I find myself called to do some remembering regarding my second assignment as a pastor at All Saints Church in Masontown and the mission of Saint Francis de Sales in McClellandtown. There is a need to do this today because as of tomorrow, All Saints Parish will no longer be in existence (Saint Francis was closed in 2008 and sold to a family that has made it a comfortable home). Fortunately, the beautiful church building and complex will continue to serve as one of two worship sites for the newly created Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Western Fayette County (six parishes formed into one with two worship sites).
I arrived at All Saints in 1986 following the 21 year pastorate of Father Andrew Charnoki. We actually switched places - he went to Connellsville while I came to Masontown. I was the sixth pastor in the history of the parish which celebrated her 100th anniversary in 2008. The parish had been served by eight associate pastors and both Benedictine and Franciscan helped over the years and the parish provided five men ordained as priests (Father Dan Blout for our diocese in 1985 was the last), at least thirteen women entered Religious Life, and countless good, hard working men and women raised their families in the Catholic Faith in this small town and surrounding area.
The founding pastor, who served for forty-two years in that role, began the parish, and in a bold move, on an acre of ground on the outskirts of town, he built a Catholic presence of church and attached rectory in 1909 and a school and convent in 1911, and in 1929 a High School was built. All are still standing (except the high school building which had been closed and suffered great structural deterioration and which I tore down during my time). Father Michael Lambing, who would be my predecessor as pastor in Scottdale, laid the cornerstone for the church building.
My arrival was met with warmth and welcoming. I came into the small town and spoke to everyone, and everyone responded. A very Protestant town with a large Catholic presence now found cooperation and interfaith activities a part of the picture. We opened the traditional Vacation Bible School Week to all faiths and to all ages, and celebrated in the evenings, gathering young and old alike to All Saints (using the church and school for sessions). I took part in the annual Easter Sunrise Service usually held on the grounds of the Jacobs Lutheran Church in the country, and after preaching that first year, they twisted my arm each year afterwards (the others found it difficult to preach that early in the am - but they told me that it was because I did such a fine job). I joined the local clergy association and developed some great relationships with my brothers and sisters of other faith traditions. Our church was located on Church Avenue, and our neighbors across the street were the Presbyterians and just down the street the Church of the Brethren.
We began a process of doing necessary repairs and renovations, a few of which were done under diocesan auspices, but a great many more simply with the hard work and support of the good people of the parish. The school was maintained and supported, many of our high school kids attended Geibel Catholic in Connellsville (quite a hike and sacrifice) which we helped support, and the parish prospered. I have many excellent memories of my five years at the helm in Masontown.
When I left to move on as pastor of the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg, on a very cold winter day, there were many tears in my eyes. There were also the memories, and the fond farewell that the parish and pastoral council threw in my behalf at a local restaurant that drew nearly 700 people on a Sunday afternoon. One precious gift was a quilt presented to me by a group of Mennonite women from the area. The other precious gift was the love of these good people who now must remember the past but begin with their new family to build a new future.