.
With hearts full of joy
we consecrate to your glory
this work of our hands, this house of prayer.
Here is foreshadowed the mystery of your true temple;
this church is the image on earth of your heavenly city.
For you made the body of your Son
born of the Virgin,
a temple consecrated to your glory,
the dwelling place of your godhead in all its fullness.
You have established the Church as your holy city,
founded on the apostles,
with Jesus Christ its cornerstone.
You continue to build your Church with chosen stones,
enlivened by the Spirit,
and cemented together by love.
In that holy city you will be all in all for endless ages,
and Christ will be its light forever.
Through Christ we praise you, Lord,
with all the angels and saints in their song of joy.

     The dedication of Church is much more than setting aside buildings for worship.  It is about joining with the saints and angels in singing the praises of God in lives of service and deep love.   Thanks to all of you for being "church" for me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thirty Years

     Back on March 29th of 1981 the very young parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, located near the border between Westmoreland and Allegheny counties and the border between the Greensburg and Pittsburgh Diocese , dedicated its new house of worship.   The late Bishop William G. Connare officiated, along with the late Father Richard Mackiewicz, the founding pastor.  They were joined by area priests and the family and friends of the new parish for the Mass of Dedication.  Thus began an adventure in grace and blessings.

     This morning at the 11:00 liturgy we celebrated the anniversary of that dedication event.  The celebration was low keyed but celebrated with true gratitude for the sacrifices that were made to build this house of God.  We recognized those present who were the pioneers thirty years ago.  Some of them had already been pioneers in the founding of Saint Agnes parish.  This was their third church, having been a part of the Mother Church of the area, Immaculate Conception.  A number of the original choir joined the present choir in their ministry today.   We blessed the newly renovated entrance to the church - the threshold of welcome to those who gather.  And, after celebrating Eucharist,  we went downstairs to Mack Hall for cake and coffee.

     I mentioned the passage from Revelation where the temple was described with life giving waters flowing from the four gates of the temple.   Those streams of water brought life and grace to all.  The life and grace brought about by the proclamation of the Word of God and the Celebration of the liturgies of the Church flow from this temple of God and bring healing and life to those touched by God's love.

     In preparing, I found a great expression of Faith in the Preface for the Dedication of a Church which I will share with you tomorrow (I do not have the Sacramentary with me today).  For now, though, congratulations to all who are the Church of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and all who are blessed with this "House for the Church" that has served us for thirty years.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Neighbors and Friends

     While at lunch today, two individuals stopped by Romano's restaurant in Irwin to pick up a number of pizzas donated to help relief workers in the Westmoreland County area hit by the tornado on Wednesday.  In think that I overheard them say that over five hundred people showed up today to help their friends and neighbors begin to clean up the area, salvaging personal items and clothing and furniture.   Many lives were devastated and many more traumatized by the sudden and violent winds on that Wednesday afternoon.  I know quite a few families in the area of Fort Allen from my days at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg.  None of those that I know were seriously damaged, but some neighbors only two houses away were virtually destroyed.  As I said before ... the miracle is that no one lost their life or were seriously injured.

     The scriptures ask the question: "Who is my neighbor?"  These volunteers and friends and families are indeed "neighbors" to those in need in Hempfield township and the area.  Our thanks goes out to them.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

     I mentioned the youngsters at Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School in an earlier post.  This school serves our area.  Friday afternoon I attended the third grade "State Fair" exhibit, and it brought back great memories.  The youngsters divided up the States and gave a little showcase of each, having the other grades visit and receive souvenirs of the States - cotton ball from Georgia, Mardi Gras beads from Louisiana, sunflower seed packets, and even a small sample of Ben and Jerry's ice cream from Vermont (I think).  It was fun.  It brought back memories of geography, one of my favorite subjects in elementary school.  It also brought back memories of vacations, workshops meetings and other trips that took me to many of those States.  The kids always do a wonderful job.

     Tomorrow afternoon the school holds its Sports Banquet to celebrate accomplishments  and to honor the youngsters involved in the various avenues of sports that are a part of our school.  We have a great school at Q of A.  We are proud.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Word Became Flesh

     When Mary said "YES!" to the invitation of God to cooperate in His loving plan for us,announced by the angel Gabriel, the Spirit of God, which is love, came upon her and she conceived a child.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  The God/man, Jesus, came to be.  It was and is the Incarnation, the turning point of all history.  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation.

     In the earliest days of the Church the primary feast of the coming of the Lord was Epiphany, the manifestation of the Christ to all the peoples of the earth.  The Word of God came to all people of good will.  Later, the celebration of the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem of Judea began to take center stage.  Born in the city of David, He became the fulfillment of the promise made to Israel.  But it is in this feast that God enters human history in His embracing of our human nature (in all things but sin) so that we can be lifted up to share in the glory that is God.

     This feast is so important that we take a respite on our journey through Lent.  In fact, the invitation and obligation to abstain from eating meat is lifted (although coming to our fish dinner at the parish is still a great option).  At Liturgy today we proclaimed the "Glory to God" and professed the Creed.  This is the day that the Lord came to us.

     In celebrating this feast we once again acknowledge that the new life within the womb of Mary at that moment of conception IS a unique human being on the path to birth, growth, ministry, passion and death and new life.

     And just think ... there are only nine months left for Christmas shopping.  We will continue our Lenten Friday Reflections next week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blessings and Miracles

     Wednesday afternoon I had the honor of speaking at the Fred M Rogers Center on the campus of  Saint Vincent College in the Continuing Lecture Series on Aging and Spirituality.  Hosted by Benedictine Father Vernon Holtz and Dr. Mary Beth Spore, a Dean and faculty member of the college, there were approximately fifty people from the area that were in attendance.  The lecture series is an ongoing effort to provide for those of a certain age through various speakers and the forum for interaction.  It was a great experience.

     After a gracious introduction by Father Vernon, who was on the faculty of Saint Vincent Prep School when I attended in the early sixty's (I said that one of the miracles we can acknowledge is that Father Vernon looks much like he did fifty years ago).  I spoke of the previous Sunday's first reading from Genesis where God established a covenant with Abram (Abraham).  In that covenant, the Lord promises to bless Abram and his descendants and to allow them to be a blessing for the nations of the earth.  As his children, we are recipients of that pledge.   The blessings come in many ways, and they lead to the miracles of life.

     Like the young tailor in "Fiddler on the Roof" in "Wonder of Wonders", we easily acknowledge the dynamic miracles that God has brought about in history, but also are wise enough to recognize that the grace He gives, so that we can be all that we are called to be, is a miracle.  As Mottel the tailor says: "from this worthless lump of clay, God has made a man today".

     The discussion was inspiring, as many spoke of the miracles that they have experienced and the blessings of their lives.  I am very grateful to Mary Beth and Father Vernon for this opportunity.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

     And speaking of miracles, there were no fatalities or even serious injuries as a result of the tornado that ripped through Hempfield Township in Westmoreland County late Wednesday afternoon.  Our hearts go out and our thoughts are with those who suffered so much destruction of home and property.   I have friends and former parishioners from the Church of Saint Paul that live in Fort Allen, and the home of one of our families from Queen of Angels School was badly damaged.   They have our prayers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Doors of Our Hearts

     Entrance ways to businesses and homes are very important.  They serve more than just a function.  They should be welcoming and inviting and easily accessible.  They are literally the door to what you have to offer.  I am often amazed at the beauty and expansiveness of many entrances to newer homes - from the door itself to the lighting to the shrubbery to the welcome mat.   The door to your home speaks of the hospitality that you extend to those who visit.

     Our parish at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the church building on March 29th. [More on the parish anniversary in a later post].  In preparation for the event, we are in the process of "sprucing up" the entrance way, especially the doors.  We do this because if people approach this House of God they need to find a beautiful threshold into the warmth of God's love, which hopefully they will find in the worship of this community.  They need to feel welcome into the peace that this sanctuary can provide.  Doors are very important.

     We are often reminded to open the doors of our hearts to Christ.  We are called to welcome Him in, to listen to His Word in Scripture and prayer, to be transformed by His amazing grace.  That door to our heart needs to remind us that we must be open and gracious to the Lord of Life, and that we must extend that blessing to all that we meet.  May our renewed church doors here at SEAS remind us of our renewed Lenten commitment to Christ.

+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

     This morning's first reading from Jeremiah the prophet has him asking the Lord to save him from the plottings of his enemies.  In fact, the psalm echoed that same desire to be saved.  It got me thinking about the struggle that we often face between the earthly and the divine.   We are human by nature, thus touched by fear and dread of death and suffering.  Naturally we try our best to get out of the worst of our situations.  It is only with the grace of God, when we are touched by the divine, that we have the strength and courage to be strong.

     Even Christ Jesus, who shared both a divine and a human nature dealt with those struggles.  In the garden before His passion, his human nature asked His Father to "let this cup pass me by" ... but His divine nature allowed Him to place His destiny into the hands of the Father.   Have the courage to place yourselves in the will of your Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's none of our business.

     How many times have I been approached by an irate parishioner or an outspoken Catholic regarding the Church's involvement in the political or economic or social issues of the day.  They often want to know why the Church doesn't mind its own business.  We are too often relagated to prayer and piety alone.  If we speak out, we are out of our league.  In fact, in some minds, we do not even have the basic right to be heard guarenteed by our form of government.

     Thank God that the Church Universal, the Church in this great nation of ours, and the local Diocesan Church does indeed speak out on the issues.  Our Holy Father and our bishops bring the timeless message of the Gospel to the challenges facing society.  Whether it is life issues, immigration, health care, poverty, the economy, labor issues, etc., the Church voices her thoughts as a teacher and protector of Gospel values.  I invite you to check out and mark as a favorite the web site for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at

     The reason I mention this today flows from this morning's reading from Isaiah the prophet (Is. 1:10, 16-20) where the Lord says to "hear the word of the Lord", to "listen to the instruction of our God".  He tells us to "wash yourselves clean!  Put away your misdeeds...".  "Cease doing evil; learn to do good.  Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.  Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord".

     It is our business!  It is our responsibility.  It is our duty.  It is our right and privilege to bring the message of Christ to an uncertain and hungry world.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rites of Welcoming

     It has been a very busy weekend here at SEAS.  Many of the things that we were busy about involved welcoming.

     On Friday morning I joined with the family of a good friend of mine whose mother had died.  As we prayed together, we found comfort in the words of the minister of the service.

     On Saturday morning I celebrated a Memorial Mass for Stella Doyle, a former parishioner who has been living and who died in Florida at the age of just over ninety-three.  Her family is large and with their friends joining them there was a good crowd in church for Mass.  From their spirit and from the words from her son, it was clear that Stella possessed the best traits of her Irish heritage: a love of life, of family, of food and very much of Faith, attending Mass daily.

     A little later that morning I celebrated the funeral liturgy for another parishioner who was much younger, a mere eighty-one.  Her name was Shirley Andonisio.  She too gave birth to a large and vibrant family with whom she shared countless experiences of grace.  I told the family that her obit in the papers was one of the longest I have seen, recounting the joys of family and the gift of life.

     Both families chose a reading from Proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures, the one that describes the virtues of a good woman, a good wife and mother.  One line says that "her children will rise up and call her blessed (or sing her praises)".  All three of these families did that for their Moms.  It was my joy to celebrate their entrance to the Heavenly Banquet.

    Later that day at the evening liturgy for the Second Sunday of Lent we shared the Scrutinies with the three friends journeying with us to the Table of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.  For Jodi, Ryan and Jonathan we extended our arms in welcome and anticipate a great celebration at the Vigil.

     Then on Sunday (even though it is Lent) I welcomed into the Family of God little Ryan Edward Joyce through the Sacrament of Baptism.  Again, it was a large group of family and friends who shared in this Sacrament, including the sister of a high school classmate of mine and her daughter.  It is a small world.

     All in all, a tiring yet refreshing series of celebrations that speak of who we are as CHURCH.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recognizing Talent

     This past Thursday and Friday I had the good fortune to attend two events that brought great enjoyment.  On Thursday I attended the Spring musical production at our regional Catholic School - Queen of Angels.  I'll use other opportunities to speak of our excellent academic program serving youngsters from PK through grade 8.  Thursday's program was entitled "GO FISH" and was directed by Diana Mikash and Brenda Osinski of the school staff. 
     The program included an intro from the Show Choir, who later did a medely of Irish tunes to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.  Following the intro were selections from three Chime Choirs ranging from Ode to Joy to Amazing Grace.  A guitar trio and a violin solo provided an instrumental interlude.  Then came the main production with the 1st and 2nd grader's musical entitled "Go Fish".  They were great.  There were all sorts of "fish" in the sea on the stage: sharks and angel fish and star fish and octopus and an electric eel and so much more.  It was a delight to be there.  We are so proud of the kids.

     On Friday evening I skipped out of Stations to attend the Senior Organ Recital of Rob Lynch, a graduating Senior at Seton Hill University in Greensburg and our Director of Music at the parish.  The recital was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Greensburg.  Selections from Bach and Brahms, Petz and Langlais among others were performed skillfully by Rob.  His folks held a reception following the recital.  I was blessed to attend, as we are blessed in having him at the parish.

     There were but two examples of the talent found among our young people in this area.  A third example is that of our Young Voices Children's Choir who sang at the 8:30 am liturgy today (but I'll reserve a posting on them in the near future).  All I can say is that I have been blessed by these talented young people, and I am most grateful to them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten Fridays 2

     I really wanted to entitle this reflection: "You're welcome".  That would be in response to the "Thank you" that we as a Catholic community should receive from the larger community.  Let me explain what I mean.

     As I drive past McDonald's I see signs for shamrock shakes or shamrock smiley cookies at Eat and Park leading up to March 17th (Saint Patrick).  The florists, candy makers and card shops make a bundle on February 14th (Saint Valentine's Day).   Restaurants are adding fish to the "lenten menu's" and fire halls, non profits and charities embrace Fish Fry's on Fridays.  These join the myriad of churches that sponsor fish dinners, including our own at SEAS (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton).  We are good for the economy.  We are great for business.

     Our local parishes have these Friday Lenten specials.  Immaculate Conception has fish sandwiches for lunch.  Saint Agnes has a fish dinner, as do we.  (From a prejudiced point of view, I believe that ours is the best!)  All work hard at these projects, and the support shown is greatly appreciated.

     Here at SEAS we serve every Friday from 4:00 to 7:00 pm in Mack Hall (on the lower level of the church).  Our dedicated group of volunteers, led by Debbie Pazehoski, prepares a wide variety of foods:
dinners such as baked salmon, lemon pepper sole, baked & fried fish, fried shrimp and crab cakes ... baked, fried and beer battered fish sandwiches ... and an "a la carte" menu that includes halushki, mac and cheese, pizza, cheese sticks, etc, etc, etc.  And the prices are great.  People come from all over.  Last Friday alone we served over 500 people.  We have a very loyal following.

     This doesn't just happen.  It takes long hours of dedicated and hard work by a committed group of people.  As their pastor, I cannot express my gratitude enough.  I am very proud of them.

     Thank God for the Catholic practice of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.  Thank God for the rich traditions of the saints.  Thank God for the recognition that the larger community gives to us (even if for economic reasons).  A few people have asked: "Why fish?"  Maybe it was because many of the early guys were fishermen by trade.  Enter into the spirit of sacrifice on these Lenten Fridays in some way, and enjoy the fish dinners that are available.  You are welcome to join us at SEAS for dinner or for worship.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Partners in the Faith

     A few days ago I received a note in the mail from the Community Church of Irwin, a United Methodist Congregation.  The note, from their senior pastor John Ciampa as well as pastor Rich Phipps was addressed to our congregation.  I would like to share the letter with you.

           Sisters and Brothers,

                On behalf of the Community Church, we want you to know
           that your congregation's ministries were lifted in prayer this
           past weekend during our worship services.  As a part of the
           Body of Christ, we are honored to be serving our God
           alongside your fellowship.  We sincerely pray that God's
           richest blessings will be poured out on each of you and your
           families as you serve the Lord.  It is our prayer that more
           and more people will be drawn to the Savior through your

                                                    Your Partners in the Faith

     The Community Church has done this before, and each time I am moved by the thought and unity expressed in this action.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  The work of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ is entrusted to all whose minds and hearts are open to the message of love and the call to unity.

     I have been blessed in my nearly thirty-eight years of priesthood with involvements in local ministeriums at my various assignments.  I have made many good friends and shared many faith-filled times of prayer.  I have been blessed.  I thank God for the partners in Faith that He has placed within my life, and I thank God for Pastor John Ciampa and the faithful of Community Church in Irwin.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

                                     HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What to do?

     I was reminded today of an old story that I heard.

     A small congregation wanted to refresh their church as Spring drew near.  It was agreed upon that they paint the interior of the building.  The only problem was that their numbers were small, and their budget even smaller.  They got local volunteers to do the work.  They chose the color and grade of paint (a mid quality brand) and attempted to stay within the budget.

     Work progressed swiftly.  But to make ends meet, they began to thin the paint.  Finally the job was done, and the pastor and council came to inspect.  They were not pleased.  The dirt, the water stains and the ribbing on the ceiling were showing through.  They were unhappy, but were at a lose as to what to do since the allocated funds were gone.

     Suddenly from somewhere up above a voice was heard:  "Repaint, and thin no more!"

     Both the passage from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel at today's Mass contained that same message ... the message of LENT:  "Repent, and sin no more!"  We should not be at a loss as to what to do.  The answer is clear.  Use LENT well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

     I offer my congratulations to a seminary classmate and good friend from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Father Joseph Mele, we was recently appointed as Rector of Saint Paul Seminary in Crafton (Pittsburgh) and Director of Pre-Ordination Formation while retaining his role as Director of Post-Ordination Formation.  He has served as well as a Vicar General of the Diocese under Bishop David Zubek.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making a Difference

     In the first reading at today's Eucharist, the prophet Isaiah (Is 55:10-11) reminds us that God's word is meant to do His will, achieving the end for which He sent it.  It is like the rain and snow (which we know much of this Winter) that does not return to the heavens until it has done its job, "watering the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats".  God's word shall not return to Him void.  It is leaven.  It is life giving and transformative.  It is to be effective.

     There have been times in my priesthood when I wonder what effect my words and actions have on people.  Is the word that I preach, the example that I give, the ministry that I provide through the grace of God effective?  Does it touch lives?  When those moments of uncertainty arise, so too, humbly, does the proof.  An example:

     Within this past year the Men's Group of Immaculate Conception parish here in Irwin invited four of our priests to share a bit on their vocation to priesthood.  Invited was Msgr. Donald Mondello, a retired priest who had served long ago at IC as an Associate Pastor, myself (a neighbor and also former Associate), Father Jonathan Wisnewski, one of our Vocation Directors and a younger priest, and Father John Moineau, the pastor of IC.  The talks were great, as was the breakfast, as were the questions and comments.

     One gentleman  spoke of how he had been one of my Altar Servers and the effect that my friendship had on him.  I know that he, and a friend of his, would send me a Christmas card each year.  He is still very actively involved in the parish, especially in Liturgy.  Another guy spoke of how I had recruited him to be a Lector about 37 years ago, and how that invitation had meant so much to him.  He stated that he is still serving in that ministry.  Both indicated to the group that I had touched their lives in wonderful ways.  I was humbled.

     You never know the impact and effectiveness of your ministry, presence, word or action.  Do what you do in the name of Christ and in the love of God and the Spirit will bring blessings.   He has for me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Invitation?

     To my Saturday reflection "Lenten Fridays 1" I received an email from a friend who said in response to my comment that we are invited on Fridays during Lent to abstain from eating meat: "We are invited?  I thought it was a law?".

     The first reading this morning at liturgy was from the 19th chapter of Leviticus.  As I listened, I heard an invitation from the Lord through Moses to "Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy".  The imperative to respond positively to this invitation is great.  The Lord does not force us (under penalty of the law) nor threaten us (with fire and damnation), but rather invites and encourages us of our own free will to accept the offer He extends to LIVE, by being one with Him and to be "holy as the Lord our God is holy".  Leviticus then goes on to lay out the law, not as the conditions but as a vehicle for enfleshing the life of the Spirit within our lives.  Following the law is a visible sign of our acceptance of the invitation to embrace the love of God in our lives.  The law is given because He reminds us "I am the LORD".  If we accept him, then His law is a grace to embrace and follow.

     Yes, my friend, Friday Lenten abstinence is a law for the Catholic faithful, but it is also an invitation to embrace the sacrifice of Christ and journey toward that holiness that is His desire for us.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Empty Bowl Event

     This afternoon I attended the 3rd Annual EMPTY BOWL EVENT benefiting the Westmoreland County Food Bank.  This event, described with the words "Craft a bowl, feed your soul, and help the hungry" on its program was held at Saint Bruno Parish Hall in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

     Locally the Event has been spearheaded by Karen Piper of North Huntingdon, a member of our parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  She, along with a great group of helpers, encourages individuals and groups to design and paint ceramic bowls that are then made available at the annual event.  For a donation, you have the opportunity of choosing a bowl, enjoying a cup of soup provided by one of over twenty five restaurants along with bread from the sponsoring organization - Panera Bread - and enjoying fellowship and entertainment.  All the proceeds go to the Westmoreland County Food Bank which serves over 7,000 families each month who do not have enough to eat.  Over the last two years thousands of dollars have been given to WCFB to help those in need.  Today's event will add to that total.

     The event was great.  I had a great time helping and truly enjoyed the food.  I also enjoyed painting a couple of bowls earlier on at a parish gathering to support this cause ... one of which was decorated by my "blowing paint bubbles" - truly a humbling experience for one my age.

     One of my favorite musicals is "Les Mis".  There is a line near the end that says: "To love another person is to see the face of God".  Today God's face became much clearer for many of us.  Thanks to Karen and all who showed their love for God's people.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lenten Fridays 1

     Fridays during Lent are very special times of grace.  Every Friday needs to be special in our lives because of the unbelievable sacrifice of that first "good Friday" on the hill outside of Jerusalem.  From then on, Friday became a "sacred" day, and we are called to enter into the sacrifice of Christ in some way.

     Lenten Fridays intensify the sacred character of the day by inviting us to pray more, to sacrifice to a greater extent, to reach out in love to others in a more profound way.  Often during Lent we pray the Way of the Cross, the Stations, either personally or as a gathering of the Church.  This pious practice, which took root when pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the sacred places were limited because of difficulties, allowed the local faithful to follow in the footsteps of Christ's passion and death.  The Stations of the Cross found in our churches give us a visual experience of the last journey of Jesus.   There are many forms of this devotion available.  I remember as a child the version we used in grade school was very moving, in fact, very graphic.  The artwork did not minimize the degree of suffering.  I also remember in High School attending Stations at Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA and being moved with the solemnity of the experience.   If you have not prayed the "way of the cross", I invite you to consider doing so.  Check with your parish for availability.

     Catholic Faithful during Lent are invited to abstain from eating meat or meat products on Fridays (more on that next Friday).  Another tradition that ties in with Abstaining from meat on Fridays are the Fish Dinners so prevalent during Lent (that, too, is for another Friday's reflection).

     As I led the prayers for the Stations last night, I found myself listening more than reading, being moved more than moving others.  I found myself truly praying through these holy reflections.

Your prayers:
     As you have undoubtedly heard, Japan has suffered greatly these past few days.  Please pray for the people touched by this terrible event.

Friday, March 11, 2011


     As Lent begins, so does my entry into the world of blogging.  It has been my desire to share my thoughts through this medium for a while now.  Finally, on this first Friday of Lent, a good friend and fellow blogger, Michael Ripple, got me set up.  I am grateful.  He and his son Isaac are visiting.

     I hope to share my thoughts on a variety of experiences and issues that touch my life.  I have always referred to our sojourn as a follower of Christ as a journey, truly a journey of a lifetime.  The Good News that speak of God's blessings is too important to be kept quiet.  I will endeavor to share my blessings with you.  I hope that you find my posts challenging and inspiring.