Yesterday I spoke of the Priests' Convocation that I took part in earlier this week, and the Mass that we celebrated as a Presbyterate on Tuesday at Saints Simon and Jude Parish in the afternoon. We take the opportunity during that Mass of remembering the deceased priests who have served us and who died since the diocese was formed in March of 1951. In particular we honored the two who died since the last Convocation: Father John Wilt and Benedictine Father Gilbert Burke. A list of these men, totaling 190 diocesan priests, was placed in our program booklet with their dates of death. They form an important part of the foundation of this small but wonderful diocese.
Included in the list are our first bishop, Hugh L. Lamb who died on December 8th of 1959 and our second bishop, William G. Connare, who died on June 12th of 1995. Not listed but remembered at the Mass were two of our deceased priests who were ordained and served as bishops elsewhere: Cyril J. Vogel of Salinas, Kansas and Norbert F. Gaughan of Gary, Indiana. Our first priest death as a diocese was Father Ettore O. Moscoloni in December of 1951. Since I was ordained on May 5th of 1973 we have lost 127 priests to death but gained their intercession in heaven. Each of these priests served the people of this diocese with dedication, most for many years. Each has a story of ministry to tell, and many have stories that remind us of who they are or what they did. As with all of us, a few stories are not to be remembered, but some are. I hope to share a few of their stories that have impacted my priesthood in the next couple of days.
My first encounter with priests centered upon Father Charles Kobylarz who died in 1981. Father Charles was our pastor for many years at my home parish of Saint Joseph in Uniontown. He was a good priest, interested and involved in the parish and parish school, and as I mentioned at my first Mass celebration, the reason that I am a priest. We (I) was not very high tech in 1973. To record the First Mass I set up a small portable tape recorder in the doorway to the sacristy. My pastors sat in the sanctuary. Father Charles sat very near to the sacristy doorway. Whether he was nervous or impatient, he kept kicking the side of the chair, the sound of which was picked up throughout the recording. So much for the keepsake.
We had many Assistants during my formative years, but one who has died that was very influential was Father Norbert F. Gaughan (later to become Bishop Gaughan). He was our Assistant for about eight years, got along great with Father Charles, and was a gifted and renowned preacher. He watched over my formation years - got me into Saint Vincent, checked on me often throughout the years ... an amatuer photographer, he took a number of personal pictures of my ordination, and got me started in priesthood. I am grateful for his interest and guidance. More later.