Monday, June 4, 2012

150 years

     Yesterday, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, saw a very special celebration in our local community of Irwin, Pennsylvania.  Immaculate Conception parish formally celebrated the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the first Mass said for the small Catholic community of immigrants back in 1862.  Mass was said from a boxcar at a siding of the railroad tracks, just on the other side of the tracks from the town of Irwin.  This was the common gathering place for a time until a small church could be built on the lower end of town.  The priest would come by train from Greensburg or the Archabbey at Saint Vincent in Latrobe.  The Irish and German Catholic laborers were often considered outsiders and suspect by the largely Protestant community (and thus they built in the lower section of town, near the creek and the railroad tracks, in the section of town that had most of the hotels and bars and entertainment).

     That small original group was established as a parish in its own right a few years later, and went on, through the spiritual leadership of many pastors and countless priests, to being at one time the largest parish in the Diocese of Greensburg.  It still ranks in the top five.  Not only the priests, but the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who established a school, and most importantly good, hardworking, committed Catholic people built a vibrant parish community that today is a vital force in the Irwin community.   Father John Moineau serves as pastor, and is deeply loved.  He celebrates his twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination this year.

     Yesterday's celebration was grand.  A Mass was held at 2:00 pm in the Church with Father John as celebrant (the bishop was scheduled, but has had a surgery that prevented him from attending.)  The music was awesome, the priests and Sisters who joined in the celebration, most of whom had served at IC, were made very welcomed, and the reception at a local establishment was well organized, delicious, and a truly family affair.  Over 700 attended the dinner.

     I began my priesthood at Immaculate Conception in June of 1973.  I served there for only two years, but they were very formative and a true blessing.  I have many good memories, as well as a few others, and many good friends that are still around.  In fact, it continues to amaze me that people were so touched by my ministry.  I even received credit from the MC at the dinner, Pat LaValle, for encouraging him to become a lector some 38 or so years ago, which led him to the choir, to cantoring and to a host of other involvements.  I was thinking of all the things that even over these years I fondly remember.  I'll spare you the walk down memory lane, but be assured that my priesthood was built upon a wonderful foundation. 

May the parish community
of Immaculate Conception Parish
continue to be blessed by the Lord
and protected by Mary, our Mother.


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