In my ongoing reflection on these past forty years, I would like to jump ahead nine years, out of sequence, and tell you what happened in my life twenty - eight years ago May 11th.
At that time I was a new pastor at Saint John the Evangelist in Connellsville. That night I received a call from Bishop William Connare with some sad news and a request. He had just heard that Father Bill Gavron with whom I had served for six years as an Associate at Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale (a few miles up the road) had died at the airport on his return from a family funeral. The bishop was concerned for the parish family in Scottdale and the schedule of Masses for that Saturday. The Associate, Father Jim Vasil, had left that morning for vacation in Myrtle Beach, I believe, and could not get back immediately. Would I cover and be there for the parish family? Of course I said yes. Thus began my Saturday marathon.
First let me say that every priest usually says one Mass each day. He can celebrate a second Mass and if necessary, a third.
After phone calls to the staff in Scottdale and a little more sleep, my day began will a scheduled Saturday morning Mass in Connellsville at 8:00 am. I then headed for Scottdale, where the word was out and people were beginning their grieving process. They had a final CCD Mass scheduled that morning somewhere around 10:30 am and asked if I could take it, which I did. They also had a funeral Mass scheduled for Noon for a young lady from just up the street which I was going to concelebrate with Father Gavron anyway. Along with Father Bill Donahue, another former Associate, we concelebrated the funeral. Then I needed to get back to Connellsville for a wedding that I had scheduled in the parish. This completed, I returned to Scottdale to celebrate the Saturday evening Mass with the people, the first gathering of the parish since the sad news. Father Vince Gigliotti who was at Saint Rita in Connellsville took my evening Mass there, for which I was very grateful. Meanwhile, Father Vasil was on his way home for the Sunday Masses and arrived a short while later.
It was an interesting and an exhausting day - five Masses (don't report me to anyone!) - ordinary mixed with sadness mixed with wedding joy ... all aspects of the emotional spectrum. It is a day I will remember well.
Pray for Father Bill Gavron on this anniversary of his death.