As I mentioned yesterday, I hope to share a few stories of the deceased priests of our diocese who have touched my life in significant ways. Today I would like to focus upon two men who had kind and gentle spirits and an unassuming way about them.
One such person was Father Ernest P. Kish who died in November of 1975. Ernie was the Assistant at the Newman Center at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in Indiana, PA during my assignment there for a five month internship as a deacon in the Spring of 1973. The then Father Ray Spatti was the pastor. Ernie was a tall, quiet, gentle man who brought Christ, through that gentleness, to the students and faculty of the university. He never needed to make himself known in situations, he was just there. His warmth and personality with everyone he met brought acceptance and a trust that served his ministry well.
He went on to become a pastor at the small parish of Saint Ambrose in Avonmore, where on a November evening in 1975 he was killed in a head on accident by a drunk driver. I remember his funeral for the people present, but also for the number of priests, locally and nationally, who were present. Ernie was involved in the National Federation of Priests Councils (NFPC) on a national level, and those attending his funeral spoke highly of his qualities and commitment to ministry and priesthood.
The other priest that I want to speak of was Father Vincent J. Rocco. Vince was in residence at Saint Sebastian Church in Belle Vernon when I was an Assistant there. In fact, we were together there when we heard the news of Ernie's death. I mention Vince not only because he was a great guy and good priest, but because of a program that he developed and oversaw that helped those in prison. This program provided skilled training for the inmates at the State Facility in Greensburg. Vince would find projects for non-profits - building and renovations - and work with the prison officials to provide, under proper supervision and with training, a work force of inmates. They would be paid a nominal amount, learn a skill, be of service to those who needed help, and help the community. Vince would find sponsors and coordinate this program. While I was at Saint Paul in Greensburg they erected a picnic pavillion on the church grounds for the parish. Vince did this work, as well as minister in his priestly roles, with a quiet yet determined enthusiasm that was inspiring. Father Vince Rocco died in July of 1982.
I was truly blessed in knowing these men, working with them, and finding in them a multitude of reasons to be inspired. May they rest in peace.