Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fun Fundraising Efforts

     Last evening was the 2011 Angel Gala, the Annual Dinner & Auction benefiting  the Queen of Angels Catholic School which our parish helps to sponsor.  This annual event gathers families and staff, supporters and benefactors, to showcase our efforts at Catholic School Education and to help support those efforts.  This year's gathering was at Pluma Restaurant & Banquets in Irwin.  A great and enthusiastic crowd gathered for the event.  [By the way, this post is in purple and white because those are our school colors.]

     The evening involved a wonderful buffet dinner, the opportunity to socialize, and of course, a myriade of ways to GIVE.  There were ads for the program, event sponsors, a live auction, a raffle ticket that went off that evening, a 50/50, silent auction, Angel auction (things the classes made), a chinese auction, a cash X 10 envelope, and a shortened "night at the races".  The committee worked very hard, and that hard work paid off.  Even though I did not come home a winner, all of us came home winners.  And our thanks goes out to all who shared in the event and the effort.

     Anyone who is involved in a great cause, especially those of us who are church or school related, knows the need and importance of fundraising.  It is essential to the survival of the programs and efforts.  But it is a chore.  Very few people actually like selling tickets or asking for money or selling candy bars, etc.  That is why it is important to look for creative ways to entice people into supporting the cause.  That is why it is important for me to take a moment and thank those iinvolved in yesterdays endeavor.

     As a side note, a woman sitting at our table, who has no children in the school, was telling us how impressed she is with the quality of our kids and the strength of our programs.  She commented that anyone who desires the best for their children (or grandchildren) should "check us out".  I concur.  Check us out.

Friday, April 29, 2011


     As promised in yesterday's post, a thought on the Diocese of Greensburg's thirteenth Annual Catholic Charities Communities of Salt and Light Award Dinner held last evening in North Huntingdon.

     The recognition of the actions and perseverance of the honorees gave us the opportunity to let their "light shine before others, that they may see [their] good deeds ..."  These individuals honored last evening are truly the "salt of the earth".

     Catholic Charities is the ministry and agency that reaches out  to those in need within the Diocese and beyond to provide much needed assistance in a variety of areas in the name of Christ and in a spirit of Christian love.  The staff are certified specialists in their fields and are assisted by a volunteer HelpLine, creating 24/7 coverage for anyone who calls.  The services provided include financial assistance in the payment of utility bills, i.e., electric, gas, water, sewage, all types of fuel for heat, emergency food boxes and shelter/lodging for extreme emergencies.  These services are provided with respect for human dignity and the hope of building a foundation for self-sufficiency.

     100% of profit has been redistributed from these events.  In the last thirteen years (not counting last evening) $658,035.98 has been raised and distributed, which is outstanding.  There have been 6,551 individuals and families helped as a result.  Last evening's crowd was even larger than last year's event.

     There are three awardees each year.  This year's Humanitarian award went to Dr. Joseph Angelo of Indiana, PA.   He is a retired math professor at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), married for nearly 53 years, and the father of seven children, the youngest of which, John, born 38 years ago, was born with Downs syndrome.  Dr. Angelo has been a champion of those with intellectual and other disabilities, working with ARC and other advocacy groups.  In his speech he said: "If you want to be happy within life, spend your time making others happy."  Good words of advice.

     The award for Philanthropy went to Michael and Janice Walker, parishioners of Holy Family Parish in Latrobe.  Their stewardship to the Church on so many levels, and their open and generous spirit, have allowed them to be recognized not only by Charities but by so many others as good people of Faith who simply share the blessings that God has given them.

     And the Service Organization Award went to The Bridge Core, an ecumenical group of women from Indiana, PA, that work to identify needs, raise awareness and provide assistance in the areas of homelessness, domestic violence and the humane treatment of animals.

     These men and women deserve the recognition that they received at this dinner.  All wondered "Why them?"  The answer is simple - they are the salt of the earth ... they are the light of the world ... they are Christ to others.  Congratulations!

     PS  Dinner was great and the evening very enjoyable.  I spoke with both Bishop Brandt as well as retired Bishop Anthony Bosco, met many friends, past and present, and shared a table with parishioners Marie Huss and Barb Braun and friends, including Father Rick Kosisko and Mr. Bill Merchant and his family (Bill was the 2008 Humanitarian recipient).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peace, but at a cost

     Those of us of a certain generation remember the two raised fingers of the peace sign or the other placard that represented the sentiment (I see it again these days in a new version of the old tie-dyed tee's).  We may remember the "peace-nik's" and the anti war protests of the sixties and seventies and the hippies.  They were turbulant times of conflicting  positions and angry responses to the quest for peace.  I remember many of us from the seminary travelling to Washington to serve as "marshalls" at the big peace march, wearing blue arm bands and wearing the collar, hopefully serving as a deterant to violence.  It was scarry.

     Peace is still a reality that we have not yet attained, and that, too, is scarry.  The fact that Christ gave peace as His parting gift to us, and showed us the way to peace, makes our failures even more outstanding.  How did we "miss the boat"?

     Rather than sway back and forth, with arms intertwined and chanting "All we are saying, is give peace a chance", we need to face the harsh reality that peace comes at a cost.  It must be sought out, worked for, and brought about by laying our lives on the line.  In today's gospel from Luke, Jesus appears to the eleven and says "Peace be with you".  Then he shows them his hands and his feet, reminding them that this peace came at a great price.  He laid his life on the line so that we may come to know, in him, that deep, all consuming peace that leads to life.

     The wrongness or rightness of conflict involves other questions and considerations.  The attainment of peace in our hearts and lives requires a union with the risen Lord that allows us to embrace his suffering and death out of love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters.   Peace requires love, love requires sacrifice, sacrifice requires the Cross, and the Cross leads to the Resurrection.  Remember that this Easter Season, and admit the Peace of Christ into your hearts and minds.


     Tonight is the annual Salt and Light Dinner sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg.  It is held locally at Stratigo's Banquet Facility.  More on the event, and those honored, in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Companions on the Journey

     We are so individualistic in our society.  The world revolves around us, everything that touches us is about us.  Which results in our being exalted as a god of sorts or our being lost in the vacuum of our emptiness and self absorption.  We don't need anyone, for we don't want or trust anyone.  Where is this going?

     As followers of the risen Christ we are called into union with Him and into oneness with those who believe in and follow Him.  We are creatures who need each other, children who are called into the family of the Church.  We don't do this thing alone ... we can't do this thing alone.

     When Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples, He sent them out two by two.  When they left the upper room after the resurrection, like Peter and John in today's first reading, they went out in pairs.  Neither Peter or John said to the cripple "What I have ...", but they said: "What we have we give you...".  In the gospel account from Luke (Lk. 24: 13-35) we have the well known Emmaus story.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, visited by Jesus (whom they failed to recognize until the breaking of the bread).  They were sharing the news and the struggle of the last few days.  They cried on each others shoulders, they laughed at their fond memories of their friend, they supported each other in their hope, and they struggled to find meaning in the uncertainty of their experiences.  When Jesus joined them, they welcomed the opportunity to share with another, and to listen to him.

     It was in the familiar - the breaking of the bread - that they recognized Him.  It was then that they realized the stirring in their hearts at the words He spoke to them.  It was then that they realized that they needed to get back to the others, for there was Good News to share.

     Years ago, under Bishop Connare, our priests were invited into the Emmaus Program, and opportunity to gather in small groups or with another individual to share the walk of faith.  Other programs have also presented themselves. Some have lasted, others have not.  We are encouraged to have a Spiritual Director to share our spiritual journey.  All of us look to our spouse, or a good friend, or a priest or Religious to journey with us.  In our bulletin I have a feature called "Companions on the Journey" where we look at the saints of the upcoming week.  I remember three of my brothers in the priesthood that met with me weekly for years to pray and to support each other (one is in Heaven, the other two are still friends).  They got me through some challenging times in my priesthood, for which I am eternally grateful.

     Like Cleopas and his friend, like Peter and John, let us welcome Jesus into our journey and share that experience with those we trust and love.  And may we find and remember that "no man is an island, no man stands alone".  We are one with the Risen Christ and one with each other.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Satisfying Exhaustion

     I am sorry that I missed a posting yesterday.  After the week, I ended up just "vegging" today.

     Last evening in flipping through channels, I ran across the inspiring but mediocre movie "Gettysburg", based on the novel by Jeff Shaara entitled "The Killer Angels".  I remember watching the movie a number of times over the years, and finding myself exhausted at the end.  The battle lasted three days, the movie lasted over four hours.  It consists of a number of personal stories interspersed with unrelenting gunfire.  But the loyalty of the men for Lee, the friendship between Lewis Armistead and Winfield Hancock (on opposing sides), the courage of a school teacher from Maine called Chamberlain, and the faithfulness to Lee of Longstreet, inspired me and made the watching well worth while.

     One of my favorite stories is the Tolkien trilogy "The Lord of the Rings", a daunting task to read, and a marvelous experience to watch in the movies of recent years.  Each movie (in its shortened, commercial form) is three hours (four in the uncut versions, which I recommend).  Put the three together and you have an epic 12 hours.  A story of courage in the midst of tremendous evil and darkness, it is the account of Good triumphing over the Dark Forces of Evil.

    Each of these experiences leaves me tired, spent, exhausted.  Yet the stories are worth hearing, seeing, repeating despite the effect.

     These last few days saw a story told/repeated that is epic in its scope and essential to our life.  It is the story of the life, passion and death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Our schedule was hectic, our services very long, our energies were spent, and we (I speak for myself) were exhausted ... but deeply satisfied and inspired.

     To celebrate these mysteries requires patience and prayerfulness (it took us just over two hours seventeen minutes for the Vigil).  It does no good to rush or to cut corners.  Some do.  I have found it unwise to do so.   At the Easter Vigil we read all nine readings (which at that late hour was another challenge), but how can you "readers' digest" the story?  We welcomed a young man named Shane into the Family of Faith through Baptism, received three others - Jodie, Ryan and Jonathan - into full communion with the Catholic Church, confirmed and brought them to the Table of the Lord for Eucharist.  We sang our Alleluia!  On Easter morning we dealt with a packed church at both Masses and prayed that it could be like that every "little Easter", every Sunday.

     Add to that the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning, the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening, and our pilgrimage to three churches for prayer that night.  And on Friday, the Irwin Community Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 am, a funeral liturgy at the funeral home at 11 am, the Celebration of the Lord's Passion at 1 pm, our final Fish Dinner in the late afternoon and a prayerful experience of Tenebrea at 9 pm.

     What you have is a contented and joy filled exhaustion in the grace of the Lord.  That, at least, is my experience.  Onward now in our Fifty Days of Easter!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


     The world will never be the same.  The tomb is empty.  He is not here.  Death has been conquered.  The victory has been won and sealed in the blood of the Lamb.  Alleluia!

     On this blessed Easter, may you and those you love enjoy the blessing of our loving God!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Quiet sorrow ...

     He has died, and we wept.  He was placed in the tomb and laid to rest.  Our hearts were broken, our hopes shattered.  We were exhausted from the ordeal, from the grief, from the fear.  And we longed for quiet.

     On this day we find that silence.  For our community, the great Easter Vigil begins tonight at 9:00 pm.  Then we will speak up and tell our story and welcome the seekers to share our joy and hope.

Have a quiet, blessed Saturday Vigil!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Lamb Led to the Slaughter

     From Isaiah the Prophet we read:

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.  Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny?  When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.  But the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity."

     The suffering servant of Isaiah is Jesus, the Christ.  The Father allowed him to be crushed for our offenses, for our sins, so that forgiveness, restoration and re-creation might enter our lives.

     The events of that Good Friday transformed humanity and initiated a new era, a time of peace and reconciliation, a new birth to freedom and life.  The empty grave of Sunday morning is proof that the sacrifice was not in vain. 

     A blessed Good Friday to all as we await the Vigil.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


     This morning at Our Lady of Grace in Greensburg, a liturgy was celebrated that would have elated those who love "high church".  A Choral Prelude, the Episcopal Procession to "Trumpet Tune in D Major" by David Johnson, triumphal gathering hymn, and all the splendor of the Chrism Mass.  It was beautifully celebrated by those present.  At that liturgy, the Sacred Oils are blessed and set apart for use in the Sacraments in our parishes.  Also, the priests renew before the People of God their "Commitment to Priestly Service".

     There are three groups of questions that the bishop asks the priests.  I would like to mention them:

          Bishop:  My brothers, today we celebrate the memory of the first Eucharist,
                        at which Our Lord Jesus Christ shared with His Apostles and with
                        us His call to the priestly service of His Church.   Now, in the presence
                        of your Bishop and God's holy people, are you ready to renew your
                        own dedication to Christ as priests of His new covenant?
          Priests:    I am.
          Bishop:   At your ordination you accepted the responsibilities of the priesthood
                        out of love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.  Are you resolved to
                        unite yourselves more closely to Christ and to try to become more like
                        Him by joyfully sacrificing your own pleasure and ambition to bring His
                        peace and love to your brothers and sisters?
          Priests:    I am.
          Bishop:   Are you resolved to be faithful ministers of the mysteries of God,
                        to celebrate the Eucharist and the other liturgical services with sincere
                        devotion?  Are you resolved to imitate Jesus Christ, the head and
                        shepherd of the Church, by teaching the Christian faith without
                        thinking of your own profit, solely for the well-being of the people
                        you were sent to serve?
          Priests:    I am
                                                 Copyright @ 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.

     The bishop then asks the people present to pray for their priests.  It is very moving, and a wonderful liturgy.
     Then comes tonight, the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  In contrast, it is a simple liturgy that recalls the last gathering of Jesus and his friends around the table for a meal.  It was quiet, intimate, peaceful.  The formality of the ritual meal was lost in the closeness of gathered friends, caught on the edge of challenging circumstances.  Prayers were offered, bread was blessed and broken, a cup of wine was blessed and shared, a lesson of service was taught, and a betrayer departed.  The uncertainty of tomorrow was overwhelming, yet no one was overwhelmed.  This is what we remember and celebrate tonight.

     Thank God for the ability to embrace contrasts in the way we worship, for contrasts are a part of the life we lead.   Have a blessed beginning of the Triduum.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spy Wednesday

     In his post today for the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Charles Pope mentions that this day was traditionally called "Spy Wednesday", since it is the day (as we heard in this morning's gospel) when Judas went to the religious leaders and plotted to hand Jesus over to them.  I can honestly say that I cannot remember hearing that phrase.  But it is a good one.  Whatever Judas' motives, he planned treachery and spied on Jesus to find cause to hand him over.  He was a spy - a traitor.

     Msgr Pope goes on to speak of the human frailty and sinfulness of priests today, reminding us that Judas, the betrayer, was one chosen by Christ and a priest ... that Peter, the denier was a priest ... that the rest of the Twelve (except the Beloved Disciple) ran away in fear and they were priests.  Not to make excuses, but to remember that we all are sinners who strive through the grace of God to become saints.  Our frailty is real, as is our desire to serve God with our whole being.

     It is a good reflection in light of the Chrism Mass tomorrow at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensburg.  At that Mass, the priests, gathered with the bishop, renew our commitment to service in the Church with the help of God.  Bishop Brandt usually leads those gathered in a round of applause for the priests.  I can tell you, as one who looks in the mirror in the morning and in the heart every night, I am keenly aware of my unworthiness for that applause.  I am equally uplifted and appreciative of the love and support of so many.

     For all of our flaws and failures to you, the People of God, please forgive us/me, and pray for your priests.   HAPPY  TRIDUUM!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Congratulations, neighbors!

     I just finished watching the ordination and installation of Bishop Mark L. Bartchak as the 8th bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in West Central Pennsylvania.  The ordination and installation took place at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in the City of Altoona.  Bishop Bartchak replaces Bishop Joseph Adamec.

     Bishop Bartchak is a priest of the Erie Diocese and has served in a variety of capacities.  He was ordained thirty years ago, I believe, and is a young bishop.  May he serve the Faithful of Altoona-Johnstown for many years.  I attended college and theology at Saint Francis College (now Saint Francis University of Loretto) and Saint Francis Seminary (now a Federal, maximum security prison - it was not "maximum" in those days) in that diocese.  My two priest classmates from that Diocese have both gone home to heaven, but I have other friends there, and I assure them of my prayers for them and their new bishop.  Their previous bishop, before Bishop Adamec, was Bishop James Hogan, who conferred all of the minor Orders as well as Diaconate on me.  My priesthood was conferred by our own, late, Bishop William Connare.

     The ceremony today was long, steeped in tradition and history, beautiful, and filled with the power of God's Spirit.  Those who planned the day did well.  The Cathedral is an impressive building on the top of a hill in Altoona.  When I was in Scottdale, we made a pilgrimage there with many of our parishioners.

     Many years and many blessings to our new neighboring bishop.


     This morning I attended the funeral of a good friend from Scottdale whose wife was a parishioner at Saint John the Baptist parish there.  Bob Wingert belonged to Trinity Reformed Church in Scottdale all of his life.  I hope that his fellow church members are not offended, but Bob was a better catholic than many catholics that I know.  He was a true gentleman and a man of deep Faith and abundant goodness.  May he rest in peace.

Monday, April 18, 2011


     I saw some stats today that got me thinking.  Back in 1996 I attended a four month sabbatical program in Berkeley, California at SAT (the School of Applied Theology).  While enjoying the California experience, I encountered quite a few "nationality parishes".  I was used to those, being from Southwestern PA.  My hometown had a territorial parish (St. John the Evangelist - the Irish), Saint Joseph Polish church, Saint Mary of the Nativity Slovak church, Saint Therese of the Little Flower Italian church, Saint George Maronite Rite (Lebanese) and Saint John the Baptist Reuthinian Byzantine church (Russian).  I went to Saint Joe's.  But in California the ethnic make up was much different: from various parts of Asia and Africa and the Pacific Basin and so on.  We are a land of immigrants.  That is one of the true blessings of this great nation.  My maternal grandfather came from Poland, as did my paternal grandparents.

     Immigration today is a hot topic with many components.  Obviously we need to do something about those who are here illegally, and the bishops of the U.S. have weighed in on the issues.  A great many citizens today are from across our Southern boarder, of Hispanic origins.  That is where the stats come in.

     16% of the U.S. population (or 50.5 million) are Hispanic.  Of those, 68% are Catholic.  35% of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic.  Of those, 50% are under 25 years of age.  20% of Catholic parishes have Hispanic ministries.  And there are 28 active Catholic Bishops in the U.S. that are of Hispanic background.  Spanish is overtaking English as the first language in many places (I missed the boat by taking French in school).

     For some people, this is frightening.  For others it is not to be tolerated.  But whether we are Poles, or Slavs, or Irish, or English or Hispanic or whatever, remember that we are all a part of the Family of God, and we bring rich threads into the fabric of our society (and our Church) when we welcome the stranger or the oppressed.  Remember that the greatness of the American Experiment is rooted in our cultural diversity and our willingness to welcome through Ellis Island or San Francisco or the Mexican Boarder those who, like us, seek the blessings of this Country.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Being Reconciled

     The season of reconciliation is quickly drawing to a close, even though the need for reconciliation in most of our lives never ends.  Lent was/is a time when we focus on our sinfulness and the mercy and forgiveness of God.   God has been most gracious to us.  Here at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton I added a special Monday evening time during Lent for the reception of the sacrament, in addition to the regular Saturday mornings.  There were two Saturdays this Lent that I missed (funerals in one instance and the Gathering of Catholic Men in Pittsburgh on another).  I heard private confessions every Monday during Lent except for last Monday when our regional penance service was here.  In all, not counting the penance services, I heard about 80 confessions - the smallest number only two ... the highest was twenty.  This could be encouraging or disappointing.  It could mean that we have very holy people in this area.  It could mean that everyone was waiting for the services (four in our area).  It could mean that we have much work to do in educating or re-educating ourselves in the importance and need of this great sacrament.

     A good friend of mine - Mike Ripple - recently commented on his blog "pray-lium", on the subject of forgiveness.  Check it out.

     All to many people, both cradle catholics as well as new ones, have a strange fear of this great gift of healing and forgiveness.  I can understand some of that - I too remember the cramped, dark, scary confessionals of old and the occasional "cranky" priest.  The gentle mercy of God found in this sacrament needs to be taught and experienced, and a clearer understanding of sin and its effect in our lives needs to found.  We have our work cut out for us.  Tomorrow we celebrate Reconciliation within our Catholic school and with the last of our regional penance services at Saint Agnes.  May we be open to the power of God tomorrow, and to the grace of our Triduum journey.


     Last Saturday I encounter Dr. Seuse in the Aquinas Academy Spring Musical and last night I met Peter Pan and Wendy and Tinkerbell and Captain Hook.  We went from the Darling Nursery in London to Neverland, in the Queen of Angels Spring Musical "Peter Pan".  I marvel at the talent in our schools and the dedicated and committed faculties and staffs, parents and families, and of course, the kids themselves.

     The thought came to mind that the popularity of the story is found in the song "I won't grow up".  There is a fascination with always being a kid, of staying young at heart, a child.  We are called to be children - of God.  BUT ... unlike Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, we must grow up.  We must lay aside childish things like pettiness, anger, jealously, spitefulness, revenge and the like.   We must grow up so that we can, as children of God, fly to heights of glory.  We need to find our "mother" not in Wendy, but in the Church.  We need to soar with the eagles, caught up in the Spirit of God.

    I am thankful to the kids at Queen of Angels for helping me realize these things once again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Holy Week

     We enter into the week called "holy".  It is holy because of the events that took place in Jerusalem in this week about 2,000 years ago.  It is called holy because it is the high point of the Church's liturgical year, as we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the impact that it has in our lives.  It is called holy because through those mysteries we are invited and empowered to embrace the new life of Christ that leads us into eternity.  Happy Holy Week!

     We begin the week by recalling how fickle we can be as human beings.  One moment we are singing the praises of God and the next we are calling for Him to be gone from us.  I personally find it a very disjointed liturgy. The Palm Sunday liturgy describes that experience and those feelings well.  We begin by recalling Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We bless palm branches, listen to the account of His entry, and process into the temple of our church for the feast [ by the way, we are NOT good at precessions ].  But how quickly we turn on Him and change our tune.  In the Gospel we listen to the Passion of Christ, this year from Matthew.  The same people who sang His praises call now for His death.  The constant that we have that the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not is the Eucharist, the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, broken and spilled out for us.  In our parish we end the celebration in silence - anticipating the emptiness and quiet of the next few days.

     The somber red denoting blood is the color of the day ... palm branches and crosses are sacramentals that we take to our homes to remind us of these days ... and anticipation is the emotion we take with us as we bring our Lenten journey to an close and enter the Triduum.
Journey well ... and be patient, the readings and liturgy are a little longer today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lenten Friday 5 - Good People

     Another Friday during Lent is upon us.  As we celebrated Eucharist this morning our numbers increased (as they do on Lenten Fridays) because of the volunteers who are there to help with our fish dinners later in the day.  They start early.  As we were leaving, there was a good number of cars pulling up to the kitchen to begin their work of preparing the fish and chopping cabbage for halushki.  Some will be there all day cooking, others will arrive later to serve, bus the tables, and clean up.  This year we have over 110 volunteers who signed up to work the fish dinners.  They are scheduled over the entire Lenten Season.  These are the "STARS" of the project, and we are very grateful for their stewardship of time and talent.

     Volunteers are essential to any group or committee, but in the life of a parish, they are truly a blessing.  Whatever the service provided and the witness given, we give the glory to God and work to build up and strengthen the kingdom. God bless them.


     I have mentioned a few anniversaries of important events in the last few days.  I would like to add a third one today.  146 years ago today, April 15th 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died, after having been shot the evening before at Ford's Theater.  He is much loved and respected ... and remembered in this area through Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway), a local road named Lincoln Way, a housing development called Lincoln Heights, etc.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Anniversary

     Yesterday I spoke of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumter.  In checking out some of my favorite blogs this morning I became aware of another anniversary that happened thirty years later.  120 years ago Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical (letter) entitled Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things") which was the first formal attempt by the Vatican to clarify Church teaching in the emerging industrialized revolutions of the societies of Europe and the United States.  Pope Leo placed the Church behind the rights of workers to unionize and receive a just wage - rights they did not have and rights, in light of recent events in this country, that are still under attack.

     Other popes have spoken on these issues over the years - John XXIII and John Paul II for example - as well as many labor leaders in both Church and civil society.  Our Pittsburgh area was a major area of that development,  The unions came about to give a voice to the voiceless, and to address an entire range of issues that placed the worker in the realm of a servant or slave which could be used and even at times abused.  The "peasants" are no longer the "slaves" of the "lordly class". 

     Our teachings on social justice, though, flow from the Gospels (Matthew 25 - to do for the least of our brothers).  For 120 years Rerum Novarum's explanation of this Gospel mandate has been reaffirmed again and again by the Church in her calls for justice in society, economics and politics.  Catholic teaching in this area is strong, clear and needs to be heard and understood.

     I read that the Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies is hosting a conference at CU on May 2 - 3 of this year.  Maybe it can help remind us of our rich and powerful heritage in this area.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lessons to be Learned

     At 4:30 am April 12th in 1861, Brig. Gen. Beauregard fired on Fort Sumter in Charleson Harbor, South Carolina, thus beginning the Civil War in the United States.  The bombardment lasted thirty six hours until the Union forces surrendered and lowered the Stars and Stripes.  The next four years saw unbelievable death and destruction as brother turned on brother in the struggle between the North and the South.  It has been 150 years since the beginning of that struggle, and the next four years will be filled with commemorations and anniversaries.

     I am a bit of a Civil War buff.  Like many, I studied the conflict in history classes and memorized the Gettysburg Address of President Lincoln.   But it wasn't until the early '90's that my interest increased, in a large part because of the people I was living with - one my assistant and the other a priest resident.  One had a grandfather who fought for the South at Kinnesaw Mountain, Georgia.  The other had a great grandfather who was at Gettysburg with the Union troops.  It made life interesting being caught between the Union and Confederate sides.  My understanding of the conflict and its consequences deepened as I studied the effect on people in that Civil War (or as the South often called it "the war of Northern Aggression").  The war was about many things: states' rights, the economy and the issue of slavery.

     This morning in John's Gospel (John 8: 31 - 42) Jesus tells the people "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  When denying that they are slaves to anyone, Jesus reminds them "... everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains."   That last line struck me in a powerful way.  A slave does not remain in a household forever.  He/she is a commodity, expendable, disposable.  But not a child ... they belong, they remain forever, they are cherished.  The Civil war could be about many things, but at its heart it is about being counted, cherished, beloved of God and therefore belonging to the family of humanity.  It is about dignity and freedom, standing on the truth of the Gospel message.   This nation fought that out.  Whether it learned the lesson is sometimes unclear, but what is clear is that the truth will set us free.  Stand in the truth that is Jesus Christ, and learn from the lessons of the past.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Reminder

     Reminders are very important for us, whether its the alarm clock telling us that its time to get up, or the alarm on our electronic gadgets telling us its time for this or that.  In the Book of Numbers in this morning's first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, we have another kind of reminder presented to us. 
     The people grumbled and complained against God, and God sent saraph serpents as a punishment for their sin.  These serpents bit the people and many died.  Coming to their senses, the people repented and turned toward the mercy of God, who told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it upon a pole and lift it high.  The scriptures say that "whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived".
     Was that bronze serpent a sacred object, a magic item that brought healing?  Why something so tangible placed before our eyes?
     When we confront the effects of our sin and transgressions, the turning of our back on God, we see death, emptiness, the void.  It reminds us of what we gave up, what we lost.  And maybe, just maybe, seeing that loss we may repent and turn back to the source of all healing and life - Jesus, the Christ.  That bronze serpent, lifted on a pole (by the way, did you ever notice the symbol of the medical profession) reminds us of our need to turn away from sin and to be healed of our failures and restored to life. 
     And as Good Friday approaches, remember the other image of one lifted high on a tree, one who has taken our sins upon Him so that, seeing, we may repent, and repenting, we may have life.


     Our first regional penance service last evening saw the mercy of God manifest in our midst.  The numbers were small, but God's grace was enormous.  We are grateful for His love.  Tonight we are  at Immaculate Conception in Irwn.

Monday, April 11, 2011

And We're Off

     In his most recent post, Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia mentioned that yesterday began what was formally called Passiontide.  His is one of my favorite blogs.  Two weeks in length, Passiontide saw a change in tone in prayer and scripture, beginning to focus more directly upon the events of the week that we call holy.  It was an opportunity to redirect our thoughts and Lenten efforts in a more intense way.  In today's Church, we begin that focusing with Palm Sunday.

     But tonight in our area we begin refocusing through a series of regional Lenten Penance Services.  We begin tonight at our parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Our area priests (there are five of us) will be joined by a number of monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey to be available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  People will gather over the next week to seek the healing power of God in their lives, and to prepare their hearts for the Easter Triduum.  There will be abundant grace poured into the fold of our garments.

     I have chosen the reading of Joel the prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures that we heard at the beginning of Lent.  It is a call to gather and celebrate the glorious love of God.  It is fittingly a good reminder to make these next number of days full of grace ... for this is the time of fulfillment.  The reign of God is at hand.

     To those who come, peace.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Green Eggs and Ham

     If you recognize the reference in the title, then you know of Dr. Seuss.  I'm not sure when the stories came out, but they were not in my growing up years.  I am aware of the Grinch, and of Horton and the Who, but it was only last evening that I met some of the other characters.  My sister, Janie, and I attended the production of "Seussical, Jr." put on by Aquinas Academy Catholic School of Greensburg.  I went for two reasons: I was one of the founding pastors of Aquinas back in the '90's and still have ties and fond memories ... but also because I had the honor of baptizing the Mayor of Whoville, a.k.a. Sean Newhouse in this production, many years ago.  He and his family are great friends.

     The kids did a tremendous job.  Dr. Seuss is all in rhyme, and the play is fast paced and very musical.  I could never have done what they did.  And the dancing and sets and everything else was well done.  Kudos to all involved.   "Horton" did particularly well, as did the "Cat in the Hat".

     There are a couple of great quotes from "Horton and the Who" that stand out, and I understand, have been embraced by the Pro - Life cause: namely "A person is a person, no matter how small" and "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not!"  Both express great truths.


     On a more serious note, this morning's Scriptures invite us to acknowledge Jesus not simply as a healer or miracle worker or friend or teacher or even a raiser from the dead, but to acknowledge that He is "the Christ, the Son of the living God".  Until we acknowledge Jesus as Lord in our lives, we stand on the "outside looking in".  Proclaim Him as Lord in your life, and celebrate all that He is for you.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


     I left this morning at 7:30 for the city of Pittsburgh.  It's not a far drive, except for traffic.  The Parkway was backed up from Edgewood/Swissvale to beyond Wilkinsburg, so I exited at Edgewood and took the Oakland way into the city.  Passing Carnegie Mellon I noticed attendants directing parking for an event.  A little further on the Pitt campus, I noticed tents pitched and people gathering for something.  Further down Fifth, parking attendants were flagging people into their lots for a special event of some kind at the Consul Energy Center.  But I was on my way to the A. J. Palumbo Center at Duquesne University.  The event there was the Gathering of Catholic Men sponsored by the Pittsburgh Catholic Mens' Fellowship, a one day event that brought together (as one usher told me) at least 1,900 men for fellowship, prayer and worship, inspirational speakers, and grace filled moments.  I submit that of all the events happening in the city today, this was THE EVENT.  Here is why.

     In addition to nearly 2,000 men beginning the day with a prayerful and reverent Holy Hour and Benediction, four great presentations interspersed with song and prayer, great fellowship, and concluding with the celebration of the Eucharist led by Bishop David Zubik, there was a day long celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I began hearing confessions about 9:30 am and, except for a brief break for lunch, did not finish until just after three o'clock.  There were at least thirty priests doing the same (including Bishop Zubik).  It was an awesome experience of Church, of Faith, and of God's gentle healing power on the bluff above town.  Now that, my friends, was "the" event of the day for the area.  I was truly humbled and blest.


      By the way, my apologies for missing a posting yesterday, and for being so late today.   Hectic times.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


     Today's reflection comes after two funerals and is a result of perusing the United States Catholic Bishops' website -  The Bishops' Conference lists as five priorities in 2011 the following:

               1) Strengthening Marriage
               2) Faith Formation focused on sacramental practice
               3) Priestly and religious vocations
               4) Life and dignity of the human person
               5) Recognition of cultural diversity

     The setting of goals and objectives is important to give direction to the journey that we are on.  While I am not one to seek help with directions, I have found value in map quest.  At least I know what to look for as I'm seeking my destination.  And not only directions, but I've been known to check out the aerial photo of the route so that I can recognize landmarks and buildings along the way.

     The bishops have laid out this set of directions (goals) and placed before us some landmarks to look for (objectives) so that we not get lost.  They have done so in five areas of deep concern for the Church, concern rooted in a lessening of the strengths that we once knew.  Married life as traditionally defined by society and the Church is under considerable attack.  Our understanding of the Faith is weak at best, and our appreciation of the sacramental life of the Church strengthening the command to "know God" is dwindling.  The response to the call of God to priesthood and religious life has diminished so much that it leaves us not only "shorthanded" in staffing but weak in passing on the Faith ... for when one vocation is ignored, it becomes too easy to ignore the other vocations of life.  The life and dignity of the human person is constantly undermined - whether it is abortion or euthanasia, health care or respect for the elderly, unemployment or the right to organize, or any of the other myriad of issues.  And finally (not really) the cultural diversity challenging us today (not from Europe or Eastern Europe, but from a multitude of other places and cultures) [well over half of the Catholic population in the U.S. is Hispanic] and the immigration questions leave us confused and insecure.

     Check out the goals and objectives listed by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), and periodically check on the issues and positions that they take on important issues to our society and our Faith.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Theology on Tap

     Last evening I had a bite to eat and a drink at Rick's Sports Bar on Route 22 near Export.  I normally don't hang out at sports bars, but I wanted to share an experience called Theology on Tap that, while national in scope, is locally hosted by the Diocese of Greensburg.  It is an effort to engage young adults 21 - 39 years of age in a relaxing evening of food, fellowship and discussion of faith and theology.

     The evenings are hosted by Christina Smith, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry in the Diocese.  Last night the topic was Christian Marriage, and the presenters were Bob Sherwin and his wife.  Bob is the Managing Director of the Office for Evangelization and Faith Formation in Greensburg.

     After introductions and a prayer, Bob and his wife spoke of marriage from the perspective of Faith, and through questions and table discussions, engaged the people present in the topic.  They shared their Faith, their testimony, and their experiences of the best and worst practices in married life with children.  It was great.

     I shared a table and discussion with Christina and her husband, Will Smith, who is the Director of Music at Mother of Sorrows Church in Murrysville.

     The crowd was a little smaller than last month, but we were in competition with the Penguins and a busy time of the year.  Last month there were about 35 people present.
So far, in addition to the Sherwins, Msgr. James Gaston and Father Willie Lechnar
spoke.  Next month, May 3rd (the first Tuesday of the month) the speaker is Jennifer Miele of WTAE.   It was a great experience, and even though I'm a little "old" for the group, I hope to continue sharing with our young adults in the area.  I thank those involved.


     This morning I met with the seventh graders at Queen of Angels again to discuss the Seven Deadly Sins.  I can't remember addressing that topic that early in my life, and never with less enthusiasm and interest than our youngsters.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere ...

     In one of my previous blogs (Thirty Years) I mentioned the passage from Scripture concerning water flowing from the temple.  This morning's first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures has Ezekiel describing the water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the East.  It grew deeper and deeper, and provided growth to the trees on the banks and freshness to the salt sea.  The trees provided fruit and shade, and their leaves were good for medicine.  From the temple of the Lord flows grace and mercy, healing and life.

     Again in the Gospel of John is the man who could not make it into the healing waters of the pool of Bethesda once the angel stirred the waters.  Jesus, as he does for all in need, provides healing through the living waters of Faith.  The waters of baptism open for us the grace of Christ.  As the opening line of the John B. Foley, S.J. hymn Come To The Water  says: "O let all who thirst, let them come to the water ...".

     If you desire to check out the daily Scripture reading for Mass, you can find them at and click Readings and then the date.  It is a great service.   By the way, the United States Bishops' Conference web site has much important information.  Mark it as a favorite.

     Tonight I'm off to an experience called "Theology on Tap" near Export which is a ministry of The Diocese of Greensburg for young adults (don't ask why I'm going!).  I'll fill you in tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Civil War Saint?

     For those that may not know, one of my interests is the American Civil War.  It is the human interest side of things that peaks my interest.  During lunch today I was looking through the most recent issue of Civil War Times and came across an article entitled "From Civil War Soldier to Saint?" regarding Father Nelson H. Baker.  Many of us know of Father William Corby who ministered to the soldiers at Gettysburg, and the Sisters of Charity of Emmittsburg who brought the compassion of Christ to those who fought there.

     During the war, Nelson Baker fought in a unit in New York, helping to end the New York Draft Riots.  After the war he was a grain merchant in Buffalo before entering the seminary.  He was ordained a priest in Lackawanna (outside of Buffalo) and devoted his life "to running soup kitchens for immigrants of all kinds, homes for abandoned children and unwed mothers, and outreach to African Americans".  He died in 1936 at the age of 94.

     Father Baker also built the most beautiful basilica church in Lackawanna, where he is buried.  It is a tribute to his hard work and to the Faith of the Church in the Buffalo area.  Recently the Holy Father recognized his "heroic virtues".  That is one of the steps to sainthood.  If a miracle is attributed to Father Baker, he will be eligible for beatification (like John Paul II on May 1st).  A second miracle will lead to sainthood.

     Last September my sister Janie joined me in a trip to Niagara Falls.  We visited the Basilica in Lackawanna and prayed in that holy spot.  I really was not aware of the place that Father Baker has in the Church until I mentioned our trip to Bishop Brandt and he pointed out that some day Father Baker will undoubtedly be a saint.

     Servant of God, Father Nelson Baker, pray for us.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

John Paul II

     Yesterday (Saturday, the 3rd of April) marked six years since the death of Pope John Paul II.  Last evening I watched a movie on EWTN of his later days that reminded me of the powerful effect that he had on people, and the struggles in more recent years with health issues that were a true cross for him to carry.  They were a cross, not so much because of the pain and struggle, but because they limited his need and desire to continue to bring Christ to others.

     John Paul served a very long time, one of the longest reigns in papal history.  He was a world shaper.  John Paul will be beatified (declared a blessed of the Church) on May 1st of this year.  The next step, should it come, will be sainthood.  While he is kown and remembered for his accomplishments and his papacy, he is being recognized for his piety and holiness.

     I had the honor of being present in Rome a few times and in Washington during Mass or audience.  The last time, a few years ago, I even spoke to him and received his blessing.  These were special times for me.  [ Soon to be ] Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.


     Our Young Voices Choir sang at the 11:00 am Liturgy today.  As a number of people commented upon leaving ... the choir always inspires and lifts the hearts and minds of the People of God.  And the People of God are deeply grateful.

    Speaking of music, I joined with Rob Lynch, our Director of Music and Diana Mikash, Director of the Young Voices, for a workshop this afternoon at Our Lady of Grace in Greensburg on new musical settings for the new translations of the parts of the Mass which will take effect with the First Sunday of Advent.  I have to say, the changes are made a little easier when placed within the framework of music.  Much more on this as the Summer and Fall progresses.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


     Last evening a friend attending our Lenten Fish Dinner here at SEAS remarked that there was a nice article in the Diocesan Newspaper, The Catholic Accent, on my recent lecture at Saint Vincent in Latrobe.  I had glanced at the paper on Thursday, but missed the bottom front page article by Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller entitled "Blessings flow from relationships rooted in love, especially with God."  It was a great article, and especially surprising to me because I rarely find myself mentioned on the front page of anything (except the bulletin).  I thank Maryann Eidemiller for her reporting and kind words.

     If you would like to check out the article, go to the diocesan web site  and click ACCENT and then the article mentioned above.  You might want to favorite the web site of the Diocese of Greensburg.

Also ...

     Let me affirm the good work being done by the school family of Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School.  In this morning Greensburg Tribune Review there was an article regarding the ongoing efforts of the school family to join with Saint Barbara Church in Harrison City (a neighbor) to reach out to a number of families in rural Kentucky.  The kids help to provide food stuffs, etc.  Their efforts were acknowledged and highlighted in the April issue of Disney's Family Fun as first place winners in the magazine's sixth annual national volunteers contest.  Congratulations to the kids and to the school family, and thanks in behalf of the Kentucky families that receive their blessings.

And finally ...

     I received an email this morning from a parishioner, Joan Yuhas, who wrote:
          Father Len,
          I appreciate the daily blog.  Thank you.  I'm using it as another means
          of Lenten meditation.  Maybe that doesn't count because I look forward
          to it and enjoy it.  Nice one on Bishop Bosco.  You DO get inspired.
                                                                      Joan Yuhas

     Thanks, Joan.  With this blogging thing, you never really know whose out there reading.  I know that Joan will be upset at my mentioning her, but I appreciate the "affirmation".

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lenten Friday 4 - Questions

     Did you ever find your mind filled with questions at a meeting or a talk or lecture?  Did you ask those questions of the presenter?   Or were you like I so often find myself, hesitant to ask the question because maybe its not clear to just me or because the question may seem foolish or because I just don't know how to phrase the question properly?  And yet questions are important to ask, for without questions, the clarity of the facts and truth that we seek escapes us.

     In today's Gospel from Matthew (Mt.12:28-34), there is a scribe who asks a good question: "Which is the first of all the commandments?"   In his answer, Jesus combines the first and second (love of God and love of neighbor) into the greatest.  He also acknowledges the quality of the question and praises the insight and wisdom of the questioner.  Then there is a curious line - "And no one dared to ask him any more questions."

     Why do we hesitate or dare to not ask?  Why does it seem better to linger in confusion or fear?  I wish that I had the answer.  Psalm 81 says: "I am the Lord your God: hear my voice".  The psalmist goes on to say: "If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them."  With that reassurance, what have we to fear?

     When we are younger, though, we are a little less hesitant.  Not long ago I visited with the 7th grade at our Catholic school, Queen of Angels.  They had questions.  We spent a session asking and responding to good questions about Faith and life.  They have invited me back soon, and just yesterday I received a list of questions still on their minds.  I can't wait to visit again.  Their teacher, Mrs. Judy Skoretz, does a great job.  Her teaching job, is like so many, a true ministry.  We are fortunate, and grateful.