This Friday afternoon Father Chet Raimer (one of our retired priests) and I visited a seminary classmate from the Pittsburgh Diocese at his parish in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. His name is Father Dennis Colamarino, and he has served as the pastor in Duquesne for thirty one of his forty one years of priesthood, an outstanding accomplishment in these days of frequent moves. Every time his term was up they gave him another parish to minister to, and presently he administers three parishes in the town. Duquesne was once a thriving, proud, and prosperous mill town but now, without the mills, it faces challenges in all areas of life. It is a shadow of its former self, and yet those who remain still take pride.
We went to visit Dennis who is dealing with a form of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease and within the past year has been presented with challenges, giving up driving this past Easter for safety reasons the most recent. He uses a walker and any good strong arm to lean on in order to get around. And yet his energy level, his work ethic, his love of ministry, his commitment to the people that he has served for so long is astounding. But that is Dennis. Dennis has never been one to understate things, or remain quietly in the background, or be perceived as retiring. Far from it. Dennis has always been, well, Dennis - the life of the party, the center of attention, outspoken, dynamic, "in your face" in the best sense, and the "energizer bunny". He could, in fact does, fit into the description in the title of this piece.
But who I find inspiring in this story are the people of the parishes and of the town. After thirty one years he has found himself immersed in the lives of these good people, and they love him. They hurt with him in this illness, they laugh with him in his humor, they cry with him in his moments of reflecting upon the future, they accept his "over-the-top-ness (a word?) as his just being Dennis, and they pray with him and for him with love in their hearts. They also have and continue to do much to keep him as their pastor, to assist him in countless ways, helping him to get around and function. They have ramped and modified steps and chairs and countless things to make it easier for him. These good people, parishioners and staff and friends, whose lives are intertwined with his, are to me truly inspiring. I thank God that Denny has them in his life ... I know that he is grateful as well. They are his daily family. They are inspiring.