Not remembering the exact moment, I paused to reflect that it was sometime near the start of my 11:00 am Mass yesterday that, forty years earlier to the moment, I knelt before the late Bishop William G. Connare as he placed his hands on my head and shared the gift of ministerial priesthood. That clear, brisk, sunny and windy day in 1973 was a great moment for my ordination mates and myself - Msgr. V. Paul Fitzmaurice, Father Peter Peretti, Msgr. Roger A. Statnick and yours truly. Ordained for the Church of Greensburg at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, we continue to serve this local Church in pastoral assignments even today. For some observers, the fact that all four of us are "still in" is at least a minor miracle, given the turmoil and exodus of so many good men over the years.
I don't remember many details of that day, probably due to nervousness, but I do remember the humbling experience of lying prostrate as the entire community called upon the saints of God to intercede on our behalf. I remember the quiet of the moment of the "laying on of hands". I remember placing my hands in those of the bishop as I promised him and his successors obedience and respect. I remember standing at the altar and for the first time praying the words of consecration. I remember sharing my first priestly blessing with Bishop Connare (who then kissed my hands) and then with those gathered there that day.
Later that day my extended family and close friends gathered in the gymnasium of Saint Mary of the Nativity Church in Uniontown for a dinner. Then I tried to unwind before the Mass of Thanksgiving (First Mass) of the next day.
On that May 5th in 1973, I stole the thunder from my sister, Janie, as I began to share my ordination day with her birthday. She has always been gracious. On that note, I wish her a belated Happy Birthday - I won't tell you how old she is, just that she was twenty-three on that special day. She doesn't look or act her age!
I plan on celebrating this milestone with a Mass on Pentecost afternoon with the people of God and share a meal with many friends. In the next few weeks I am going to ask you to bear with me as I do some musings on the journey of these last forty years. And be assured of my gratitude for every experience that the Lord has placed before me and the people that have been a part of those experiences. I have been blessed.