Monday, March 30, 2015

Father Dennis Colamarino

     I have a seminary classmate that I have mentioned before on these pages named Father Dennis Colamarino.  He has served as a priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese for the past forty-two years, and for thirty-one of those years in the City of Duquesne at Christ, Light of the World parish.  He has also in recent years been dealing with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.  Dennis lost his battle with this debilitating disease on Saturday morning and accepted the gift of Eternal Life that Christ won for him long ago.  Please pray for Dennis and the people of his parish and family as they mourn their loss.  More stories on him later.

     Back in May of last year I posted about a visit with Dennis at his parish in a piece called "Inspiring".  I would like to share it with you here in tribute.

"Friday, May 23, 2014


     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 his 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. "

Our lunch gathering: Father Dennis is in the bright yellow shirt.
Another classmate, Father David Schorr (in the center of the back row) passed away before Christmas.

     I received the following comment from an anonymous person on March 28th:

Beautiful!  Fr. Dennis is a blessing to this world; he accepts all and is the spirit of Christ here on earth.  As he passes on to his new life, may God give us the strength and graces needed to emulate such acceptance to live what Jesus taught.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Being an instrument of reconciliation

     In addition to the regularly scheduled confessions, this week has seen our local priests gather for our regional Lenten Penance Services in our four parishes.  Hundreds of God's people have come to the Church to be reconciled, and the mercy of God and the healing of this Sacrament was manifest in countless lives in this corner of the Kingdom.  As Pope Francis is so often bringing to light, it is about the love and mercy of God, in fact, all about the love and mercy of God coming alive within the lives of sinners that makes Christ present in our hearts and the world.

     As I grow older I have come to appreciate this Sacrament even more, and the awesome experience of being an instrument of that love and mercy as a priest is truly humbling.  The trust that people of faith place upon us is moving.  And the peace that I personally experience is refreshing.   One of the gifts of being in an area for awhile is that people get to know you.  Many times in the parishes these last few days I have had people say to me that they are so glad that I was there, because they have come to feel good and comfortable in coming to me for confession.  Exhausting as these long evenings of Services are, I come away refreshed and feeling more priestly than ever.  I never take this ministry lightly.  It is a gift - to me, and I am grateful.

A year has passed

     Last year on this day I expressed my best wishes to our Diocesan Bishop, Lawrence E. Brandt, on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday.  I also shared what he had shared with us, that he had submitted his letter of resignation as is protocol at reaching the retirement age, and now was the time for praying and waiting for a new bishop.

     Well here we are, a year later, and I wish to express my best wishes on his seventy-sixth birthday ... and we are still living as people of hope, awaiting Pope Francis to provide us new leadership.  Many people have asked me what the delay is, and I assure them that I surely do not know.  It should be soon.  Maybe Rome is aware of the bishop's genetic markers and realizes that there is no hurry (the bishop's Mom is well over 100 and doing fine).  I do not want to appear overly anxious, but we (including, I believe, Bishop Brandt) are ready.  We await a new shepherd.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


     There seems to be a great many anniversary moments in this year of 2015, one of which is the 50th anniversary of the movie "The Sound of Music".  I just finished watching Diane Sawyer this evening interview Julie Andrews, the star of the movie, and visit many of the places in Austria where the film was shot and the story took place.  "The Sound of Music" is so much a part of the fabric of our time, and the music is so well known, that it has become iconic.  I enjoyed the program on ABC.

     I first saw the movie in 1965 or 1966 at an old and beautiful theater in Cincinnati, Ohio, when I was in college seminary at Saint Pius X in Erlanger, Kentucky.  I remember that the theater was ornate and a perfect setting for the movie.  I have watched it on TV many times, and I can pick up on the songs in a heartbeat.

     I also had the privilege of meeting the real Maria von Trapp years ago at a special event that the Charismatic Prayer groups of the Diocese of Greensburg sponsored at a local family amusement park in the area - Idlewild Park.  We had arranged to have Maria speak to those who gathered on that Sunday afternoon.  We advertised and had a huge crowd join us.  The highlight of the day was a Mass that I celebrated at the main pavilion at the park, followed by a brief few words from Maria about family and faith.  She was very gracious, and the gathering was a great and exciting celebration of God's love.  My life has been so blessed with moments like this, for which I am eternally grateful.


     Another anniversary that I read about recently is the death in March of 1945 of Anne Frank in one of the camps.  Soon after her death saw the publishing of her diary originally entitled "The Diary of a Young Girl" that I read long ago as a young boy.  It was later known as "The Diary of Anne Frank", and is the powerful telling of her story of struggle and courage, of hiding and fear at the time of the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  That diary that Anne Frank kept was written just over 70 years ago, and is inspiring, to say the least.  That, and other stories of courage that come to us from such a dark period in society's life, are important to keep before us so that we do not forget "man's inhumanity to man".

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


     At 11:35 am on March 11, 2011, I posted the following, and in doing so entered into the blogging world with "Journey Thoughts".


     As Lent begins, so does my entry into the world of blogging.  It has been my desire to share my thoughts through this medium for a while now.  Finally, on this first Friday of Lent, a good friend and fellow blogger, Michael Ripple, got me set up.  I am grateful.  He and his son Isaac are visiting.

     I hope to share my thoughts on a variety of experiences and issues that touch my life.  I have always referred to our sojourn as a follower of Christ as a journey, truly a journey of a lifetime.  The Good News that speaks of God's blessing is too important to be kept quiet.  I will endeavor to share my blessings with you.  I hope that you find my posts challenging and inspiring.

     Four years later as I sit at my desk and share this with you, I have shared 915 posts and have had 68,009 pageviews (times when the blog is viewed).  The experience itself is a blessing, and I will continue to attempt to share with you.  My postings have slowed a bit, but the blessings of the Lord have not.  Thank you to all who follow "Journey Thoughts" loyally and to those who check in on occasion.  My thanks to the web site of the Diocese of Greensburg for listing this blog.  And may the Lord continue to bless you.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cardinal Egan remembered

     I have just heard the news that Edward Cardinal Egan, the retired Archbishop of New York, died unexpectedly this afternoon at his residence in New York City.  He was just shy of his 83rd birthday.

    A few years ago Cardinal Egan was gracious enough to visit Greensburg and lead the priests in our September retreat.  The Cardinal was relaxed and friendly, a good preacher and story teller, and he showed a genuine interest in our priests and the challenges facing this small diocese.  I believe that he enjoyed the peacefulness of our retreat setting and I can assure you that we enjoyed his company and were blessed by his spirituality.

     "We pray, almighty and merciful God, that, as you made your servant Cardinal Egan an ambassador for Christ on earth, so you may raise him, purified by the Eucharist that he so faithfully celebrated, to be seated with Christ in heaven."

     May Edward Cardinal Egan rest in peace.   Amen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Saint Katharine Drexel

     Just outside of the City of Philadelphia is the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a Religious Community founded by Mother Katharine Drexel, whose purpose is to minister to and empower Native American and African American women and men.  I visited there once.  Katharine Drexel was a wealthy and worldly heiress from Philadelphia who in her travels saw the needs of this part of God's people.  She lived from 1858 to 1955.  As I remember the story, in a visit to Rome, she brought the needs of these peoples to the attention of the Holy Father and asked him to do something, wherein he responded that she should take up the task herself.  Inspired by the Spirit, she founded her Community and dedicated her fortune to establishing the first Catholic College for African Americans and starting 145 Catholic missions and twelve schools for Native Americans.

     I had the honor of being present in Rome at the ceremony where she was canonized by Saint Pope John Paul II.  It was my only canonization ceremony, and while long, was most joyous.  It is a memory that I treasure.

      Inspired by this woman of Faith, may we pray, as the Collect Prayer proper for her feast says:

" ...enable us to work for justice
among the poor and oppressed,
and keep us undivided in love
in the eucharistic community of your Church."

Another year of service

     It was eleven years ago today that saw our small cathedral filled with those who gathered to ordain and welcome Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg.  My memory is not what it once was, but I am confident that the weather was better than it is in Greensburg today.  I remember a joyful celebration and a beaming new bishop.  The smile is still on his face, and despite the many challenges to our local area and our local church, I believe that he still enjoys serving as our bishop.  But I am also sure that he awaits that word from Rome that his resignation/retirement, submitted almost a year ago on his seventy-fifth birthday, has been accepted and a new shepherd has been named for Greensburg.  He, and we, await in hope.

     Happy Anniversary, Bishop Brandt!