August 4th is the feast of Saint John Marie Vianney, commonly called the Cure of Ars. He is known as the patron of parish priests. His story is one of love and commitment, untiring service and fierce battles overcome by faith. He was sent to the village of Ars in France as pastor because it was a spiritually dead town where he could do "no harm". He was ordained out of pity for his deep faith and genuine desire to serve the Lord. His studies were poor, his qualifications hardly noteworthy, and he was not seen as fit to become a priest. But thank God someone had "pity" on him and gave him the grace of Orders, for through his love of God and the flock, through his great gift of piety and ministry in the confessional, he woke Ars up to the love of God and brought it to a place of pilgrimage and spiritual conversion. Eighteen hours a day in the confessional was normal, and he had the gift of reading the hearts of those who came to him. I was so moved by his story that in high school I joined the local Secular Franciscans at the former Saint Anthony Friary in Uniontown and took the name "Jean Marie" in his honor. As a parish priest for over forty one years I hold this man of God in my list of inspirations.
On that feast of the parish priest of Ars in France, our Diocese laid to rest one of our retired men who was the oldest priest of the Diocese - Father Michael Bucci - who was 95. Father Bucci had been retired for the past twenty years. A late vocation to the priesthood, after ordination he only served in a few parishes with a stint in our minor seminary administration. He served at Saint Rita of Casia parish in Connellsville as an assistant before returning as pastor years later. It was from there that he retired, while continuing to live in the City of Connellsville until recent days. Father Mike was my neighbor for the two and a half years that I served at Saint John the Evangelist. Mike was not a shy and retiring type, but always spoke his mind. He was a good priest, with a dedicated ministry to the sick,especially in his hospital ministry. Two funny stories of Mike - there were three parishes within a five block area of West Connellsville. We would often have people in need come to the door for help. Mike was known to send them down the street to us with the tale that "the parishes took turns, and it was our turn this week". The other story that always brought a smile to my face involved the generous spirit of the great italiam cooks at Saint Rita's. I would support their events (festivals, dinners, etc) and they would always send me home with a "care package" of food. Mike would often rant about why they were feeding the young Slovak priest. Of course, they took great care of him, but he loved to "bark" - yet he had the kindest heart and was a very giving person. May he rest in peace.
Also in recent days we lost two others who served well in our Diocese: Sister Patricia Best of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill was buried yesterday at the Hill. She taught the Communion classes at Saint John the Baptist school and parish in Scottdale when I was there as an Associate ... and Brother Nathan Cochrane of Saint Vincent Archabbey, who died suddenly at the age of fifty-seven and was buried last Saturday. Brother Nathan enter Saint Vincent in 1982, and presently served as the director of the Art Gallery at the Archabbey and College. Our prayers go out to the Benedictine Community as well as the Sisters of Charity.