After two short years in Irwin, I was assigned to Saint Sebastian Parish in Belle Vernon with Father Ed Gearing as my pastor. Father Ed was another quiet guy who rarely bothered you. Life with him was good and uneventful. The parish at the time was a little over 1,200 families on the books, with a parish grade school.
Belle Vernon (meaning beautiful green) sits along the Mon River and is one of the Mon Valley Communities. Because of the lack of mills and heavy industry, it is a lovely little community that borders Westmoreland and Fayette Counties on one side of the river and on the other side Washington County and the Pittsburgh Diocese. The people were/are lovely, friendly and kind, and the community of North Belle Vernon, where the Church is located, is a great place to walk and talk with people who sit on their porches in their quiet neighborhoods.
During my time there the parish celebrated its 50th Anniversary which I helped prepare the Church for by way of banners (those were the days) and the liturgy planning. Bishop Connare joined us, along with priests who served at the parish in the past. It was great.
Soon after arriving I was approached by some folks who were interested in starting a Catholic Charismatic Prayer Group in Belle Vernon. They had worked with a few Sisters in Charleroi (a neighboring community) for a short time, and wanted to establish a prayer group here. I had been involved in the Renewal, so I worked with them to establish the Valley of Hope Prayer Community. We met weekly at the old Saint Sebastian Church which was the K of C Hall. A leadership group also met weekly to pray and plan for the prayer meetings. This group now meets at the church hall and celebrates a Charismatic Mass monthly. I usually join them on the anniversary Mass in June. They are a small and dedicated group of faithful people from a number of parishes who love the Lord deeply.
Father Ron Simboli of our diocese, presently the pastor in my home parish, was from town, and his mom and dad, Irene and Guido, were good parishioners.
I have many fond memories of these great people who were instrumental in the formation of my priesthood, and I am grateful.