If memory serves me, today, the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, was the day I arrived at my assignment as pastor of the then All Saints Parish in Masontown. I arrived as the previous pastor was saying his farewell and pulling out (going to the parish that I was leaving). I would like to share some thoughts in regard to the surroundings that I found.
All Saints had been built by Father Francis Kolb in 1908 with the rectory/offices attached to the church building. Brick buildings, they had come to levels of disrepair over the years. The secretary and her offices were in a very small outer entrance chamber of the house. My first "renovation" was to expand and update her office, using a portion of an adjoining office that served the priest. I moved my office across the hall to the dining room, which was rarely used. The kitchen was a major undertaking and required a good deal of funds, but we never spent anything that we did not have. The kitchen was outdated (not even close to being an adequate description) with old rusted white metal cabinets, termite ridden floors, non insulated walls and floor, aging furniture and appliances. We made it functional and beautiful, as it still is today after twenty five years. There were some that criticized those expenditures and those changes made to the church and the school and the grounds, but they were not for me or the next guys, but in order to maintain and enhance the parish legacy.
I have lived in old houses and new, functional and inadequate, most often larger than the average house but rarely luxurious. Some had charm and some had major flaws. Some are no more (Irwin - torn down); some are used differently - as parish offices in Belle Vernon and Scottdale; some are not used at all like Connellsville and Greensburg. And the house I live in presently is the best of all my living situations, for which I am grateful. It is a neighborhood house in a quiet neighborhood "off campus". It is an asset of the parish. And these assets served those entrusted with ministry to those parishes.
With the "bling bishop" in Germany in the news about his living situation, and with a segment of our Catholic population locally critical of our bishop for a variety of conceived reasons, the local website that I mentioned before, who "banned" me, has established a "contest" to come up with ideas on how to use the "bishop's lavish mansion". To what depths have we sunk! What judgmental arrogance on the part of some. I have been in the house - larger than most homes but smaller than many ... comfortable but not plush. The same house given (I believe) to the Diocese early on in its history and lived in by Bishops Connare and Bosco (both very unpretentious men), suddenly has become an issue for some in their desire to put down Bishop Brandt. This part of the patrimony of the Diocese serves the man entrusted to serve as our bishop. How he lives (obviously within reason) should not matter, unless you have an axe to grind. To say that this drive to belittle and demean the one who is our spiritual father drives me crazy is an understatement. And the reason is that it is evil. A contest - called for by an un-named critic! What next?