Saturday, November 29, 2014


     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


     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.


    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.

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.