Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What do we love?

     Yesterday's reading from the 1st Letter of John (for December 30th) gave us a great insight on setting our priorities.  On this New Year's Eve, when millions will celebrate with reckless abandon the passing of the old year and the coming of the new, when so many "new year's resolutions" will be rooted in worldly success and getting ahead, the words of John are important to note.

     John says: "Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of the God remains forever."

     The older I become the clearer I see that the things of this world, good and bad alike, are so transitory.  We mourn their loss and hope for a better replacement.  But the reality of life, that which is certain, that which is lasting, is not found in those tangible things.  Rather, it is in the spiritual, in the divinely gifted relational encounters, where we find lasting joy and happiness and peace.   May we take these words of John to heart and prayerfully immerse ourselves in the life of God brought to us in Christ Jesus.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Separate paths

     When we were in the seminary at Saint Francis in Loretto, the theatrical production one year was Jean Anouilh's play Becket, based on the story in T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.  A well known movie adaptation starred Peter O'Toole as King Henry II and Richard Burton as Thomas Becket.  All this took place in the 1100's in England.  Becket was an educated man, a secretary known for his writing capabilities, an assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald.  It was Theobald who sent him to the court of Henry II, where he and Henry became fast friends, with Henry appointing Becket as Lord Chancellor of England.

     Wanting to gain control over the Church in England, Henry appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 upon the death of Theobald, thinking that Thomas would be his man.  But the Lord intervened, and Thomas, a very worldly man who enjoyed the pleasures of life, found himself experiencing a conversion of mind and heart.  He began to take his ministry seriously, and became a champion of the Church's rights over that of the king and the state.  The conflict grew bitter, with Thomas being exiled for a time before returning to Canterbury.

     Four of Henry's knights heard him raging about being rid of this troublesome priest and did something about it.  They murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in the abbey church as he was on his way to vespers.  Popular devotion for Becket was such that within a very short time, Henry repented and sought sainthood for Thomas Becket.  His tomb became a popular destination for pilgrimage in Canterbury until the time of the Reformation.

     The two worlds of Church and State exist in our lives.  We hope and work for mutual cooperation and respect one for the other.  But the reality is that they are two separate ways, separate paths that, when seeking the message of the Gospel for the common good can and do work together, but when they seek their exclusive interests, they sometimes are at odds.

     I have always enjoyed the story and the play (I was a French knight in the seminary production).  And I find the struggle between those worlds interesting.  I find the developing of a conscience by Thomas Becket that set him on course to defy the king inspiring.  Thomas Moore is another good example of the civil servant who always followed his conscience even when it led to his end.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The family

     A lifetime ago when I was in college, I seemed to remember that we were taught, in sociology class, that the basic unit of society was the family - a woman and a man, united in marriage and giving life to their child or children in order to provide for the continuation of humanity and of their legacy.  I am not sure what the basic unit of society is today, but I would venture to say it is the individual, living their life in such a way that what they want is their goal.

     Even in the old definition of family, both within and outside of our Judeo-Christian traditions, there were variations on the theme, but those who lived selflessly and lovingly found the strength and grace to make it happen.  There were very few June and Ward Cleavers or Ozzie and Harriets or Lucy and Dezis in real life, but there were men and women who shared love and commitment one to the other and who shared their love in a creative, life giving way that provided for their families and for society at large the foundation of a future.   Even in the Holy Family we do not find the "perfect", ideal family - we have a very young girl named Mary conceiving and giving birth to a child through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not with her husband, Joseph.  We have Joseph accepting with joy the role of foster parent to Mary's son.  We have hardship and trauma in the circumstances of his birth, with a threat to his life and a sojourn as refugees to a foreign land before settling down to a quiet and normal life in Nazareth.

     But we also had deep faith - in God and in his plan for them ... in each other, rooted in love and mutual respect ... and in the grace to accept what came their way with confident assurance.  They knew who they were ... they knew their roots ... the knew their blessings and challenges, and they knew that all of these things found meaning and purpose in their relationship with God.  

     Today our families may be nuclear or multi-faceted, strong or challenged, service oriented or self centered, faith filled or secular.
But where ever we find ourselves, we are embraced by the love of God and called to holiness within his family, the Church.   The perfect family - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - invites us to share in their life and to use, on our journey to holiness, the model of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and her son, Jesus.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mistaken Identity

     Dan Brown, the popular novelist, in his book "The DaVinci Code", uses an extreme case of mistaken identity as the basis of his work of fiction rooted in Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper".  Brown states that the figure seated next to Jesus and resting their head on the shoulder of Christ, the figure with long flowing hair and no beard, is Mary Magdalene, who, his fiction claims, is the wife of Jesus.  And thus the fantasy takes flight.

     DaVinci himself, and the Church before his time and since, theology scholars as well as art scholars, have always recognized this figure as the "beloved disciple", Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist.  He and his followers are credited with the fourth Gospel, a few Letters in the New Testament, as well as the Book of Revelation, all found in the Sacred Scriptures.  John was the only Apostle not martyred, and it is thought that he lived a long life in exile, reflecting and writing of his experience with his friend and mentor, Jesus.  Today is his feast day.

     John is called the "beloved disciple" and was watched over and protected by Jesus during his public ministry probably because, of all of the disciples, he was only a young boy.  Jesus was to him a big brother and guardian.  He was young - thus the lack of a beard among the others.  He was young - thus the entrusting of him to Mary.  He was young - thus the long life lived.

     John wrote a reflective, theological Gospel that tells the story with great beauty and graceful style, but with an inspiring call to encounter and discipleship with Jesus to all who read or heard the Good News.  He unlocked the secrets of the Word become flesh and spread the words of life through all the world.  He reminded us, as I mentioned the other day, that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Friday, December 26, 2014

Love your enemies

     The Protomartyr, the first martyr, Stephen is celebrated on this, the day after The Feast.  As the Entrance Antiphon states: "The gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs, and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven."   Stephen was a young man who followed the command of love laid out by his Lord.  He witnessed with great joy to the message of Jesus.  He served the needs of the Church as a deacon, ministering to the poor and the widows and the orphans.  He faced those who feared or hated "the way" that he took, and in a moment of joyful boldness embraced death for the sake of the gospel of life.  And in that embrace, he reminded us of the great teaching of Jesus to "love our enemies" and to "pray for our persecutors".  In the Collect Prayer today we prayed that we may imitate Stephen, " ... and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors."

     To all who serve in the ministry of deacon, thank you and may the grace and example of Stephen bring you strength and joy.  And to those moving toward Ordination as Deacons (and I know a few within our Diocese and beyond), continue to grow in holiness and love.

***************
     This is a significant day within the life of our parish community.  It was on this day, December 26, 1992, that a fire destroyed the rectory of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.  It was caused by a faulty furnace.  The church proper was thankfully saved.  But the real devastation came when the pastor, Father Bill McGuire, was found in the house, having died from heart failure.  For a young parish, this was a day that lives in the memory and the hearts of those who worship here.  We prayed for Father McGuire at Mass this morning as we continue to remember him in our thoughts daily.  May he rest in peace.

A long awaited gift

     There was excitement when the good news reached the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, that the Holy Father had appointed Bishop Christopher Coyne as their new bishop.  They had been waiting for nearly a year for this news.  Bishop Coyne, who is 56, was the Auxiliary of Indianapolis, and is a fellow blogger.  He, too, seems excited with the news.  It was a wonderful Christmas present to that local church.

     There is another local church, near and dear to my heart - Greensburg - that is also looking for such a wonderful Christmas present.  We are going to extend the spirit of Advent into the new year as we eagerly await the appointment of a new bishop for our small diocese.  Our present Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Lawrence Brandt, submitted his letter of resignation at reaching the age of seventy-five last March, and he, and we, await his successor and the acceptance of his retirement.  There is almost a spirit of disloyalty in praying for and speaking of a new bishop while the present one is still very much a part of our lives, but that is also a part of our responsibility to this local church, to pray for and prepare for the future with trust in the Spirit of God.

     While giving thanks for the blessings of the past and the blessings of this present moment, we look forward with expectant joy for the word from Pope Francis that he is sending us a new Shepherd.  May that gift be not long delayed.

Christmas 2014

      The waiting is over.  All of the preparations are complete (or at least as complete as they will ever be).  Advent comes to a close and the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord is celebrated.  Let us rejoice in the Lord, for our Savior has been born into the world.  Today true peace has come down to us from heaven.

This is a picture of a favorite print that I own
by the artist
Liz Lemon Swindle
entitled "Be It Unto Me"


      In our parish community we gathered for the Mass during the Night at Midnight. In many places, for many reasons, it is sometimes celebrated at an earlier hour, but we stick to tradition.  Our adult choir and musicians prepared us for the celebration with a presentation of carols and music that set the stage.  The Proclamation of the Birth of the Lord was made at Midnight and the manger scene was blessed and set aside for reflection and inspiration (our thanks to Saint Francis for coming up with the idea).  And our liturgy invited us into the peaceful joy of the events of long ago that we remember and celebrate.  But most importantly, our liturgy brings this child of Bethlehem into our lives through the power of his Word and the gift of his Body and Blood.  He is present to the world through our gathering as his family in faith.  Our crowds were not overwhelming this year, but I am glad for that in the sense that our celebrations were calmer and more peace filled.

     And on Christmas morning we gathered at 10:00 am to celebrate the Christmas Mass during the Day.  More kids, more people, lots of excitement (especially among the kids over Santa's visit to their house).  I love the Gospel of this Mass, (dating many of you) the old "last Gospel" which was read at the conclusion of each Mass in the old liturgy.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  I have a tradition that I have shared in a number of my assignments of presenting each child with a red delicious apple before the conclusion of the Mass.  It is a small gift from the parish family to them, as a reminder that, as the apple got a "bad rap" in the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, so now in the birth of the redeemer, the New Adam, the apple has been "rejuvenated".  The kids enjoy the apples and it is a great joy to see them come forward and receive this small gift.  It is in our children that we are reminded of what the Collect prayer for that Mass during the Day tells us, that it is God "who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature, and still more wonderfully restores it" in Christ, the new Adam.

     I trust that your Christmas was and continues to be a time of joy and peace, of love and warmth, of family and friends, and of deep gratitude to the Lord of all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The eve

     From the Prayer Over the Offerings from the Vigil Mass:

"As we look forward, O Lord,
to the coming festivities,
may we serve you all the more eagerly
for knowing that in them
you make manifest the beginnings
of our redemption.
Through Christ our Lord."
 
 
     Our Vigil is at 6:00 pm with our young people and the Young Voices Choir and a throng of people.  I will join with the choir in telling the story of that first Christmas night before we begin the liturgy, and we, as a joyful family of faith, will look forward to the coming festivities with gladness and hope.
 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The eve of the eve

     Greetings, everyone!

      Today is the eve of the eve ... and since I have not posted since the 7th of December, I feel the need to not only post but to express my regrets for taking such a long time away from the keyboard. 

      Our prayers this morning at liturgy asked that the Lord's mercy flow from his Word into our lives, and that he may grant us peace that we may be ready, with lighted lamps, to meet the dearly beloved Son of God at his coming.  He has come in time and history, he is present in this moment of our existence, and he will come again in glory.  That is our deep and abiding belief and this is the reason for our confidence and joy.

     Advent has been a time of waiting, a time of preparation, and for me a time of reflection.  Last week was the marathon of blessings and grace that flowed from our local parish Penance Services.  Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday saw hundreds of God's people gather to pray and be reconciled through the ministry of the local priests and others who were able to help.  I sensed less of a hectic pace to these gatherings and more of a peaceful and prayerful  spirit.  As I always say, I come away exhausted but deeply blessed by this aspect of ministry.  The last few days saw the transformation of the church gathering space into a beautiful setting for Christmas.  Our manger scene in particular has grown more beautiful over the last few years, and our poinsettia plants, purchased from a local florist, are huge and vibrant in their colors.  All is ready, I hope, for the great celebration of our Lord's birth.

     I was honored to be asked to give the Advent day of reflection to the priests of the diocese early in the season, and while this is a daunting task, it was a pleasure to share with my brothers a message of hope that can be found in our shared ministry.

     This Fall has seen a series of health issues and challenges to mobility that continue to plague me, and I am feeling older than I am.  Oh, to have the energy and stamina that I once had!  To be limited is humbling, but it brings out the understanding and graciousness in others, and for that I am truly grateful.

     I pray that you are all prepared, that you have readied the way of the Lord, and that your anticipation of the grace promised is heightened.  The Communion Antiphon for today, taken from Revelation, is

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock:
if anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me,
I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me."
 
Are you ready to open the door and share in the feast?

    

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Week's moments

     The past week saw four wonderful moments in my priesthood.  I would like to share a little about each.

     Last Sunday, November 30th, at the 6:00 pm mass at Saint Barbara Church in Harrison City, Bishop Brandt accepted the petition of four men of our Diocese to continue their formation as they proceed on the road to Permanent Diaconate in the Greensburg Diocese.  They are Stephen Black, Jeff Cieslewicz (our parisioner), Bill Newhouse (a good friend) and Mike Orange.

Photo by Mary Seamans of the Diocese of Greensburg
 
 
     These men will continue their formation and pastoral assignments and will be ordained, God willing, on June 13, 2015.  Pray for them, for their wives (pictured below at the Mass) and for this Diocese as we await a new bishop.
 


Photos by Mary Seamans
 
 
     On Monday evening in our Church, the twenty-two candidates of our Sacramental Prep year received their First Reconciliation (their first confession).  It was a wonderful gathering of family, along with two other brother priests who helped with the honor of hearing those confessions.  Our theme was that of trusting in the Good Shepherd - and the kids, although a little nervous, were great.  As usual, I was blessed abundantly.  One funny story told to be by a grandmother who came to me for the sacrament.  Her little granddaughter (younger that those receiving) tugged on grandma's sleeve and whispered: "Don't worry, grandma.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  You'll do okay."  Grandma smiled, and so did I.
 
 
     On Thursday of this week I was honored to be asked to give the presentaion for the Advent Day of Reflection for the priests of the Diocese.  There were about thirty men present, including the bishop who joined us for the day.  I spoke of Advent Hope that guides our way, despite the challenges that confront us.  The really good news was that no one drifted off.  I concluded with the Holy Father's tweet for that very day:
"Advent increases hope,
a hope which does not disappoint.
The Lord never lets us down."
 
 
     And yesterday saw our parish Christian Mothers Confraternity Christmas party at a local restaurant.  I joined over thirty women for a great meal, loads of fun and entertainment, and a good prelude to the season.  Our new President and her officers are doing a great job of rejuvenating this important group ijn our parish.


 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

GIVING THANKS - Part 3

     We are still in the Thanksgiving weekend, so here goes round three.

     I am most grateful in my present assignment with a wonderful, hardworking and supportive staff.  In fact, except for a few rare occasions in the past, I have truly been blessed with men and women who have made my ministry as pastor in various parishes a great deal easier and who deserve the credit for my successes.  My present staff continues to stand by me and work together for the enhancement of the parish family.  For their love and concern and their dedicated service to the church, I am most grateful.  Dealing with the public (even the church public) is not always easy.  They do so with grace and love.

     I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of so many people to me personally.  Even this evening I went out to dinner by myself and the tab was picked up by a lady from a neighboring parish.  This happens often, and I am amazed and truly gratified.  People go the extra mile to be kind, and it makes life a whole lot nicer. 

     And finally, I am very grateful that we have four men who are being called to Candidacy at an evening mass in a neighboring parish tomorrow evening.  These men are in our formation program for the Permanent Diaconate.  Candidacy is the public ceremony where they declare before the bishop their intention to move toward Holy Orders.  These four men (two of whom I have known for years, and one of whom is both a parishioner and a cousin of mine) have been caught up in the ongoing development of this formation program, with its changes and requirement challenges, some being in the program for eight years.  I realize that the circumstances of this lengthy development is no ones fault, but I feel for these men.  Finally, within the past two weeks came the Call to Candidacy which takes place tomorrow, and as of Friday, an announcement of dates for the two ministries and a potential date for Ordination as Deacons next June 13th, God willing.  Of course, there is still the uncertainty of our new bishop to be, and his intentions, but we live in hope.  Pray for these four men as well as the two Permanent Deacons that presently serve the Diocese, and the three men who will be ordained as priests next June 20th.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

GIVING THANKS - Part 2

     Again, in the spirit of the day, some things that I am grateful for in no particular order.

     For this great nation that we live in, and this form of democracy, which, when it works, is the best the world has to offer.  From the beginning of the European discovery of this great land, a land flowing with milk and honey, we see this continent as a gift from God.  It reminds us of the biblical promised land that Moses led his people toward.  It was an answer to prayer.  It was rich and productive.  It provided freedom and opportunity.  And like the biblical land of promise, it was a land already occupied and settled.  The biblical land is still being fought over.  This great land of ours still sees injustice and hatred and bigotry rampant.  We take our freedoms as license to do whatever we want.  But as the Preface for today reminds us, we have been entrusted with "the great gift of freedom, a gift that calls forth responsibility and commitment to the truth that all have a fundamental dignity" before God.  Our ultimate redemption, the price paid by the blood of Christ, is freedom from sin and unbelievable blessing. 

     I usually do not delve into the realm of politics and social commentary.  However, grateful as I am for this great Republic and this marvelous land, we are broken.  We find ourselves in and continue on the path of moral corruption and political gridlock.  The system is not working, primarily because it is not the common good that serves as our goal, but our own self serving interests.  We see too narrowly.  We buy into the "me" and the "now" mind set.  We lose sight of the revelation and manifestation of God in our midst.  And because we look with the eyes of politics - of Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or whatever - or of the bottom dollar or of the "might is right" and the "do anything to get ahead" philosophy, we do not see or hear or experience the invitation and the need to focus upon the Lord and his message of love and respect.  Again, the Collect Prayer for Thanksgiving Day says "Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts for concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service." 

     Having said this, I give thanks for the generous parishioners and friends who in so many ways respond to the needs of those less fortunate, giving generously in outreach through our charity fund and in their personal outreach.  They are an inspiration and a hope that all is not lost, and that we have learned to share our blessings with gratitude.

*******

     I also am most grateful to the Lord for his gift to me of being there at the right time and having the right word to say in comfort or in encouragement.  I am humbled when someone says that the word that I shared was just right, or touched their heart, or described the person that we were burying.  I have had a great deal of that recently.  Since November 1st I have celebrated the burials or memorial services for twelve people.   Each different, each challenging, they were a blessing for me.

     In a special way I had the honor of celebrating the memorial mass this past Saturday, along with one of our Deacons and another classmate, Dr. Bill Hisker, for a High School classmate, Dennis Sabo, who had died at his home in Florida.  His family and friends from up north attended.   We began our journey of searching for the Lord's will and discovery together over fifty years ago, and one of the blessings of priesthood is to be able to pray for Denny and minister in this way to those whom he loved.  One of our classmates attended Denny's funeral in Florida, and there were four of us at the memorial mass, along with a few college and fraternity friends from Duquesne University.  Someone took a picture.  May Denny Rest in Peace and may his wife and family find comfort and peace.



GIVING THANKS, Part 1

    On this day when this great nation pauses to give thanks to the Almighty for our blessings, I am inclined to do the same and reflect upon my reasons to "give thanks".  In random order except for the most important "first things".

     My heart is filled with joy when I reflect upon the faith which has been shared with me by family and friends.  It is a faith brought to me by the Church, not as organization but as family, as a pilgrim people, as the saints of God sharing their experiences and encounters with God.  It is the revelation of a living God, a Supreme Being who is as we saw on Sunday the King of the Universe as well as being personal and intimate, a friend and a brother, whose heart has been poured out for me and all creation in a love that is creative and life giving.  I give thanks for a God who knows me, by name, in my strengths and weaknesses, and whose love for me is everything.

     I give thanks for the Church of which I am a part, a Church that welcomes me through the waters of baptism into the family, who feeds me at our Eucharistic Table, who inspires me with Scripture and teaching, who encourages and challenges, who reconciles me with my brothers and sisters and with the Almighty and who offers restoration and hope, and who shows me the way to live and the way to reach the mountain of God.

     I give thanks for the gift of priesthood, for the call to serve and the encouragement and support to follow that call.  I am grateful for the forty one years plus of ministry and blessing, for the countless people whose lives I have touched and the many whom I have been honored to serve.  I thank God for faithful and loving friends who hold me in their hearts.  One of our priests, when you ask him how he is, answers "Better than I deserve".  That is how I feel about the people that have touched my life.

     I give thanks for my family, Mom and Dad especially who laid the foundation of my life (may they enjoy the happiness of Heaven) and Janie, my sister and best friend, who is the description of loyalty and love.  And of course, Sammy, Janie's pup, who brings uncle Len a lot of happiness and kisses. Family and friends, parishes and Church, challenges and blessings are all the component of what makes me who I am.  They are a gift from God.   They are a major reason why I give thanks today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Inspiring Words Remembered

     When I was in high school we had an English prof, Father Bryant Halloran, O.S.B. who had us memorize a few key phrases from the great bard, Shakespeare.  I still can recite those lines.  Memorizing important words or thoughts is a good thing.

     Another thing that I memorized and can still recite is the Gettysburg Address, given at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg on this date in 1863 - 151 years ago, by President Abraham Lincoln.  Many kids studied this short but awesomely powerful speech as they grew up.  I was reminded of the Gettysburg Address a few minutes ago as I was channel surfing on TV, and ran across the Founders Day Celebration coverage from this small Pennsylvania town.  As I tuned in, a Daughter of Charity of Mother Seton from Emmittsburg was giving the opening prayer.  Sisters from Emmittsburg nursed the sick and cared for the dying from the very first moments following the three day battle, and Sister read from the diary of one of those Sisters in her prayer.

     The memorable words of the Gettysburg Address of President Abraham Lincoln are these:

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 cannot dedicate -
we cannot consecrate -
we cannot 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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Honoring our Vets

     This past weekend I recognized all of the Veterans and active members of our armed services who were present at Mass.  I had them stand and be acknowledged, and we shared our applause and prayers in gratitude for their service.  This was done in anticipation of this past Tuesday's Veterans Day.  It is such a little thing, and yet so necessary.  Following our 11:00 am Mass. a woman stopped and thanked me for doing the above.  She said that her husband, who was a veteran of the Marine Corps, was out of town on business and attended Mass elsewhere - where Veterans Day was not even mentioned yet alone having the veterans being acknowledged.  Again, it is such a little thing.   Again, it is so necessary.

     Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, to celebrate the armistice that ended the "war to end all wars", World War I.  The armistice took place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  It was a deadly and devastating war.  This special day transformed into a way of acknowledging all veterans of all conflicts.  It is also known as Remembrance Day in many parts of the world.  It also falls on the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, a man who was a veteran of the Roman army before his encounter with Christ and his decision to be a "soldier of life and peace for Christ".

     I remember the selling of red paper poppies around this time of the year.  It was a way of raising funds for disabled vets and their families, especially in the aftermath of World War II.  The red poppy became the symbol of the sacrifices made because of the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.  Amid the white crosses of the dead in those fields in Flanders the red poppies provided a striking contrast and image.

     Last week I saw an article of an expression of thanks and a sobering yet inspiring reminder of the sacrifices made in WWI.  In London, in the moat surrounding the Tower of London, an exhibit of red ceramic poppies was placed  to honor the 882,000 + from Brittan and the Commonwealth nations who lost their lives in that war.  I have borrowed a picture from the news service that demonstrates the level of sacrifice - it is an awesome visual.


 
 

     May all who have laid down their lives for the good of all and who have served and sacrificed much in the horrors of war and conflict, know that we hold as sacred that level of sacrifice - for Jesus did the same for us for a peace that lasts, a peace rooted in his love for us.
    

    

Friday, November 7, 2014

A special lady

     Father Bob Lubic is a priest of our diocese, pastor of the churches in Connellsville and chaplain of the Geibel School Community.  On his facebook page yesterday he posted that he visited Saint Anne Home for the Elderly in Greensburg, looking for a parishioner, and came across the mother of one of our deceased priests, Father Angelo Ciuffoletti.  Mrs. Irene Ciuffoletti was in her wheelchair waiting to enter the dining room for dinner.  He remembered her from a previous assignment when she still lived at home, and they had a delightful conversation.

 
 

     What is so unusual is that Mrs. Ciuffoletti, still active and alert, is reportedly the 19th oldest person in the United States at the age of 111 years and 293 days.  She has outlived her priest son by seven years.  And she is not the only long lived mother of a priest at Saint Anne Home.  Bishop Lawrence Brandt, our diocesan bishop, visits his mom at the same facility, and she, too, is over 100 years of age and doing well.

     There is a venerable tradition that holds the parents of a priest in special esteem, especially the mother of a priest.  I thank Father Bob for reminding us of this beautiful lady, and I ask your prayers for all of the parents of priests, those still with us and those having gone home to heaven.  And pray for their children, especially their priest sons.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A great pledge

     I ask our people to bring back bulletins from the churches that they have visited on their journeys.  I enjoy seeing what is happening in other places.  Recently I received a bulletin from Saint Faustina Catholic Church in Clermont, Florida.  Along with the bulletin was a small prayer card that I would like to share with you.  I found it inspiring.

My Church is composed
of people like me.
I help make it what it is.
 
It will be friendly,
if I am.
 
Its pews will be filled,
if I help fill them.
 
It will do good work,
if I work.
 
It will make generous gifts to many causes,
if I am a generous giver.
 
It will bring other people into its worship
and fellowship,
if I invite and bring them.
 
It will be a Church of loyalty and love,
of fearlessness and faith,
and a Church with a noble spirit,
if I, who make it what it is,
am filled with the same things.
 
Therefore, with the help of God,
I shall dedicate myself to the task
of being all things that I want my Church to be.
 
Amen


Monday, November 3, 2014

A good soul

 
 
 
 
     Father W. David Schorr was a quiet, gentle man.  He was a good friend and family man.  He was a devoted priest, a prayerful man and a delightful person.  He was a seminary classmate from our theology days at the former Saint Francis Seminary in Loretto and a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  Father David Schorr went peacefully home to the Lord at the age of 67 this past Monday after a brief illness and we celebrated his Funeral Liturgy on Friday afternoon, October 31st at Resurrection Catholic Church in West Mifflin, PA, one of the two parishes that he served (the other was Saint Rita in Whitaker.

     Dave and I go back to our theology days at Saint Francis beginning in 1969.  He attended the Bishop's Latin School in Pittsburgh, a member of the first class, before going on to Saint Paul collegiate Seminary in Pittsburgh, attending Duquesne University, before moving to Saint Francis.  He served a number of parishes in Pittsburgh before offering to minister in Utah, where he traveled much and spread himself thin in ministering the gentle mercy of God to people in that part of the country.  He returned to Pittsburgh and took up a long pastorate in the North Side of the city before moving to West Mifflin.  Everywhere he served he touched hearts and lives and endeared himself to countless people, many of whom came to share with his family their love of the man and their pride in his accomplishments.

     During his time in Utah, he was given permission to adopt a son and give him a family and a place of stability.  That part of Dave's family still lives in the West and David loved his son and his son's family very much.   They, along with his biological family - two brothers and two sisters plus a multitude of Aunts and Uncles and cousins and their children, also found David to be that gentle presence.  Two of his Aunts are parishioners of mine.

     I was wondering what to says about Dave, and was a little concerned.  I have used the word often here today, but David was gentle, caring, generally calm and unexcitible, hard working and quiet, prayerful and a calming presence for others.  But then I listened to Father John Sweeney at the Vesper Service the eve before the funeral and Father Lou Valone at the funeral itself, both classmates and Pittsburgh priests, speak of David in ways that prompted me to simple say a quiet "yes" and "amen" to my reflections.  They knew him better than I did, but my memories are spot on.  He was not flashy or outstanding in a crowd, but he was a good soul and a good priest.  His laughter was not loud but he appreciated and shared in humor that would find its way to his lips in a smile or a gentle laugh.  His love of people and his care for them was beyond reproach.

     A few of us got together following the funeral, and we shared thoughts and memories.  There was only one negative thing that was expressed - and that was that David was too modest and too truly humble to accept and acknowledge the good that he did.  Why was that negative?  Only in this way ... that what he did could have had a greater impact by way of example upon more people, other than just those immediately involved.
But then, that was David ... humble ... and a good soul.

     May his soul and the souls of all of the Faithful Departed, rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The number twenty-eight

     Twenty-eight years ago today, on the twenty-eighth day of October in 1986, the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, I arrived at my assignment in Masontown at the then All Saints Church.   It was my second pastorate.  All Saints had a school then, and the principal, Sister Mildred Minosky, wanted to make the transition memorable, especially for the students.  My predecessor was Father Andrew Charnoki, who had served as pastor for over twenty years, so transitions were a novelty.  Sister Mildred had called me to find out what time I would be leaving my assignment in Connellsville, and she inquired as to the time to would take to arrive in Masontown.  I gave her the specifics, and when the time came I headed to the new place.  Upon arrival, I found all of the school kids outside waiting ... but I was approached by one of the teachers, Ed Rockwell, whom I had know from grade school, and told to pull over to the side of the street out of sight and wait.

     Sister Mildred, who has gone to her heavenly reward, had planned on having the kids outside to say good-bye to Father Charnoki and then, as he drove off, to welcome me to All Saints.  But as the old saying goes, "the best laid plans ..."   Father Charnoki decided to have another cup of coffee with a friend of his before leaving, and the schedule got delayed.

     Eventually he came out, spoke to the kids and gave them a blessing, got in the car and drove off.  Then it was my turn.  I was given the cue and I drove into the driveway and got out of the car, was greeted by the kids, made the rounds saying hello to the classes, and gave them a blessing.  The contrast, although unintentional, was noticeble.  Father Charnoki was much older in age and attitude than me ... he was dressed  in his usual formal priestly garb ... he had a nice formal car ... and he was the only priest the kids ever knew.  I was much younger and had a beard ... I was wearing a windbreaker rather than suitcoat ... my vanity license plate on my Chevy Citation read FR LEN ... and I was the new kid on the block.  I related to the kids from the start, and their welcome set the stage for five wonderful years at All Saints.  Sister's planning was a little challenged, but went off with only the one minor glitch.  She always reminded me that it was on the feast of Saint Jude (patron of hopeless cases) that I arrived, and wondered who was the hopeless case.

     Twenty-eight years later and Father Charnoki and Sister Mildred are both gone ... the wonderful school is now closed ... and All Saints Church is now a part of the new Saint Francis of Assisi Parish (with the church as one of two worship sites).   And I am now the old timer.  Times change ... things change ... people change.  And yet God and his love for us ever increases.  They are blessed with a challenging new identity and with a really great young pastor in Father Bill Berkey.   I remember with fondness those days but I watch with hope the future before us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     Just after posting yesterday I received word of the death of my seminary classmate from the Pittsburgh Diocese, Father David Schorr.  Dave was pastor of Resurrection Parish in West Mifflin and, like me, has been a priest for forty one years.  His funeral will be on Friday.  Please remember him and his family and parish family in your special prayers.  More on Dave later.
Losing two classmates your own age in three days is challenging.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Remembering

     In my last post I had asked for your prayers for two of my classmates - one from my theological seminary days and one from our high school seminary program.  I now ask you to amend your prayers for my classmate Dennis Sabo of Florida from prayers for healing and a peaceful death to prayers of rejoicing in eternal life.  Denny passed away after a lingering illness on Saturday, October 25th.   Your continued prayers for Father David Schorr, a priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese, are deeply appreciated as he struggles with health.

     Denny's death, like the others from our class, remind me of our age and of the fragility of life.  It calls to mind memories, and regrets, and emotions that now surface.  I would like to share a few memories regarding Denny and our days at Saint Vincent Prep School in Latrobe and our residence hall of Saint Joseph Hall in Greensburg.

 
 

     Our days at the Prep lasted from the Fall of 1961 through graduation in the Spring of 1965 (50 years this coming June).  We were the first class of all seminarian prepsters, twenty-one of us studying for the diocese and the others studying for the Benedictine Order.  There were thirty-three of us that graduated in '65.  Denny was from the town of United, PA.  He was the outstanding student in our class - sharp, personable, smart and athletic.  Needless to say I was slightly jealous (but I have confessed that already).  It seemed that everything came to him easily - his studies came easy, his sports ability was all encompassing, and his popularity was no match for this insecure prepster.  I must give him my thanks, though, for an important accomplishment in my life.  One year in our football intramurals, I was assigned to Denny's team, and through that experience I received my one and only sports trophy (a small football trophy not awarded for ability but rather for ties to the team).

     We did not keep in touch over the years until I read in the paper of the death of one of his parents - and I was able to concelebrate the funeral Mass at Forty Martyrs in Trauger.  Since then, Denny has been to a few of our all school Prep reunions and we have renewed our ties.  Our reconnection was warm and friendly, comfortably sharing the gifts that God had given us.  One of Denny's precious gifts is his wife and family, his work and his golfing, and his enjoyment of their home in Florida.  A number of the class have emailed me, with a few of their fond memories of Denny and of the struggles of High School seminary days.

     May Denny be embraced by the gentle and tender love and mercy of God, and may his family find comfort and peace.

[ ps  If you are wondering about the blue and gold colors of this post ... those were the Prep colors of high school days at Saint Vincent ]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prayers sought

     There is a saying that goes something like this - "If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all."  Obviously that refers to saying good or nice things about another, or at least resist being negative.  I have found it difficult at times this summer to post regularly, but that has nothing to do with not having something nice to say, but rather, I hope, because the "ordinary" has become more prevalent in my life, and I like to "accentuate the positive", which is one of my goals.

     And yet I get very frustrated when the day ends and another post is not found on these pages.  So let me give it a try.

     Our annual Priests' Convocation was held from Noon on Monday through Noon on Wednesday.  It takes place at a nice Conference Center in the diocese and is attended by the active priests of the diocese (by mandate).  It is a good time to gather with the brothers.  After a multitude of years doing this annually, sometimes the topics, the presenters and the expectations seem a little contrived, despite the efforts of those in charge (I at one time was on a committee "in charge" of these gatherings - and it is difficult to please everyone).  This year one of our Deacons, Bill Hisker, who is a professor and Chair at Saint Vincent College of the Business School, gave a good presentation on developing leadership and mentoring skills in our lives.  Bill, who is a high school classmate of mine, did a good job.  Another afternoon session dealt primarily with our Code of Pastoral Conduct policy in the diocese with an update on our Protecting God's Children efforts, and explaining potential revisions that may develop based on recent court settlements and legal developments in other areas of the country.  The rest was pretty standard, nothing earth shattering or exciting.  But the fellowship, our liturgy for our deceased priests, and a number of excellent meals made the time worth it.

     Since returning home on Wednesday, I found out that a good friend from my Charismatic Renewal days who was a member of Immaculate Conception parish in Connellsville died.  Her name is Dorothy Miller.  Dorothy has been involved in the Renewal since about 1970 as a leader, a musician, a friend and spiritual companion for many.  Her life was filled with challenges that she met and overcame.  She was always an inspiration, and will be missed by her many friends as well as her family.  May she rest in peace.

     One of our parishioners, the husband and father of two very active parishioners, died yesterday afternoon.  His name was Bill Rickard, and his story is tragic and courageous at the same time.  A while ago he was in an accident where he was struck by a car while at work.  He was left bedridden and unable to care for himself.  His death yesterday came as those who love him were working at getting equipment that would allow him to get out more.  His 15 year old daughter found him.  Pray for Bill and his family, especially Sarah, his daughter.

     I also received word that a high school classmate of mine from Florida, who has been battling a serious illness, is now in a residential hospice and, according to his sister, weakening daily.  His name is Denny ... pray for him and his family.

    And lastly for now, one of my seminary classmate, a priest of the Pittsburgh Diocese, Father Dave Schorr, was taken to the hospital this morning.  Dave has been dealing with cancer since July, and was ill enough that he was put in ICU and placed on a vent.  Obviously I would entrust him to your care as well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Give thanks

From Chestnut Ridge Conference Center in Blairsville, PA while on Convocation. Yesterday I shared these thoughts. Saint Jude's hospital over the years has a great fund raising ads on TV that has a number of well known persons telling the story of Saint Jude's and the wonderful work that they accomplish. At the end of the piece each person looks into the camera and says very simply - give thanks! Those two words are a clear reminder to us of our call and our purpose in life. From the very first moment of our encounter with God we are called to give him thanks for all that he has done for us. Our scriptures this past weekend pointed this out - first with the word to Cyrus, the king of Persia whom God had chosen for a specific purpose, that he should give thanks to this unknown God for everything that he had. God assured him that for the sake of Jacob, for the sake of Israel,the Lord empowered him to provide for his people to return home from exile and rebuild a temple in order to give the Lord his due and to sing his praises. This Cyrus and the Persians did. Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy remind the Thessalonians that they give thanks every day for that local church. Why? Because this church give thanks with their lives lived well. And in the gospel we are told to give to God the things that belong to God - namely our gratitude. In other words, to give thanks. Our very gathering for worship is called Eucharist, to give thanks. This is what we do best on the day dedicated to the Lord. Let us GIVE THANKS at every moment of every day our lives.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A memory awakened

     Yesterday was the Memorial of Pope Saint Callistus I who died a martyr's death in around 222.  Callistus was raised a slave and endured hard labor before being chosen a deacon and given charge to the first Christian cemetery on the Appian way outside of the city of Rome.  He was a natural leader with great managerial skills, and developed this first cemetery specifically for the followers of Christ.  He was chosen as Bishop of Rome, and had many critics because of his position of mercy and forgiveness for the repentant sinner, even those who repented of leaving the Church.  Sounds a little like the themes of Pope Francis in our day.

     I mention this because it brings to mind my first trip to Rome on Pentecost weekend in the Holy Year of 1975 for the first International Conference for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  There were a number of us from the Pittsburgh area that joined nearly 10,000 people in Rome for the occasion.  Our conference sessions were held on the grounds of the Catacombs of Saint Callistus, in huge tents pitched on the grounds and with great speakers within the renewal like Ralph Martin, Father Mike Scanlon and Cardinal Suenens.  It was a glorious time filled with exuberance and hope.  I looked for some of my old pictures, but my camera and my photographic abilities left much to be desired.  Sorry.

     The crowning point of the gathering was attending the Pentecost Mass of Pope Paul VI (who is to be beatified this Sunday), and then to concelebrate a Mass at the papal altar presided over by Cardinal Suenens with about 400 priests (he was given the honor of using the pontifical altar).  Following that Mass, we were greeted by Pope Paul VI, who spoke to all of us gathered there that day - words of encouragement and love.  I am glad to see that he is being beatified, for I feel that he did extraordinary things during his reign - mostly forgotten because of his being overshadowed by Pope John Paul II.

     So yesterday, when we remembered Callistus, I remembered the place that he had prepared for the repose of the souls of the saints of God and that I had the good fortune to visit that holy ground.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dressed for the occasion

     Here are a few of the thoughts that I shared with our people over the weekend.

     There is a song that we sing at liturgy that says: "Come to the feast of heaven and earth, come to the table of plenty; God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty."  The message of hope proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah of a banquet, a feast provided by the Lord for all on his holy mountain, is the primary message of God's love and the call that we have received to COME TO THE FEAST of heaven and earth.

     That feast is celebrated in our moment of encounter with the living God when we respond to his invitation and live our lives rooted in him.  It is most and best fleshed out in our worship of the Lord in the Sunday Eucharist.  This is, after all, the source and summit of our life in Christ.  It is the wedding feast of the Lamb that the Father invites us to, and we need to ask if our response is an unqualified YES!  And we also need to ask ourselves if we are "dressed for the occasion"?  That was the sermon title at one of local Lutheran churches in Irwin this weekend.  I spoke of two ways of asking that question of ourselves.

     Do we wear that wedding garment provided by the Lord of his grace and love, of our hunger and of his inspiration?  What is our attitude and the spiritual desire of our hearts regarding our attendance at this feast?  Questions to ask: Is my attendance rooted in the threat of mortal sin and hell if I miss, or the desire to enter into the mystery of God?  Is the Mass that I attend based on what I can fit into my schedule, or is my schedule dictated by the Mass that best allows me to celebrate with my spiritual and human family?  Do I arrive on time (or early to pray and prepare) or do I gage my arrival to get in early enough to "make it count" ... and do I stay until the conclusion or cut out to get to the next thing or avoid traffic?  Do I fully and actively participate in the liturgy, or do I zone out or nap or read the bulletin or text or play games on my I phone?  Do I prepare myself spiritually in order to receive Holy Communion?  Do I want to be there?  How we answer those questions says a great deal about whether we are "dressed for the occasion".

     I also spoke of the other way of dressing for the occasion ... the complaint that I hear so often from people - people dress too casually for church.  The questions here have to do with showing proper respect for where I am and who I have come to receive.  Many businesses have signs: "No shirt ... no shoes ... no service."
That is the bare minimum.  Thank God no one has come without shirt or shoes, but we are often very everyday in our attire.  I for one like informality, but the man in the gospel story was asked to show respect by donning the provided wedding garment.  Many of our older parishioners complain about the younger people, but really the number of older people attending in shorts or jeans or tennis shoes or T shirts to me is surprising.  I mention the dress thing on occasion because people ask me to, but I am just glad that people have come to worship.  Clothes don't make the person, but I would not think of going to The Lamont restaurant on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh (a great, classy restaurant with great food and a view of the city that is outstanding) wearing jeans or shorts or a T shirt.  Why would I easily do so in church.

    The FEAST has been prepared.  The invitations and CALL has gone out.  The wedding garment of God's GRACE has been provided.  It is up to us to COME TO THE TABLE OF PLENTY.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The week

   The past week went by very quickly.  Here is a short rundown of my week, for what it is worth.

    On each of the past two Fridays I met with a candidate in our Permanent Diaconate program for spiritual direction.  I am honored to serve in that capacity for three of our men.  I am aways impressed with their spirituality and their commitment to Church as well as their patience with the program which has gone on now for more years than it took me to become a priest.  They got caught up in a developing program of formation, and their patience is noteworthy.  Another man in the program, Jeff Cieslewicz, is a parishioner here at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and we are very blessed.

     Last Saturday, the feast of Saint Francis, saw our annual Blessing of Pets.  This year, for the first time in the last four or five, it was cool (cold) and overcast and rainy with a small shower of ice pellets right before blessing time.  So we were indoors, and our numbers were down a bit, but we had a great time.  There were nearly twenty dogs and three cats with each receiving a carefully sprinkled blessing with holy water as well as a medal and holy card of Saint Francis, as well as species appropriate treat bags.  I have included a few of the friends of our parishioners.

 


 

 
     Monday saw the seasonal decoration of the sanctuary area of the church by two of our decorators and a trip to the eye doctor for a followup on a procedure on my retina ... with good news rather than another procedure.  Tuesday I shared the Prayers of the Church for the dead with a family who brought their husband and dad from Florida to be buried at a local cemetery.  I was asked by a local funeral director to lead the service at the cemetery, and I was honored.  The family expressed their gratitude.  The rest of the week involved the usual appointments, check signings, correspondence and bulletin items and inserts.  A number of months ago I began a one page flyer monthly in the bulletin entitled "Curious Catholic Corner" on a subject of interest in Catholic circles.  This month I wrote on the Precepts of the Church, something we don't hear much of these days.  An intergenerational workshop for parents and candidates for the Sacrament of Reconciliation coming up in December was held this morning, then regularly scheduled confessions and Mass this afternoon at 4:00 pm then dinner.
 
     Not an overly exciting or productive week, but one of blessing in doing God's work.  God is good indeed.
 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spread the Word

     Whenever something big happens or good news is passed on, we are often asked to "Spread the word".   It is expected that we not keep good or important things to ourselves but rather get the word out.  Among priests, when assignment time comes, the phone lines become very busy.  In our Diocese of Greensburg, with our bishop having submitted his letter of resignation this past March, we wait in great anticipation for the word of his successor to be announced and look forward to spreading that word to all those who "wait in hope"..

     On the 30th of September the Church honors Saint Jerome, a priest and monk who lived long ago.  He is honored for his teaching and influence but most especially because he felt in his heart the need to spread the word.  The Word that he most desired to share was "the" WORD of God as found in the Scriptures, because, as the Collect of his mass says, he had "a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture".  Jerome took on the monumental task of translating the entire bible from the languages of the learned to the common tongue, the language of the people - Latin.  His great achievement was to make the Word of God available to every person who could read or hear the Word spoken.  He did so in order that the people of God could be nourished by the Word of God and find in it the fount of life.  His was a great gift to the Church.

     When I was growing up there were mixed signals given to us about the Scriptures.  We were taught Bible stories in grade school, families were encouraged to have a family Bible in their home, recording momentous occasions on its pages even if we did not read from it often, Pius XII encouraged Catholic Biblical Scholarship and better translations of the Scriptures (from the original languages rather than from Saint Jerome's Vulgate version), and in the Liturgy following Vatican II, a greater prominence was placed upon the Liturgy of the Word.  We were encouraged to "pick up the book" and read, to share, to study and to spread the word, and to pray the Scriptures.  It was a wonderful transformation that has blessed the world.  In my theological studies some of our best professors were our Biblical profs for which I am eternally grateful.

     In your home, do NOT let the Bible be an ornament for the coffee table or have a place (even a prominent one) on the bookshelf, but let it be a part of your everyday experience.  Read, pray, and study the Scriptures ... and spread the Word.

Monday, September 29, 2014

RECOGNITION

    In 2011, in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Greensburg, Bishop Lawrence Brandt, our Diocesan Bishop instituted a celebration of recognition on a Diocesan level for two honors - the Conferral of the Bishop's Medal of Honor as well as the Conferral of Diplomas for the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  This year's celebration took place within the context of a Prayer Service held on September 21st at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.  Twenty-eight individuals were honored that day, and three of them were from our parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in North Huntingdon.  I attended and shared in the joy and blessing of the recipients and their families.

     The Bishop's Medal of Honor recipient from our parish was Mrs. Joan Yuhas.  Joan is a lovely woman, a good wife and mother, a dedicated parishioner and friend.  Joan accompanies our Resurrection Choir on the organ and keyboard and fills in a times for our regular liturgies.  Joan played at Immaculate Conception when I was there over forty years ago.  She also has played at another local church.  She is involved in the parish and actively involved in our Christian Mothers Confraternity in many capacities.  And above all, she was humbled by this recognition and voiced her unworthiness - a good sign of just the opposite.

Picture by ACCENT photographer Mary Seamans
courtesy of the Diocese of Greensburg website
 
 
     Invested into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from our parish were Mr. and Mrs. Keith and Wendy Staso, as a Knight and Lady of the Order.  They are longtime members of the parish and have been of great service to the Church locally and in so many other ways over the years.  At the ceremony, Keith spoke on behalf of the honorees in thanking Bishop Brandt.
 



Pictures courtesy of the Greensburg Diocesan website


 
     It was a lovely day, a wonderful celebration, deserving honors, and as I mentioned to our parish family this Sunday, not just an honor for these 28 recipients, but a blessing for the whole church from whom these people find inspiration.  Congratulations!