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.