Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three things

There are three things that I want to comment on or bring to your attention.

First, and most importantly, I want to commend to your prayers a group of pilgrims to Medjugorje that is being led by friends of mine, Mike and Wendy Ripple.  They are there now and are experiencing the prayerful quiet and powerful faith of the place and the experience of pilgrimage.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Secondly, on Monday I went to see a new movie recently released entitled "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel".  It was delightful.  About a group of retired Seniors from England who buy into a Senior Retirement Community in India that is not what it is made out to be, it is charming, funny, poignant and wonderful to watch.  While not a family film, I enjoyed the experience.

Thirdly,  I caught some of the mini series "The Hatfield and the McCoys" on TV last evening ... on one of the history type channels.  Filled with a great cast, it portrayed the feud between those two families in the 1800's on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky.   Not for the faint of heart, I found myself overwhelmed by the stupidity and emptiness that hatred and violence, fear and prejudice, revenge and anger bring about - in that situation and, as I reflect, in so many other situations even to our present time.  It is sad that so many, then and now, miss the message of love and choose to live in hate.  I was not uplifted.

Decoration Day

     Yesterday, May 30th, was the original day to observe "Decoration Day" as Memorial Day was originally called, until it was moved to the last Monday of May in the year 1971.  It began officially with General Order No. 11 by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868 and was set for May 30, 1868 as a day when flowers would be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at the new Arlington National Cemetery.  Decorating the graves of the war dead in both the South and the North was a dignity and an act of love accorded by men and women who had lost loved ones in that terrible war.  By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states, and  after World War I it included all who died in service to the nation and was accepted by almost the entire nation.  It traditionally starts the Summer season.

     Recognized by a day off, by flags and parades, by services honoring our veterans and especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion to God and Country, it has lost its meaning and importance in favor of picnics and parties, with little recognition of the sacrifices that the day represents.  May we never lose sight of those sacrifices.

      This past Monday was Memorial Day.  We began the day with Mass and prayers for those of all conflicts and wars who made this gathering for prayer possible. 

     Memorial Day has always been special to me, since it was on this day in 1947 that Frances Stoviak gave birth to me.  I jokingly say that I thought that they had parades and put out the flags for my birthday, until they moved Memorial Day to a Monday.  Yesterday was a quiet birthday, with our staff at the parish treating me to lunch and balloons, and a good friend, Father Chet Raimer, taking me to dinner.  Along with cards, gifts and face book greetings from friends, and a call from my cousin, Joy Flores from Nicoya, Costa Rica during the day and my sister, Janie, after work, it was a delightful way to celebrate.  God is good!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Rite of Passage

     In continuing with the happenings of this past week / weekend, I want to mention the local graduations from High School that took place, and our recognition of those events for our young graduates. Last Wednesday evening Greensburg Central Catholic held their graduation ceremony, and this past Friday evening the local public High School - Norwin - graduated over 400.  We also have youngsters at Serra Catholic in the Pittsburgh Diocese, as well as at a number of other area public schools.  We are very proud of all of the graduates, and particularly so of the almost forty from our parish family that have graduated.   This is an important time of transition and a proud moment of accomplishment.

     We honored our parish graduates at the 11:00 am Mass this past Sunday, and celebrated with cake in our social hall following Mass.  We recognized those in attendance (they came in caps and gowns), and shared four scholarships with the winning recipients.  Our parish Christian Mothers Confraternity graciously gave out three five hundred dollar scholarships to applicants from the parish based on their involvement in the parish, the life of the Church, the Community as well as school.  Three very deserving graduates received these scholarships - Alexa Kostelnik, Nathan Hursh and Dylan McCurdy.  There were so many actively involved in the parish that the choice was difficult,  There was a fourth scholarship established in the area by the Kinsey Family that awards a twenty-five hundred dollar scholarship to a graduate from each of the three local parishes who is going on to further study.  The recipient from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton this year was Nathan Hursh.  We congratulate them all.  We, and their families, are so proud.

     I remember my graduation from Saint Vincent Prep in 1965.  There were thirty three of us graduating.  We received our diplomas from the late Bishop William G. Connare and from then Archabbot Rembert Weakland (now retired Archbishop of Milwaukee).  We were comprised of all priesthood students from the Diocese of Greensburg and the Benedictine Community of Saint Vincent.  Five were ordained eventually - two left active ministry and the rest of us continue ministering.  We've lost a few of our class to death.  Some of us have reconnected at reunions and such.  Some I've not heard from in years.  But they are often in my thoughts and in my memories.  Those were the days, my friends.

Happy Birthday, Church!

     This was a great weekend!  As we celebrate Pentecost we celebrate what is known as the "Birthday of the Church".  It was that moment when all of the nurturing, all of the development of the followers of Jesus, all of the labor pains of his death and burial, his resurrection and the strengthening of them, his departure and their prayerful anticipation of the promised Paraclete gave way to birth.  The life contained within was now released.  And the baby came forth shouting for joy, proclaiming Jesus Christ, leaving behind fear and timidity and boldly going forth into the world.  The Church was born.

     The Preface for Pentecost says

" ... This same Spirit, as the Church came to birth,
opened to all peoples the knowledge of God
and brought together the many languages of the earth
in profession of the one faith."

     Since it was the "Birthday of the Church", and the pastor's this Wednesday (tomorrow), we had birthday cake and coffee following each of the Masses.  Most went on their way (you can't ask them to stay too long), but those who came to the hall for cake enjoyed themselves.  Our Christian Mothers were our hosts for these three gatherings.

An A+

     With the new 3rd edition of the Roman Missal comes the option and opportunity to celebrate an "extended" Vigil of Pentecost, somewhat like the great Easter Vigil, with additional readings that lead us into the Pentecost celebration.  We chose to celebrate the extended vigil at our parish, and, except for those who never like anything different or who are always in a hurry, it was met with great success.  As the introductory address states " ... Let us meditate on how many great deeds God in times past did for his people and let us pray that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent as the first fruits for those who believe, may bring to perfection his work in the world."

     The extended Liturgy of the Word includes the four readings from the Hebrew Scriptures (rather than simply choosing one of the four), the Gloria, the reading from Romans and the Gospel.
Those additional readings begin with Genesis and the story of a people who spoke one language, who communicated  with each other through their reliance upon the grace of God.  These people, through their arrogance and pride and their desire to be on a par with God (a tower that would reach to the heights of God?), lost their ability to communicate with one voice and accomplish anything for their own glory.  Exodus reminds us of God renewing his Covenant with his people and their YES to that Covenant. Ezekiel tells of his vision of a field of dry bones (the people going through the motions of their YES, but not fleshing it out), and his command given by God to bring then to life.  And finally the inspiring words of Joel the Prophet laying the groundwork for the future.  It is interesting that the confusion of many tongues at Babel may be gathered in the Holy Spirit into one great confession of His Name at Pentecost.

     I am very glad that we chose this alternative.  Seeing how God has worked and seeing how God continues to work is a joy to behold.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A prayer from the heart

     From the Prayer After Communion of the Morning Mass of Saturday before Pentecost:

"Hear in your compassion our prayers, O Lord,
that, as we have been brought
from things of the past to new mysteries,
so, with former ways left behind,
we may be made new in holiness of mind.
Through Christ our Lord."

     A fitting prayer to enter into the experience of Pentecost and to be renewed in the Holy Spirit.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The working of the Holy Spirit

     What follows is a summation of a prayer to the Holy Spirit composed by Pope Benedict XVI as found in a recent post of Rocco Palmo in "Whispers in the Loggia".

     The Spirit of God is one with the Father and the Son.  God's Spirit breathed upon the waters of the abyss, upon the chaos before creation, upon the darkness and emptiness of an existence without God, and brought light and order and life.

     We must seek that same Spirit in our day, in our lives, to help us understand that the exclusion of God leads us to lose ourselves in the empty void that the world offers.  It is only with faith in God that freedom and dignity flourish and society can be built up in justice.  We tend to forget that fact, or we avoid that truth.

     It is the Spirit that makes the Church one, that unites us through our baptism into an experience of family, of communion.  It is that unity that makes us a sign of the living Risen Christ to the world, called to service in love.

     It is that Spirit that enables us to be coworkers in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and being evangelizers in a fragile world.  As we await Pentecost, let us truly pray:


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Using every opportunity

     As I have pointed out before, Paul was a great user of every opportunity to witness to the resurrected Lord, to share the Truth with all who had ears to hear, and to challenge his listeners in the most gracious way possible to broaden their vision and open their hearts.  Today's experience in the Acts has the commander of the garrison freeing Paul and convening a hearing before the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  Paul was a Pharisee.  These groups differed in their belief, with the Pharisees being open to resurrection from the dead and angels and spirits, and the Sadducees rejecting such things.   In the middle of this was Paul, witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus and speaking of the Spirit of God guiding and directing his life.  His life was in jeopardy, until the commander removed him to a safe place.  The Lord had other things in store, for he told him that as he witnessed in Jerusalem, so he would witness in Rome.  It was Paul's claim of Roman citizenship that made that trip to the emperor possible, with its subsequent opportunities for witness.

     Do we use every opportunity to bear witness to the Risen Lord?  Are we ready to be cast into the midst of controversy to proclaim who we are and what we believe?  Jesus' prayer for his followers in the Gospel of John (Jn 17:20-26) has him saying "I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one..."  He prays for us, and for those who will believe in him through our testimony.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Court Lambing Anniversary

     On Sunday, May 20th, I attended the 95th Anniversary Mass and dinner at the Bishop Connare Center in Greensburg for the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, #314, Court Lambing of Scottdale.  Having served as Court Spiritual Director during my time as pastor of Saint John the Baptist parish, I was joined by their present pastor, Father George Saletrik.  Father George was celebrant and I preached, since I have known some of these women for forty years.  It was a fitting celebration, with members and guests from other Diocesan Courts, as well as some State and National officers present.  The Court was established in 1917 as an off shoot of Court Annunciata of Connellsville.  The planning committee for the entire affair did a great job (except for the music selections for Mass which would drive any liturgist over the edge - nostalgic, but not good liturgy ... forgive me, ladies).

     The Catholic Daughter were first established in 1903 as a women's branch of the Knights of Columbus, and were originally called the Daughters of Isabella.  The name change came I believe in 1921, and soon after they became an independent Catholic Women's Organization devoted to service and charity and Church.  95 years is a long time, and represents countless hours of dedicated service to the Gospel message.  One of the members present that afternoon and recognized - Thelma Haas - was born in the same year that Court Lambing was established - 1917.  The Court is named after the second pastor of Saint John the Baptist parish - Father Michael Lambing - who served as pastor there for 52 years.

     I thank the ladies of the Court for the invitation and the opportunity to celebrate with them last Sunday.


     Earlier that morning, following the 8:30 am Mass, the Seton Men's Group of our parish hosted the second annual Women's Breakfast in our social hall.  About a hundred women (and yours truly) attended the affair which the men planned, set up for, cooked and served.  They served a wonderful breakfast, provided entertainment, and recognized the youngest lady there (five or six, I think) and the oldest who spryly came forward at the age of ninety.  These two were presented with roses, and a candle was lit and a place setting reserved for those who could not be there through death or whatever reason.  My thanks goes out to the guys for their hard work and love shown to the women of the parish.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Milestone Graduation

     One of the blessing of sharing in the ministry of Catholic School education is the joy of watching our young people grow and mature in a setting that allows for the expression of Faith and the developing of Gospel values.  I wish I could say that we are always successful, but I can say that we do our best and continue to provide a golden opportunity rooted in a long and venerable tradition.    Last evening we gathered in our church to celebrate the 20th Graduation Liturgy of Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School.  On a lovely evening family and friends as well as members of the staff, administration and school family gather for Mass, an awards ceremony and a great party in our social hall.

     This year we recognized fifteen 8th Grade Graduates.  They are: Rowan Noelle Alexander, Briana Boyle, Zoe L. Burns, Brendan Carmody, Claire Linda Fonzo, Claire Rebekah Jones, Aaron Knoch, Kaitlynn Alexandra McGowan, Sonnet Rose Myers, Samantha Marie Neal, Makenzie Oates, Sarah June Ryan, Gwendolyn Rygg, Jamie Rebecca Wilson, and Andrew David Yant.  Congratulations to these graduates!

     Their class motto is: "We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided." (by J.K. Rowling)

     The Presider and Homilist for the Mass was Father John Moineau, the President of the Board of Trust Administrators, and he was joined by Fathers Joseph Armamento, Kenneth Zaccagnini, John Harrold and myself, with Msgr Paul Fitzmaurice not able to be in attendance (it was also his birthday!). 

     Twenty years for Queen of Angels is a significant anniversary, but it pales in comparison to the multitude of years represented by the initial schools of Immaculate Conception, Saint Agnes and Saint Edward.  A wonderful legacy of Catholic School Education exists in this area.

     Our thanks to the administration, faculty & staff, parents and supporters of the school, and the parishes involved who make this possible through their support.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An Apps for everything

     For whatever reason we had a good crowd for the Sacrament of Reconciliation this morning.  This is not always the case.  Sometimes I wonder if we should post a sign "Sinners Welcome!  And Saints as well!"  This wonderful sacrament of healing and reconciliation is too often ignored, as I lament about often.  But when saints who experience sin and sinners who desire holiness open themselves to the grace of the sacrament and the love and mercy of God, great things happen.

     This morning I had two individuals (actually a couple) who each brought their cell phones with them.  They were using their phones to bring up the apps for Confession, and were using that specifically to reflect and make a good examination of conscience.  Even though they made their own act of contrition, these are also found on that apps.  It is a great modern tool.

     Some might want to use this technology to "text" or "phone in their confession" ... a definite no - no.  It must be in person and face to face.  The danger with these devices is that they can be used to record or transmit, which of course goes contrary to the privacy of the sacrament and the seal of confession.  Thus they should not find their way into the actual reconciliation experience.  But their use beforehand, to pause and reflect, can be useful and a great way to examine your heart.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Honoring Mary

      This afternoon I celebrated the Ascension Thursday Mass for our Queen of Angels School Community at the school.  Prior to Mass, the school, whose title is "Queen of Angels", honored Mary in this month of May with a traditional May Crowning.  With all the youngsters present, plus faculty and staff, and with many family attending, a crown of flowers was placed upon the image of Mary by the one chosen for the task, escorted by the crown bearer, and accompanied by the youngsters who had or will still this weekend receive their First Holy Communion.  These youngsters, dressed in their First Communion finery, placed flowers before Mary's statue and shared a scripture, a poem, and prayers and songs in her honor.  It was beautiful.  A tribute to one, who with the others, saw her Son ascend into heaven and then spent her time in prayer awaiting of the Paraclete.

     I told the kids that the day on that mountaintop was somewhat like moving on, like graduation.  We know that things will never be the same, that we will miss that which we have known and loved, but that the future - uncertain though it is - awaits us.  Things will be different.  But we have been prepared for the future and empowered to make the best of it.  As I said this morning, it is a time of sorrowful remembrance and of joyful anticipation.


     I received my official registration confirmation for the 2012 National Pastoral Musicians National Convention in July ... this year in Pittsburgh.  I had such a great time in Louisville last year that I wanted to make sure and get to this year's Convention.  The added blessing is the location in Pittsburgh.  If you involved in liturgy as musician, presider or in planning, you might want to consider attending.  The speakers are top notch, the music outstanding, the exhibits great, and the experience of thousands enthusiastically praying together unforgettable.

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

     "Parting is such sweet sorrow" Shakespeare has Juliet say to Romeo in a completely different context.  Yet that could be the sentiment of Jesus toward his friends as he ascended to the Father, and their attitude as they began to understand what had happened.  There was sorrow and pain in that parting and change, in the loss of their friend, of the comfortable and the awesome peace that filled their lives, but there was also a sweet joy.  He had told them that he must return to the Father in order to prepare a place for them.  But they had trouble understanding why and accepting the reality of "losing him again".  They wanted that security and peace that he brought them by being in their midst.  They did not want a promise.  They did not want an understanding of theology, of God's plan for the future.  They wanted the here and now reality of his touch, his healing power, his teaching, his gentle care and his concern for their frail lives.

     Preface I of the Ascension of the Lord says it wonderfully:

"Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before."

     Remember that he said to them that he was going to the Father, his Father and our Father; that he was going to prepare a place for us; that where he was we may follow; and that he would show us the way.  He promised the Holy Spirit to accomplish this reality.  He told them to pray, to wait, to be expectant.  There may be separation anxiety now but there will be sweet joy in the time of fulfillment.

     Many of us came from immigrant families looking for a better life, for a future touched by hope.  Often a brave one came to the new world ahead of the family to earn money in order to bring the others over, to establish a home for their loved ones to settle in.   Their departure was filled with sorrow, but also filled with hope.  On this Feast of the Ascension let us remember the Collect that says "where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another day to cherish

Having just returned from the Blessing Service for the brother of a parishioner, Robert John Mrvos, who had served in the Marines, I was reminded of another funeral of a veteran of World War II, my dad. It was ten years ago today that we buried my dad. It was a grand funeral for a man whose life was dedicated to family and the service of others - first in the army on D Day and then as a patrolman on the Uniontown police department until his retirement. In addition,he was a great guy who was well liked by most, and was remembered by an entire generation of kids that knew him as the liaison to the school safety program (the patrol boys). What I remember most about that day is the awesome honor of presiding over and preaching a parents funeral. So many said that they did not know how I did it, but in reality I would not have wanted anyone else to do so. Ten years seems like a lifetime, and yet like yesterday. Janie and I remembered him in prayer at Mass this morning. May he rest in peace. He always has our love.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An inspiring message

     I must confess that more often than not I find a formal address, including Commencement Addresses, too formal and very boring.  That was not the case with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast's remarks at the Saint Vincent Seminary Commencement last Friday.  They introduced him as a great communicator, and while his manner of presentation did not stir us to a hand clapping, foot stomping YES to what he said, there was much depth and clarity of thought, evoking in me an "inner" YES to the message.

     In addressing Church leaders in the very near future, the Archbishop reminded us that the work at hand is nothing less than saving civilization (once again) from itself and from destruction.  Among other things he said that there are three things that we need to possess to be such leaders:

1) We need to have a "contempt for the world" ... not to despise the world but to hold it in contempt for lying to us, telling us that it has all the answers, that it is the holder of the truth.  Truth is important and the source of that truth is vital if we hold that "the truth will set us free".  Jesus tells us clearly ... "I am the way, the truth and the life."

2) We need to identify the disease - the great list of pitfalls found in society, especially selfishness and the desire to discard God from our lives ... and the answer - which is Jesus Christ!  The sacred page (scripture) is the soul of this knowledge and we need to tell the story simply and clearly.

3) We need to remember history and have confidence in the 1500 + years of the life giving effects of the gospel message to the world's civilizations.  Our tradition, while not always perfect, has been vitally important to the survival of civilization, culture, learning and life itself.  We need to regain a confidence in who we are and what we possess.  And the Archbishop pointed out the deposit of Faith, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a source of our strength and foundation.

     I was moved by the message and the simplicity of the Archbishop's presentation.  God has chosen us to bring the Good News to all of the Earth, and to do so that ALL may have life.

Archbishop Prendergast is a blogger since 2009.  In his curriculum vitae it lists his blog as being
The Journey of a Bishop

A great evening

     Friday evening, May 11th, I was honored to be invited to attend the Commencement Ceremonies for Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  The evening consisted of Solemn Vespers and the Conferral of Degrees in the beautiful Archabbey Basilica Church, followed by a reception and delicious dinner at the Fred Rodgers Center on campus.  Saint Vincent Seminary, founded in 1846, is the fourth oldest Roman Catholic Seminary in the U.S. and is run by the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey.  Nearly 3,000 diocesan and religious priests have been ordained from Saint Vincent in those years, and the seminary currently serves thirteen dioceses, twelve Benedictine monasteries and a number of other religious congregations.

     Vespers was presided over by the Archbishop of Ottawa, the Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, S.J., who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree and who gave an awesome commencement address (I even took notes).  We were welcomed by Archabbot and Chancellor Douglas Nowicki, O,S.B., and the new rector of the Seminary, Father Tim Whalen, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  Awards were presented and Degrees conferred in the following areas: seven received Master of Divinity, two received Master of Arts, three received Master of Arts in Ecclesial Ministry and two received Bachelor of Sacred Theology.  The three receiving the Ecclesial Ministry degree are in our Diaconate Program in the Diocese (I have included their picture).  They are Bill Newhouse (whom I have known for years)[center], Michael Orange [on the left] and Ray Takacs [on the right] (who is a member of our neighboring parish of Saint Agnes).

     It was a great celebration of Church in a beautiful setting, with uplifting music by the Archabbey Schola, with an inspiring address by the Archbishop (more on that in the next post), and with a hope given for the future of the Church.

     Let me also add that the reception and dinner was another expression of Benedictine hospitality on the highest level.  I was honored to be invited and to be the guest of Bill Newhouse and his family.  The picture below is of Bill, his wife, Mary Ann, and their youngest son, Sean.  They have two grown children out of state - Patrick and Lauren.  It is hard to believe that I baptized Sean.  They are very proud of dad.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Being late

     Ten years ago this morning I arrived late at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh.  My Dad had spent the last month or so in the intensive care unit with an extremely intense case of pneumonia, and my sister Janie and I were there for part of just about every day.  A few days before this date, the doctors had told us that it was a matter of time.  Janie stayed with Dad constantly, while I went back and forth at that time to Scottdale for Mass and the necessities of parish life.

     That morning we had a school Mass probably at 9:30, and we had a special guest.  There is a unique individual originally from the Pittsburgh area that was a friend of Bishop Bosco by the name of "Pilgrim George".  He travelled the world as a humble pilgrim, and in his travels had stopped in Scottdale.  He spoke briefly to the kids that morning before continuing his journey.  Thus, my late departure and arrival at Montefiore.

     On entering the ICU, I knew something had happened.  You could tell by the expression of the staff, who had come to know us well.  Dad's room was at the end of the hall, and by the time I got there I knew that he had passed.  Dad had died, with Janie there, a very short time before, going very peacefully.  We cried, we prayed, we supported each other in the midst of expressions of sympathy.  Two cousins visited by chance - one visiting someone else and the other on the staff of Presby.  After making arrangements we left for home to tell Mom in person.  As all of you who have experienced a death know, it was quite a morning.  My only regret was being late that day, but I know that Dad knew that Janie and I loved him.

     I thanked them then, but I echo it now ... Dad received great care at Montefiore, and the doctors, nurses and staff were wonderful with him and gracious to us.  They are often in my thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A most important birthday greeting

      Last evening I slipped in a birthday greeting for a friend of mine before his day ended.  Which reminded me that there was another important birthday in my life recently that I did not comment on - that of my sister, Janie.

     I am blessed with a wonderful sister who is also a good friend.  Three years my junior, she and I always got along as siblings, and since my ordination thirty-nine years ago (on her birthday -  May 5th) we have become very close friends as well.  She is a great girl (?) woman: dedicated to our folks throughout their lives and especially in their last days; committed to me and the people I served throughout the years; loyal to her friends and co-workers; a hard worker who takes pride in her work - and she is good at it (working in retail is not easy); personable; faith filled; tireless; and a great mommy to Sammy (the puppy).  The description of who she is and what she does could go on and on ... but from me it might be a bit biased.

     We celebrated her birthday here in North Huntingdon.  I took her to dinner at Rizzo's in Crabtree, she joined us at Mass on Sunday at the 11 am, she took pictures of the Bike Blessing and we went to eat at her favorite Italian place locally.  She is a true blessing for me.  I told the parishioners here that when they got me they got a package deal - their pastor, Janie and Sammy.  They have made us all feel welcome, and I am grateful.

     A belated Happy Birthday, Janie!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Birthday Greeting

I almost missed getting this greeting in today, Tuesday, May 8th.  But before the magic hour of Midnight, I want to extend birthday wishes to a fine young man who turned fourteen today, Isaac Ripple, son of good friends Michael and Wendy Ripple.  Isaac, too, is a good friend and a great guy.  Happy Birthday!

A new experience of priesthood

     This past Sunday, almost thirty-nine years to the hour since beginning my Mass of Thanksgiving (First Mass) at the old Saint Joseph in Uniontown (where now a drugstore and parking lot are located), I experienced a "first".  I was blessing about 125 motorcycles in the first annual "Blessing of Bikes" held at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.  Thirty nine years ago I would never have imagined ...
     I have included a few pictures of the event.  Suffice it to say that the Lord gave us a gorgeous day to gather for this blessing.  I always speak of "journey", and these individuals - young and old and in between - are sojourners and adventurers, travellers and lovers of the open road.  They came on all manner of vehicles and they take great pride in their ride.  Those who attend these things said that our turnout was great for the first effort, and encouraged us to continue the tradition.

     They gathered from 1:30 on and we blessed the riders and their bikes around 2:45.  We had live entertainment with a group playing gospel music, food provided by our Men's Group, a door prize drawing of a gift from a local bike shop, a small souvenir card and Saint Christopher medal for those attending, and great fellowship.

    It was my "first", and I'm glad we moved in this direction.  As the one who shares God's blessing through my ministry, I again found myself truly blessed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

39 years ago

     It was a cool but sunny day.  May 5, 1973, saw four men come before their bishop at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, Pennsylvania for the Sacrament of Holy Orders as they were ordained to the priesthood.  The Bishop was William G. Connare, the second bishop of the diocese, and the new priests were V. Paul Fitzmaurice, Peter L. Peretti, Roger A. Statnick and yours truly, Leonard W. Stoviak.  The ceremony began at 10:00 am, and it was beautiful.  My Dad did one of the readings [see picture below] (when the planners called to see if Mom and Dad or Mom or Dad would take a role in the ceremony, Mom volunteered Dad - who did fine.)  I remember little of the ceremony except for the presence of God in that place and among God's People.  I do remember the humbling and yet uplifting experience of lying prostrate on the floor while the entire congregation prays the Litany of the Saints over you (I included a picture of us before the Altar).  I also remember the quiet "laying on of hands" when the bishop placed his hands on our heads as an act of setting aside, of consecration.  That is followed by each priest present sharing with the bishop their priesthood by "laying on of hands". (I could not find a picture of Bishop Connare, but I did find one of then Monsignor Norbert Gaughan, who later became our Auxiliary Bishop and then Diocesan Bishop of Gary, Indiana). 

     The ordination day focuses a great deal upon you.  The priesthood that ordination confers is focused upon others - love and service given freely in a life that was set aside for others.  I have only been able to do that for these thirty-nine years because of the love and call of God, and with the love and support of the Church ... family and friends and most especially those whom I have been honored to serve.  I have truly been blessed.

Happy Anniversary to Paul, Pete and Roger
who I shared this ordination moment with
and priesthood in the
Diocese of Greensburg
and to all of my other classmates
of other dioceses who share this anniversary.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Philip and James

     Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  In the first letter to the people of Corinth, Paul says "I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.  Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you ...".  Today the Church honors two great leaders of the Church and preachers of the gospel message of truth - Philip and James.  We are reminded of the truths spoken by Paul and by Jesus in the readings of the day.

     I hinted at an earlier post that I find the message of the gospel pretty much ignored by the world in which we live, trivialized by our lack of understanding and commitment to it, and relegated to the periphery of our lives.  How the world reacts to the message of the gospel is not within our control.  However, our proclamation of the gospel is, and must come from our passionate belief that these truths are the key to happiness, salvation and every other good.  And not only for ourselves, but for the entire world that God created.  We are entrusted with those truths not as a private, personal treasure to possess, but as a vital gift from God to share with everyone who desires life and happiness.  It is a remedy for all time, for our time.

     Like James with the Church in Jerusalem and Philip in his travels, and Paul to Corinth and Jesus to the Twelve, if we truly understand the gospel as having the answers for our time, we cannot keep it to ourselves.  To remain silent or allow ourselves to be marginalized would be sinful and selfish.  It takes great courage, great guts, to bring that truth to life through word and action in our lives.  May God strength our courage and resolve.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Saint Joseph, the Worker

     May 1st has for many years and in many nations been a day set aside to honor laborers and the ethic of hard work.  In 1955 Pope Pius XII set that day aside to honor on a second day each year Saint Joseph, not on that day as the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, but in his role as a model and example of a worker, a craftsman, a home builder.  He is one of only a few who have two days set aside for honoring.

     We know very little of Saint Joseph, other than the fact that he was a good and loving husband and father, a hard worker who applied his craft and used his abilities to provide for his family, and that he is the patron of a happy death, since he was surrounded by those whom he loved when he died.  His craft was that of carpenter.  He was a builder.  He used his strength and creativity to help others.  It is no stretch to have him as a model for workers.

     I mentioned at Mass this morning that Saint Joseph also reminds us of the spirit and kind of person who takes justifiable pride in his work and his accomplishment.  He is a true craftsman.  We used to find those people more often.  Today, though, we get things done, we accomplish our task, we get through it and get by.  There was a time when we took our time to create, when our craft became the hallmark of our talent, when we took pride in things.  You do not find that very often these days.  I mentioned my daily Mass server who is a wood carver.  You can see the pride he takes in his work.  It is not mass produced, a commodity, but rather a unique work of art that reflects his passion and talent.  How better the world would be if we were to reconnect with that dynamic.

     For all of those who work, do so with dignity and pride.  To those who desire to work but are denied the ability, we pray for a better world.  And to all who share yourselves in your work, thank you.


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The trip - part 2

     Our trip to Loretto, Pennsylvania, last Saturday saw us not only visiting the tomb of Father Demetrius Gallitzin (yesterday's post) outside of the Basilica of Saint Michael (I've included an interior view of the church), but also visiting the hallowed grounds of two other Religious Congregations.

     We visited the Monastery of St. Therese of Liseiux in Loretto, which since 1927 has been the home of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns.  A beautiful brick monastery (built, I believe, by Charles Schwab, whose summer home was in Loretto) that houses ten Women Religious who have dedicated themselves to "silence, solitude, community life, fidelity to cloister and the magisterium", this Carmel is set aside for contemplation and prayer.
The Sister extern explained what they were about and gave the group a glimpse into the life.  All were impressed and inspired by these women, but I did not hear many of our young girls express an interest in the lifestyle, as they went to their cell phones and electronics upon re-entering the bus.  Maybe the seed was planted.

      We also visited the campus of Saint Francis University of Pennsylvania, established in 1847 by the Third Order Regular Franciscans.  Not only is the campus of the University located in Loretto, but also their provincial headquarters and their local monastery of Friars.  I mentioned Charles Schwab earlier (he was one of the founders of Bethlehem Steel).  The TOR's purchased his property and mansion which is now part of their monastery, and established a beautiful campus and an excellent institution of higher learning.  Before university status, Saint Francis was known as the "College among the pines" because of its setting.  The TOR's of this Province serve in parishes, and lead two major schools of higher learning - Saint Francis and the University of Steubenville in Ohio.  While on campus, we visited the gardens of the mansion, celebrated Mass at the student chapel and had lunch at Torvian Dining Hall.