The reason I was not in North Huntingdon was so that I could be supportive of Father Bill Berkey, the pastor of the newly formed Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in western Fayette County, and Father Jim Petrovsky who assists him. Father Bill was being installed as pastor by Bishop Brandt at the 6:00 pm Mass at the worship site in Footedale. Saint Francis Parish was established by Bishop Brandt in late June and is comprised of six area parishes. I had served at one of those parishes (All Saints) for five years, and being from Fayette County, I know many people in the area.
Despite a day of unceasing rain, torrential at some points, when I arrived in Footedale the sky was lightening, even though the rain continued to fall. As I neared the church, there were a number of picketers with signs who called out to those arriving, protesting the merger. At least they were at a respectable distance on the other side of the road.
Those who gathered for this Mass of new beginnings and installation were eager to be of support, even though not large in numbers. The liturgy was beautiful, as was the setting (the former Saint Thomas Church and probably the largest of the six former sites - this large church was built in a small coal mining patch in the Polish style by the early immigrants - with high back altar, pillars along the side aisles, twin bell towers, etc.). The men's and women's choir served our worship well.
As is customary at these gatherings, the pastor preached, and Father Bill reminded us of the gift and charism of Saint Francis as a peacemaker and hardworking, gentle soul, inviting us to model ourselves after Francis. At the end of the liturgy the bishop spoke of the need to provide for the future by "biting the bullet" now, allowing the losses faced by this merger to strengthen us to be a strong and loving church family into the next generation. He began his remarks by leading us in the recitation of the Prayer of Saint Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
What would have made the liturgy even more beautiful would have been having the protesters joining us in those prayers for unity and peace, celebrating the legacy of the past with our eyes fixed on the future.
A reception followed, and it was great to see friends from many places and spend time with them and Father Bill and the Bishop. It was a good evening. Pray for the good people of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Fayette County in the Diocese of Greensburg. God has a good work that we wants accomplished.