Saturday, June 8, 2013

First pastorate

     My remembering continue.  In August of 1984 I moved a few miles down the road to Saint John the Evangelist Church in the City of Connellsville.  This Saint Johns was a small ethnic (Slovak) parish in a town with three other Catholic parishes.  It was a gem.  Good, hard working people, a long tradition of Faith, a rejuvenated spirit initiated by the previous pastor served these people well.  My stay with them only lasted two and a half years (for reasons that I'll explain at another time), but they were good years.  Your first pastorate always has a special place in your heart.

     I remember four things.  At Christmas they had the tradition while blessing the manger scene of bringing in a live newborn baby and placing it in the manger for the blessing before returning him or her to the mom.  It always worked beautifully. My first Christmas, as I was waiting to begin the procession to the crib, someone reminded me to "pinch" the baby when I got to the manger so that he or she would cry a little.  It was customary ... I was taken back. No way was I going to continue THAT tradition, and things worked out well.  Who says the baby needed to cry.

The Manger Scene at Saint John the Evangelist - excuse the quality of the picture

     Our altar was a make-piece wooden construction painted white that was "ugly".  It had four round columns supporting a rectangular top.  One of the things we did was to borrow an idea from Seton Hill University Chapel and create a beautiful altar of noble oak.  We had old pew ends that we restored and put together in a cruciform way with the backs facing outward and the arm pieces brought together in the center.  Then we created a noble square oak top for the table.  We used the old and brought a new dimension to the sacred altar.  I was very proud of our accomplishment, which Ted Martin of the parish created in his workshop.  Ted did much work for me over the years.

     We were located at a busy intersection, and I remember the evening of a Forty Hours Devotion when we decided to take our Eucharistic Adoration public.  We invited all in attendance to join the priests present in a Eucharistic Procession around the block on which the Church was located.  With the beautiful bells ringing, our procession proceeded around the block, with three priests attending the Eucharist and a canopy covering the Lord, we had the attention of the neighbors and beyond, and gladly professed our Faith on that glorious evening.

     Saint John's had awesome stained glass windows which were in deplorable shape.  Because of a highway on one side and train tracks for years on the other, the windows were sagging and severely damaged.  Experts were called in, and a major restoration project was begun - bringing in new metal frames, repairs to the glass and good storm windows.  The first two windows done (during my tenure) were very large side windows representing the Holy Family with the young child Jesus and a terrific Death of Saint Joseph window.

     One night while the stained glass was out and the new frames with plate glass storm windows were in place, we had a severe wind storm.  There was secured scaffolding on both the inside and outside of the window near the house.  All windows were in except the small round window near the top, but everything was wrapped in plastic.  All night the winds blew and I feared the worst.  That did not happen until about seven in the morning, when the scaffolding fell in both directions - into the yard, damaging the fence and cutting off the power and into the church where it fell across the front pews.  An hour later and there would have been people there for Mass.  What a day!  The workmen arrived about 8:30 and were astonished at the damage.  But, not one window was broken, and no one was hurt.  Thank God for small miracles.

     These reflections are but a few that are from my time in Connellsville.  Saint John's is now partnered with IC and Saint Rita and is served by one priest.  How times do change.

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