Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Missing an opportunity

     Last Monday evening I attended the Installation Mass of Father Andrew Kawecki as the 11th pastor of the 135 year old Saint John the Baptist Parish in Scottdale and the Administrator of the Partner Parish of Saint Joseph in Everson, following in the footsteps of 16 previous pastors over the past 126 years.  Bishop Brandt celebrated the Mass, Father Andrew preached, and Bishop Brandt gives a talk at the end regarding the relationship of parish to diocese and priest to bishop.  It is his practice in encouraging prayer for vocations to tell the parish that they are blessed to have him and the diocese assign a priest to them ... and that they owe the diocese a priest in return.  It is a cute exchange that usually gets a positive reaction.  Monday the bishop added a note that these two parishes gave some priests (I think he said four) and some Religious (he mentioned a small number). 

      From these two parishes on the Westmoreland/Fayette County boarder, have come a long line of vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life.  From Saint Joseph in Everson have come eleven priests, two of whom are still active and functioning.  In addition there were at least eighteen women Religious.  From Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale there have been twenty-two ordained priests with three Religious Brothers and forty-two women Religious, at least thirty of them members of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, including two major superiors.  The priests from Saint Joseph are Fathers Michael Szczygiel, Justin Figas, O.F.M. Conv., John Szwed, Msgr. M. J. Orzechowski, Msgr. Aloysius Zwolinski, Aloysius Jezewski, Daniel Szczygiel, Frank Lesniowski, Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of Saint Vincent and Michael Sikon.

     The priests from Saint John the Baptist are Fathers Michael Boyle, Patrick Diskin, Vincent Mooney, C.S.C., Msgr Paul Glenn, George Amend, James Alex Byrne, Msgr. Anthony DeSantis, Edward Quinn, Michael O'Shea, Regis Hickey, Francis Hickey, Arthur O'Shea, Francis P. King, Msgr Robert Hanicak, William Dannecker, Armand Baldwin, O.S.B., John Blasick, C.P.P.S., Bryce Joyce, O.S.B., Joseph Minsterman, James Popochock, Donald Hall and Joseph Maddalena.  Most are now deceased, Father Popochock is still active, a few have left active ministry and Father Ministerman is retired now in Scottdale.  What a legacy.  What years of service to the Church given by these men and women and their families who supported their vocations.  I think that the Church owes these parishes a good pastor as is found in Father Andrew. I think that they have paid their debt many times over. The ninth pastor of Saint John the Baptist wishes him well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Persistence and Mercy

     This past weekend's Scriptures showcased two things - the mercy of God and the need to be persistent in prayer.  The story of Abraham's standing before God in defense of the righteous remnant to be found in the morally corrupt cities of Sodom and Gomorrah demonstrates both lessons to be learned.

     A few weeks ago on the sign in front of the local Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, the message read "the law tempered by mercy".  I mentioned yesterday that a variation of that thought is even more appropriate.  Not all laws are good, not all are beneficial and not all are just.  But we ultimately seek justice.  The laws of Sodom and Gomorrah probably supported the lifestyle of those places, but the law of God and morality demanded justice.  In intending to wipe out this abomination, God was truly justified.  Yet at the urging of Abraham, for the sake of the righteous remnant, God was willing to show mercy.  If only 50, 45, 40, 30 20 or 10 could be found.  Yet not even ten - and the cities met their fate.  But even "justice is tempered by mercy" as God was willing to show.

     I give Abraham credit for being bold in asking God for mercy, for pushing the boundaries.  Jesus invites us in yesterday's Gospel to do the same.  Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.  We tend to be shy, timid, afraid.  We tend to not want to make waves or push the envelope.  Yet Jesus invites just the opposite.  And so does the Holy Father who told the kids in Rio to make a noise, to shout out, to stand up and make a difference ... and not to do so once and then be quiet again, but to do so time after time until results are seen and the law of God becomes reality within hearts.  Our God is merciful and just.  He is constant in his love of us, and desires us to be persistent in our response to his love.  Good lessons to be learned.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The gift of grandparents

     Today I had a blessing service for the funeral of a woman whose 90 years of life was consumed by a love of her seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.  They can attest to the impact of their grandma in their lives.

     Last Sunday in my homily, picking up on the theme of hospitality, welcoming and sharing our table as did Abraham and Sarah and Martha and Mary, I spoke of my two grandmothers - Bessie Stoviak and Mary Lenard.  They taught me by example an important aspect of being Church.  One lived a number of miles away in the country and died when I was about seven and the other lived four houses down the street and was there for more of my formative years.  My memories of both are vivid, and my experience of unconditional love given by them was inspiring.  Along with John Stoviak, a miner, and Frank Lenard, a master tailor, my grandfathers, they were a true gift to me.

     While Hallmark has its own Grandparents Day, so does the Church, and today is that day.  Today is the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, who tradition tells us are the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus the grandparents of Jesus.  There is no description of interaction between Jesus and his grandparents mentioned in the scriptures, but it was most likely a reality of his life.  Granted he had a great love of all people, but I'm sure there was a special place in his heart for these two special people.

     On this Grandparents Day in the Church, tell your grandparents that you love them.  Either by phone or a visit, or through prayer, express your gratitude for the gift that they are to you.  And if you are a grandparents reading Journey Thoughts, Happy Grandparents Day!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A day at the beach

    Many people from our "neck of the woods" travel to the beach for vacation during the summer or winter in Florida where it is warm.  Around here, common destinations include the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, Ocean City, Cape May.  For years I would spend a week in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, with a number of priest friends.  For a few of those years we had a place on the boardwalk in front of which a local church had their vacation bible school on the beach the week we were there.  We would sit on the porch and listen to youngsters celebrating their love of Jesus in the sand.  There is something awesome about a beach vacation.  No beach yet this year, though.

     There are hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or more, young people gathered this week on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil - not for vacation, but for a spiritual "re-creation" at World Youth Day.  They worshiped last evening on the beach at a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Rio, they will gather for the Way of the Cross on the beach, and of course be there for the closing liturgy with Pope Francis as the week long gathering comes to an end.  They come to celebrate, they come to be taught and nourished, they come to listen to and witness to Jesus as his Church gathers.  It is a remarkable sight, a tremendous gift to the secular world of the vitality of the Church's future, and a life changing experience to so many.  I hope that you are following these days through the press or especially through EWTN's coverage.

     And today's gospel reading had Jesus and his friends going to the beach at the Sea of Galilee, with those hungry for truth and teaching, those longing to see Jesus, and those desperate for an encounter with this gift from the Father, following along.  Jesus spent a great deal of time at the beach.  It is a good place.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Greensburg - 2

     Continuing the days of the journey at Saint Paul Parish (which we unofficially renamed The Church of Saint Paul) I would like to speak of the church renovation that we modestly brought about.  The church school complex was built at the same time, with what would have eventually been the gymnasium used as the church.  It was the size of a large gym, with an upper tier of windows of inexpensive colored glass that opened by means of a large crank handle on each side.  They did not always work and were always coming "off track".  The altar was at the far end, with the pews facing front, the organ and choir on the left side where the side altar would be and the tabernacle on the right side by the side door and sacristy.  It was a long way from the altar to the back of church. The sanctuary was carpeted and the rest of the flooring was tile.

     What we did was to rearrange the pews to provide a space in the midst of the assembly, build a one step platform to provide some height, place the organ and choir in the old sanctuary area, and build a visible reserved area for the tabernacle, picking up on the screen pattern behind the crucifix.  We used the old baptismal font for the tabernacle base, used oak from the old altar for the new square altar and ambo, oak from unused pews for trim, and purchased carpet for the aisles and green ceramic tile for the sanctuary floor.  We built a baptismal font and placed it where the tabernacle had been, including a pool with running water.  All of this was done with volunteer help by dedicated parishioners and others, and done for little cost (carpet & tile).  I have included a few pictures.  It worked out well, and is a more intimate setting for liturgy, although you do have to get used to surround visual eye contact.

The sanctuary before renovation
The crucifix with background painted to match the ceramic tile of the sanctuary.
Painted by Father Stephen West who was in residence.
View of the new set up, with tabernacle area on left, organ in former sanctuary area, and altar nearer the people.
A direct view.
A view in the opposite direction - during the blessing of Easter Foods.
     We did many other fine things over those years, including festivals, dinners, the building of a picnic pavilion on the grounds, lighting in the parking areas.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the Saint Paul School became a part of a Regional Catholic School named Aquinas Academy that strengthened our programs and continues to provide a strong Catholic School presence in Greensburg.  We took an empty classroom on the first floor and created a Children's Liturgy of the Word gathering space and built an Atrium for the Good Shepherd program.  And before my time was finished in Greensburg, we entered into a Campaign to eliminate the debt and provide seed money for the future, which proved successful.  My successor, Father Dan Mahoney built upon that, stressed good stewardship and left the parish in solid financial shape.  He also replaced those inefficient windows and even more importantly air conditioned the church.
     There were many other things done, countless moments of blessing and grace, friendships built and strengthened, and the Kingdom lived.  For it all, on this part of my journey, I am most grateful to God and to his people.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The move to Greensburg

     "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..."  So says Charles Dickens in the beginning of his "A Tale of Two Cities".  As I reflect upon my move from Masontown to Saint Paul Parish in Greensburg on a bitterly cold January day in 1992, I would embrace this quote but with a minor change - "It was the worst of times, it became the best of times". 

     Let me explain the situation upon arrival.  My predecessor was a good man who had served the parish well and was loved.  He was to be moved by the bishop, but left active ministry instead.  The concern and anger of the people was not dealt with well.  When I arrived, as one sent by the same administration, I was welcomed by some, tolerated by most, and resented by a few.  The bitter cold of the day was a reflection of some of what I felt.  The installation Mass was nice, but it was a difficult transition.

     The welcome dinner for family and priests scheduled by the administrator never happened, the bank gave me problems with the signature cards, both myself and my assistant were brand new and finding our way, Lent began soon after, the Sunday before Holy Week the Music Director quit, leaving us to scramble.  This turned out to be a catalyst for a renewed liturgy and music program which continues to be an envy of many. I did what you are never to do, I changed things in the sanctuary within the first six months of arrival, making the setting more intimate.  Using volunteer help and reusing materials, we did it for next to nothing.  In June we received a young new associate, with the previous one staying on in residence.  The associate challenged me in creative and at times frustrating ways, as I learned to live "in community".  We are the best of friends to this day.  My secretary quit, necessitating the continued restaffing that ultimately proved beneficial.  We continued to be in debt and suffering from deficit spending, a debt that had been there since the building of the complex in the 1960's.  A few years into the pastorate, we consolidated the three Catholic Schools in Greensburg into a regional Catholic school named Aquinas Academy, using our building as part of the entity, but necessitating the closure of Saint Paul school.  At one point someone was interested in purchasing our campus, and while we entertained the thought of selling and rebuilding elsewhere, it was not possible with what they offered without going further into debt, and I said no.

     It took me over two years to begin to make inroads and to win the support of the majority of the people.  But when it happened, this assignment became "the best of times".  The support of many from the beginning, of a great support staff, and the knowledge that this is where the Lord had placed me, kept me going and brought me blessing.  I will share a few more thoughts and experiences from my days at the Church of Saint Paul soon, along with a few pictures. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unexpected leaders/heroes

     For the last few weeks in our daily Mass readings we have heard the story of two individuals that lived different lives generations apart, yet were destined by God to be great leaders and unexpected heroes to their people.

     The first was a young man, the last of many sons, who was the apple of his Father's eye.  He was a shepherd like his brothers, but because of his father's affection for him, his brothers were angry and jealous.  They even plotted to kill him, but then changed their minds and sold him into slavery.  He ended up in Egypt and unexpectedly a slave in Pharaoh's court.  God had a watchful eye on him.  His name was Joseph.

     He came to the attention of Pharaoh, and with blessing and insight given him by God he saw an impending worldwide famine. Pharaoh placed him in charge of the preparations for these hard times.  Thus Egypt had plenty, while most of the world starved.  Joseph was given responsibility to share the bounty.

     Along comes his family to seek help.  They come to Pharaoh's steward, whom they have no clue is their brother.  He recognizes them, but keeps it a secret until at last he reveals that "I am Joseph, your brother".  He welcomes his family, reunites and forgives their envy and treachery, and invites them to Egypt where he places them in the most prosperous Nile delta in the land of Goshen, and they prosper.  Joseph, God's chosen and anointed, Egypt's leader and his family's hero, takes center stage and becomes an unexpected leader/hero.

     From Israel's descendants comes another unexpected leader/hero whose name is Moses.  Born in a time of hardship and dread for his people, his very survival is secured through treachery.  Set adrift in a reed basket to save his life, he is found by Pharaoh's daughter and raised as her own.  Even as a foreigner, he is accorded rank and privilege in Court.  He is blessed by God with a role of leadership but through an identity crisis and series of events finds himself out on his rear and fearing for his life.

     He leaves what he knows, becomes a shepherd of flocks, and encounters a God in a fiery bush that would not give up on him.  He becomes a spokesperson for his people, once again in the Court of Pharaoh, but this time as the voice of God, a voice of challenge, sharing a call for freedom, and meeting hostility on all sides except God's. 

     We know the story ... we know the exodus ... we know the struggle of the reborn People of God ... and we see a man, touched by the hand of God, who becomes an unexpected leader and hero of another sort.

     What does this say to us?  Maybe this - that God works with what he has, that his ways are marvelously mysterious, and that he provides the moment with his blessings, even if it comes through unexpected leader/heroes.

     Your Prayers Requested
     I attended the funeral Mass for Mrs. Margaret Berkey at Saint Rose Parish in Latrobe.  Mrs. Berkey is the mother of one of our priests - Father Bill Berkey.  Many family and friends were there, along with about thirty-five of Bill's brother priests and Bishop Brandt.  May she rest in peace.
     Father Bill presided and preached, and provided a wonderful send off for his Mom.  Having done that for both of my parents, I can  attest that it is not easy.  I'm sure Bill's Mom was very proud of her son.
     Father Bill is the new pastor (since June 25th) of the new parish of Saint Francis of Assisi in Western Fayette County - a monumental task of pulling together six parish communities into one.  Maybe he is one of those unexpected leader/heroes for that community at this moment in time.  Say an extra prayer for him in the days ahead.  Thanks.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Jubilant Day

     The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in Greensburg held their Jubilee celebrations this weekend, and yesterday honored those celebrating traditional years of entry with a Mass in the afternoon at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensburg.  Sister Frances Stefano who died in 1992 was remembered, who along with Sister Brycelyn Eyler celebrated fifty years in Religious Life, and Sister Donna Mulligan celebrated her twenty-fifth year.  The theme of the day was a quote from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton herself which says "Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life."

     The liturgy was beautiful, and a true celebration of Faith.  Monsignor Michael Begolly presided and Monsignor Larry Kiniry was the homilist.  Michael has a great presence and gift in leading people in worship and Larry did an outstanding job preaching.  He shared that he prefers the word Jubilee to the word Anniversary, because Jubilee - Jubilation - Jubilate Deo describes the freeing, liberating action of letting go in our praise of God.  It is more than a marking of time, it is an acclamation of a praise filled life.

     The liturgy was enhanced by a combined choir of Sisters and other friends, along with wonderful instrumentalists and cantors.  During the liturgy, all present renewed their Baptismal commitment and were reminded of our baptism through the Rite of Sprinkling which was followed by all the Sisters present renewing their commitment to the charism of Elizabeth Ann Seton.

     I know Sister Donna in her various assignments in parishes, and Sister Brycelyn and I served on the committee that formed Aquinas Academy, the consolidated Catholic School in Greensburg of which she then became the Principal.  I was honored to have been invited, and wish the Sisters well and assure them of my gratitude.

The Diocese of Greensburg
has posted on their web site
pictures and videos of the services
surrounding the funeral
of our retired Bishop Anthony G. Bosco.
They can be viewed by logging onto
and clicking the appropriate icon.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A fitting farewell

     Despite severe storms and torrential downpours locally on Wednesday morning, the Church of Greensburg gathered to bid farewell to our third bishop, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.  The funeral liturgy that began at 10:00 am that morning saw family and friends, bishops, priests, religious and laity gather to pray for this shepherd who served the Church for over sixty one years as a priest, forty three years as a bishop, and seventeen of those years as the Shepherd of Greensburg.  In all of those years he touched peoples lives and brought blessings, he made decisions that upset and angered people, he was kind and gentle, difficult and harsh in decisions and dealing with people, he did good things and made mistakes, but he was a shepherd.  As I said in an earlier post, I did not always agree with him, but I learned to respect him.  The processional hymn at his funeral is the beautiful hymn "Heart of a Shepherd" by Rory Conney.  It set the stage for the celebration.

      Archbishop Charles Chaput was the celebrant, joined by ten other bishops and Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of Saint Vincent, many priests of the diocese and archabbey and beyond, in a wonderful celebration of Faith and Eucharist.  The music was inspiring, the setting beautiful, the sadness and joy very evident.
Former staff of the pastoral center joined with present staff to renew old friendships and remember former days.

     I was blessed to be a part of this prayer for a shepherd.  God bless you, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco.  May you rest in peace.


     July 11th is the feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Order of Saint Benedict (the Benedictines), the founder of Western Monasticism, and co-patron of Europe along with Saints Cyril And Methodius.  He is honored by Roman Catholics, the Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Lutheran Church.  He was canonized in 1220.

     Benedict was born of a noble family of Nursia in Umbria around 480, and had a twin sister, Scholastica, who founded a community of Women Religious.  Tradition says that he left home around the year 500 to live a solitary life in the country, and became a monk and hermit.  He sought to live a simple life, but was eventually drawn into small monastic settings, eventually writing his "Rule" and establishing 12 communities in and around Subiaco, Italy.  He then founded the great monastery of Monte Casino between Rome and Naples.  He died at the age of 64 at Monte Casino shortly after the death of his sister, Scholastica on March 21 in either 543 or 547.

     The Rule of Saint Benedict is made up of seventy three short chapters that share wisdom of two kinds: spiritual (how to live a Christ centered  life) and administrative (how to run a monastery).  Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work) is a motto of the Order of Saint Benedict, a confederation of communities that follow the Rule.  Their work is pastoral, spiritual and educational.  They were great preservers of history and knowledge and worship over the centuries, and many great monasteries were noted for their libraries and educational opportunities.

     As I have said here often, we are blessed with the first Benedictine monastery founded in the United States located in Latrobe, Saint Vincent Archabbey, founded in  1846 by Boniface Wimmer.  To the monks and the Sisters of Saint Benedict, happy feast day!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vocation awareness

     In this morning's Gospel from Matthew, we hear: "At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them, because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest'."

     On Sunday the Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke to seminarians, novices and others contemplating vocations.  In his homily Pope Francis said this: "In the Gospel we heard: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into his harvest' (Lk 10:2).  The laborers for the harvest are not chosen through advertising campaigns or appeals for service and generosity, but they are 'chosen' and 'sent' by God.  For this, prayer is important.  The Church, as Benedict XVI has often reiterated, is not ours, but God's; the field to be cultivated is his.  The mission, then, is primarily about grace.  And if the Apostle is born of prayer, he finds in prayer the light and strength for his action.  Our mission ceases to bear fruit, indeed, it is extinguished the moment the link with the source, with the Lord, is interrupted."

     Vocations to Religious Life and Priesthood have reached challenging levels.  We have run campaigns, put up billboards, enlisted the help of the faithful to suggest names, promoted vocations, prayed our Diocesan Vocation Prayer, and still our numbers are slim.  We need to continue to do the same, but all of us, those called by God and those in need of those so called, need to spend time on our knees.  We need to pray that ears be open, that hearts be responsive, that service be seen as honorable, that the Gospel be lived and preached, and ultimately to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

     In our busy, distracted world, this becomes an uphill struggle.  May we find the courage to let the Lord be the Lord.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Brief break

     I will be attending a family reunion this weekend in Eastlake, Ohio, and will take a brief break from posting.  Lots of news, though.  First encyclical of Pope Francis ... cause of sainthood for John Paul II and good Pope John XXIII advanced.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bishop Anthony G. Bosco

     The lead article in today's Greensburg Tribune Review is headlined "A life devoted to faith, education and wit".  I would add "service" to this description of Bishop Emeritus Anthony G. Bosco of the Diocese of Greensburg who died late Tuesday evening at his home in Greensburg.  He was 85 years old.  He was found by a neighbor who checked in on him, sitting in his chair where he had been watching the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, which he regularly did.  Bishop Bosco served as the third bishop of Greensburg from 1985 until 2002 when his retirement was accepted.  When he came to us he said that we were getting a fifteen year warranty on him, but in reality we added almost two more years extension until his replacement was named.

     Bishop Bosco was a Pittsburgher, born on the North Side and ordained for the Pittsburgh Diocese.  He served briefly in a parish before administrative work and chaplaincies filled his day.  Ordained an auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh in 1970, he served as a shepherd for forty three years of his sixty one years of priesthood (and I thought that forty years of priesthood was a long time).  When he came to us he brought many years of experience in organization and administrative work, and was not afraid to plunge into whatever challenge that surfaced.

     He was a gifted communicator, and used the media and the upcoming computer craze to spread the Word.  Print, radio, TV, internet, personal presence were his forte.  He taught classes on line and at local colleges, and enjoyed the experience, although he did tell me not long ago that he finally gave up teaching in the classroom setting because today's young people are not above "cutting class".

     He had a special bond with young people, and was a hit at diocesan youth celebrations and other such events.  Kids understood and appreciated him maybe more than the adults.  I have had people say that they found him aloof or distant, but I found him friendly, although I believe he was shy and reserved by nature.  I also found that after retirement he became more relaxed and open.  He kept active with having a mass at the Cathedral often, the last one being just the weekend before.  He loved to go out to dinners and loved gathering with friends.

     He had a great wit that was sometimes missed.  I remember watching the proceedings of the Bishops' meetings when he attended and having him stand and make a point or ask a question, always including a story or a joke of sorts.

     I have four brief memories of his kindness that I want to share.  While in Masontown we placed a statue of Mary and child in the Church yard (I included a picture a few posts ago).  We dedicated it on Mothers' Day of that year and invited Bishop Bosco to dedicate the statue.  He graciously accepted, and even though his Mom was still living, he spent a great part of the day with us.  He kindly accepted the flowers that we gave him to give to her.  It was a grand occasion.
     One year three of us priests from the Diocese (Fathers Rom Simboli, Chet Raimer and myself) were visiting Rome.  He was also in Rome at the time.  We met and he took us to a favorite restaurant of his for dinner and we stopped for some gelatto on our walk back to his place.  He was very kind and very relaxed with us.
     While in Scottdale we began our 125th Anniversary year celebrations with a Mass that we invited him to share with us.  Afterwards we had a great reception on the grounds.  While mingling, he was confronted by a determined and irate parishioner who was sharing her opinion with him.  He was cornered until I came to the rescue.  Instead of being upset, set simply said that he found her "intense".  He was glad to be rescued - that was not the time or place.
     During retirement his dear pet dog and friend, Joshua, died.  They had been together for years.  I mentioned it to my sister, Janie, who also has a pup.  She sent him a short note of sympathy.  Sometime later, while at home, the phone rings and Janie picks up.  It was Bishop Bosco calling to thank her for her thoughts and prayers and to ask how she was doing.  She was floored and very impressed.  He looked up the number and took the time.

     Bishop Bosco and I did not always agree (who does with their boss?) but I consider him a friend and brother in the priesthood.  As the Trib headline stated, he truly lived a life devoted to faith, education and wit and of course to service of God and the People of God.  May the Lord grant him eternal rest, and may the angels lead him to paradise.  Pray for repose of his soul.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gettysburg - day 3

     The day dawned hot and humid.  Both armies were facing each other and prepared for confrontation.  Thousands had been killed in the last few days, and even more wounded or captured.  This was not just another ordinary day of war.

     At 1 pm there began a two hour bombardment from both ridges - with the Confederates having 163 cannons along Seminary Ridge and the Union forces having 119 guns along Cemetery Ridge.  It is said to have been the largest engagement of guns in the war.  I read in a book that places over 100 miles away heard what they thought was distant thunder on a clear and cloudless day.

     Then came a textbook military maneuver that ultimately failed - a direct assault by the Confederate troops under the command of James Longstreet and George Picket - over 12,000 strong.  This assault was over open fields, with fences that served as barriers, and an uphill climb to the strongly held Union forces on Cemetery Ridge.  Over half of those men were killed or wounded in Picket's Charge, before the Confederates retreated and the day ended.  One of the leaders of the charge who actually reached the Union stronghold was General Lewis Armistead, whose uncle commanded Fort McHenry in Baltimore in 1812, who served in the U.S. Army until the war, and who was a good friend of General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was his opponent in Gettysburg.  He was severely wounded and died of infection on July 5th, in Union captivity.  He left his bible and a note to Hancock, who delivered it to his widow following the war.

     The next day, the General Lee gathered their wounded and troops and began a move south, away from the battle, heading home.  The Union leadership, under General Meade, declined to follow and put an end to the Army of Northern Virginia.  Thus the battle of Gettysburg ended, with a moderate Union victory that engaged about 158,000 troops (83,000 Union & 75,000 Confederate) in three days of fighting in and around this little town, leaving 51,000 dead, wounded or captured (23,000 Union & 28,000 Confederate).  And it was three days that changed the history of Gettysburg Pennsylvania and the outcome of our Civil War.  And it happened 150 years ago.

     A Soldiers National Cemetery was dedicated in Gettysburg in November of 1863.  President Abraham Lincoln gave a few brief remarks - remarks that are remembered throughout time.

Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth on this continent,
a new nation, conceived in liberty,
and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation, or any nation
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field,
as a final resting place for those
who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -
we can not consecrate - we can not hallow -
this ground.  The brave men, living and dead,
who struggled here, have consecrated it,
far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here
to the unfinished work which they who fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining before us -
that from these honored dead
we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -
that we here highly resolve that these dead
shall not have died in vain -
that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom -
and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.

Sad news

     Word was just received  by email from Bishop Lawrence Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg of the death of The Most Reverend Anthony G. Bosco, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Greensburg, who died late in the evening of July 2, 2013 at his residence in Greensburg.  Funeral arrangements are incomplete.  Bishop Bosco served as our third bishop for some seventeen years.  More later today.  May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg at 150 - day 2

     Day two in Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 dawned with two opposing armies facing each other on opposite ridges.  Somewhere near 50,000 Confederate troops occupied Seminary Ridge to the west of town, a rise that was named after the Lutheran Seminary that was located on its northern end.  Across a shallow valley that comprised the town of Gettysburg to the north and farms, wheat fields and orchards as well as open land to the south, lay Cemetery Ridge on the east (called that because of the community cemetery that dominated the northern end).  On this ridge somewhere close to 60,000 Union troops were deployed.

     Lee attempted to surround the Union forces at two places: to the south at places known as the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, an awesome giant rock formation called Devil's Den and two strategic hills called Big and Little Roundtop, led by Longstreet and defended by leaders like Dan Sickles, Strong Vincent from Erie and Joshua Chamberlain from Maine, among countless others.  They fought long and hard, but the Union forces held ... and from the north of the Union forces the Confederates attacked Culp's Hill and East Cemetery Hill led by Ewell, which held that position until the next morning when they were pushed back.  One of the Union players at Culp's Hill was General Geary who was from Mount Pleasant, PA, a town near here.

     At the end of the day, not much progress was made, about 20,000 (10,000 per side) were dead, captured or wounded, and one final great battle awaited these troops.

Point of correction from Day 1 - I said that it was Heth's Division that led the Confederate Troops into town - I think that it was actually A.P. Hill that marched down the Chambersburg Pike through Cashtown first.  You know how historians are ... I don't want to get anyone upset.

Descriptive names

     What's in a name?  Names can be very descriptive.  They can give a clear indication as to what we do.  Three examples.

     This morning's reading from Genesis describes the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  These were evil places that had abandoned all desire for God and were known for their blatant and wanton sexual immorality.  There was no desire for righteousness to be found there, so God sent fire and brimstone to destroy those places.  One of the great sins of sexual immorality is called sodomy, and those involved are sometimes called sodomites.  Just what I would want my city known for throughout time.

     Two days ago on CSPAN I heard a civil war lecture regarding Union General Hooker.  Part of what was said involved the lengthy time he spent with his troops in DC training and doing other things.  The speaker said that in the area in which his troops were camped, a few blocks between Pennsylvania Avenue and now Constitution Avenue before development, there were a major concentration of women whose "employment" had them take care of the sexual needs of those soldiers under Hooker's command.  These "ladies of the night" became known as ... hookers.  The name supposedly stuck.  Not a proud moment for the distinguished Hooker family.

     And then there are those in Antioch who were for the first time called Christian because they were recognized as followers of Jesus Christ and because, as followers of Christ, they were known by their love for one another.  Over the years that name has stuck.  It is a designation that we, who bear it, can truly be proud of.  Who we are, how we are known, often rests in what we do - good or bad.  Let us rejoice in this wonderfully life giving moniker of CHRISTIAN.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A joint effort

     Ecumenism is alive and well.  Yesterday, Saint Anthony came to the assistance of this local Catholic priest and his sister, Janie, with the wonderful help of a lovely couple from the local Circleville United Methodist Church.  Here is the story.

     In one of those memorable moments that you hope never happens to you, Janie, who was visiting, got in my car to pick me up after the 11:00 am Mass.  She brought Sammy (the pup) with her.  After picking me up and stopping at a place we returned to the house, pulled into the garage, and shut off the car.  Then she realized that she did not have her purse with her.  She had placed it on the rear bumper while she put Sammy in the car ... and it was gone.  We retraced our steps (slowly) looking for the purse with no luck.  As you can imagine, she had everything but the kitchen sink in the purse.  She was frantic.  Almost in tears by the time we pulled onto our street, we saw a car parked in front of the house with two people waiting.  A beautiful couple had found the purse on the main highway (about a half mile from the house), intact and undamaged (cars were going around it).  They played detective and tracked us down with little to go on since Janie's address is Uniontown and returned the purse.  They were gracious and generous with their time and efforts.  We are most grateful to them and their obvious concern and Christian charity.  May God bless them both.  And thanks to Saint Anthony, who Janie owes a debt of gratitude to as well.  The day ended well.  It is good to find good people who are willing to go the extra mile.

Gettysburg at 150 - day 1

     Around nine o'clock this morning I received an expected call from a good friend who had reintroduced me years ago to the Gettysburg experience.  Mike Ripple is that friend whose great great grandfather served with the Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg, and whose family always held this small Central Pennsylvania town as a special place.  I was always fascinated by the battle and the stories that were told, but he brought the beauty and the peacefulness of this great battlefield home to me in a new and fresh way.  On the first day of the three day battle (July 1 - 3) he calls and makes a comment about "bringing up the cannons" or spotting Heth's division advancing.  It has become a routine.

     The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1, 2, & 3 of 1863 - 150 years ago this year.  A small Pennsylvania town of about 2,400 people, sitting at the intersection of five major (in those days) roads, found itself caught up in a major battle of the American Civil War.   On that July 1st day, John Buford and his band of cavalry troops spotted Southern troop movement approaching the town from Chambersburg, PA coming through Cashtown.  He saw Heth's advance position.  He sent word to General Reynolds who brought Union troops into the western edge of town by the Lutheran Seminary.  The Union troops were not prepared for a major confrontation ... Heth was told not to engage until more troops could be brought forward ... and yet it happened.  That first day of battle, occurring on the western edge of town on Seminary Ridge and the surrounding area, was back and forth, ultimately resulting in a retreat of the Union forces through the town to Cemetery Ridge to the east.  Mistakes were made, timing was bad, and opportunities were lost on that first day, but it was the beginning of a three day battle that pitted the Confederate forces under the command of Robert E. Lee (the Southerners came into town from the north) against the Union forces of George Meade (the northern forces came from the south).  I read were there were maybe 50,000 troops that fought on that day, with more in the fray as the days progressed.  Gettysburg, the county seat of Adams County, a sleepy little hamlet, was placed on center stage 150 years ago today.  May wars end, may conflicts be resolved, and may peace, as is evidenced in Gettysburg today, find a home in our hearts.