Friday, June 26, 2015

Another challenge to our values

     A long time ago I learned in sociology class that the basic unit of society was the family, and that the family consisted in the committed union of one man and one woman in marriage, rooted in their love and respect for each other, their mutual satisfaction and happiness, and in the love for their family (children) that became an integral component of their marriage, the procreation of children for the growth and development of society.  This concept was an outgrowth of biblical teaching and understanding, but found its foundation in natural law and has been understood by most civilized societies from the earliest of times.  It definitely is foundational in our Judeo-Christian belief system which has been the hallmark of Western society.   But the erosion of this teaching in these last fifty plus years is overwhelming.

     The basic unit of society today is the individual, and the happiness of the individual is paramount at whatever the cost, so that family life and marriage, the essential element of openness to children for the betterment of society, commitment and fidelity, the good of the larger whole have given way to the rights of the individual over all things.  The rich heritage of history, even with its moments of weakness and failure, have given way to the idea that "the good is what makes me happy and satisfies my needs".

     Today's Supreme Court decision to redefine the essential definition of marriage as the law of the land, is another step toward an undermining of the foundational elements of our society.  We have seen many such moves over the years as  practices develop and morality is taken away from God given law and placed within the framework of "what makes me happy".  We have seen laws, local and state and national and international describe our newfound freedom as our right to do whatever we want.  We have divorced morality from the God given morals that society has held dear.  We have replaced God's law with legislative and court decisions that will serve the present moment but are rooted on an unsure foundation.  And to disagree with this tampering with a higher law and holding to a God given moral compass makes you a bigot.

    I am surprised at how deeply saddened I am by today's decision to redefine marriage, even though it was no surprise.  It is the loss of another intrinsic element of my life as a citizen of this great nation that I mourn.  We have lost so many, and the end is not within sight.  May God have mercy on His people and this nation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A busy weekend - the finale

     This has been a long process in sharing a few days from the weekend before last, and I apologize that it has taken so long.  But here it is, finally the end of the busy weekend of June 13 & 14.

     On that Sunday following our diocesan Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate, I took the morning off from the parish and joined one of our new deacons and a very good friend - Deacon Bill Newhouse and his wife Mary Ann and their family - in his Mass of Thanksgiving at the 9:00 am Mass at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg.  I have known Bill and Mary Ann for nearly twenty-five years, and was honored to be invited to vest him at the ordination ceremony.  Father Lawrence Manchas, his pastor and I concelebrated the Mass in which the new deacon assisted and preached, assisted by Deacon Bill Hisker, also originally from the parish.  The liturgy was beautiful and the people very supportive of Bill, whose family has always been very involved in the parish life.


     Following the Mass, Deacon Bill celebrated his first baptism, that of his granddaughter.  Done well, with no mistakes, and he did not seem nervous.  Later family and friends gathered for food and fellowship.  It was good to see many old friends and to celebrate Bill's diaconate, his wife Mary Ann's birthday (that very day), and the baby's baptism.

     Following the festivities, I went home and crashed.  And I have not recuperated as yet, with the normal parish activities, two funerals last week (three this week) and Priesthood Ordinations this past Saturday.  But I'm getting there.  God is good, and his love is everlasting

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A busy weekend - Part IV - the main event

     It has been a week already, but continuing the events of last weekend for me, the main event (following Diaconate Ordinations in the morning) was the Awards Dinner for the Saint Vincent Preparatory School Reunion 2015 held at the Fred M. Rogers Center on campus.  The dinner began with refreshments at 6:00 pm followed by the program and the dinner.  A welcome and invocation was given prior to the awarding of the Alumnus of Distinction Awards by Brother Norman Hipps, President of the College.  The awardees were Mr. Robert Citrone, P'59,C'63 ... Father Mario Fulgenzi, O.S.B., P'59,C'64,S'68 ... Dr. Edward Kelly, P'59 ... Mr. George Puskar, P'63 ... and yours truly, Father Leonard Stoviak, P'65.  This award has been given out since the 1982 reunion, and this was the 27th group to receive this award and I was the 70th recipient.  I was truly honored by this award and overwhelmed by the outstanding accomplishments of my fellow awardees.  Brother Norman introduced each of us and said some very kind words about me, even  highlighting and encouraging those attending to check out this blog "Journey Thoughts".  He commented that Father Bryant Halloran, our English professor, would have been very proud of this accomplishment.  The award is very beautiful, and once I figure out how to take a picture without my reflection in it, I'll post that image.

     The Jubilee classes of 50th (ours), 55th, 60th, 65th, 70th and 75th years were recognized and given a lapel pin.

     A delicious dinner followed before we moved into the Prep Hall of Famers Awards presentation to eight alumni: Dr. Robert Buck,P'63 ... Mr. Peter Guerrera III,P'64,C'68 ... Mr. John Harvan, Jr.,P'59,C'66 ... Mr. Tom Jenkins (a classmate),P'65,C'69 ... Mr. Norm Mihn (another classmate),P'65,C'69 ...Father Warren Murrman, O.S.B.,P'56,C'61,S'65 ... Mr. Robert Pezzoli,P'66,C'70 ... and Mr. Thomas Wagner,P'66.   Finally a Distinguished Service Award was presented to another classmate, Mr. Matthew Kristofik,P'65,C'75.

     Archabbot Douglas Nowicki gave some remarks and concluded with Benediction.  It was a wonderful gathering and a very special time for me.

     I want to express my deep gratitude for this honor and distinction, and the the generous hospitality shown to all of the Prep alumni and their guests.  Fifty years is a long time, but how quickly our memories and recollections allowed us to renew friendships.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What a weekend - III

     Last weekend continued with the glorious Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Greensburg of four men by our Diocesan Administrator, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt.  The ordination took place at 10:00 am at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.  These four men have been involved in an ongoing developing program that has seen their preparation span a time frame longer than most priesthood ordinations, and their persistence and patience, rooted in their faith and their call to service, is a testimony to the grace of God's love. 

     The four men ordained deacons are Stephen E. Black from Holy Family parish in Seward, Jeffrey Cieslewicz, my second cousin and a parishioner at our parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in North Huntingdon, William M. Newhouse of Saint Paul parish in Greensburg whom I have known for nearly twenty-five years, and Michael J. Orange of Saint Vincent Basilica parish in Latrobe.  All of these men received their degrees and training at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.


     The Cathedral was filled with excited people ready to lend their support and prayers to these men and their families as they receive this great Sacrament of Holy Orders.  As we usually do, the liturgy was uplifting and prayerful, the music outstanding, and a number of our parishioners who had never attended an ordination were deeply impressed.

     I took time off of the Reunion weekend to attend the Ordination for three reasons: a) as a priest of the diocese I wanted to lend my support and give my affirmation to these men; b) Jeff being a relative and a parishioner brings this ordination close to my heart, and c) Bill Newhouse had asked me to help vest him in stole and dalmatic during the ceremony, for which I am truly honored.  It brought great joy to my heart to witness this sharing of sacramental grace upon the Church of Greensburg.

Helping vest Deacon Bill Newhouse

Greeting parishioner and cousin Deacon Jeff Cieslewicz

     Following Ordination I attended the reception that Jeff held back at the parish, before concelebrating our 4:00 pm Liturgy with Jeff's brother, Father Vince Cieslewicz of the Erie Diocese and Msgr Paul Fitzmaurice who joined us for Mass.  Jeff served as deacon and preached a great homily.  Our music ministry had prepared special music that was as always uplifting and vibrant, and our people responded with active participation and appreciation for Jeff's ministry.  The parish hosted a reception for Jeff in our parish hall following Mass.  We put Jeff to work by having him serve as deacon and preach both morning Masses, with the Seton Men's Group, of which Jeff is a member, providing coffee and donuts following each morning Mass.  It was a great day for Jeff, his ordination classmates, this Diocese and me and our parish family.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What a weekend - part II

     On Friday of last week, following morning Mass and a funeral liturgy in the parish, I began my 50th High School Class Reunion at Saint Vincent College.  As I mentioned in the last post, I attended the Saint Vincent Preparatory School of Saint Vincent College from 1961 through 1965. The Prep was part of the original educational ministry of Father Boniface Wimmer, the founder of Saint Vincent.  He had established a seminary program, a classical preparatory level program and a college academic program, all beginning from around 1847.  The Prep closed its doors in 1974.  The class of 1965 was the 119th graduating class of this all boys school, and the first class of students that were preparing for the seminary.  Every other year, the Prep Reunion, an all school and classes event, is held on campus, and the significant years are celebrated.

     The Reunion began on Friday evening with a gathering at the science center facility following registration.  After mingling and interaction, there was a welcome and presentation by Archabbot Douglas Nowicki and Brother Norman Hipps, the President of the College.  This was followed by drinks and a traditional German buffet (the Benedictine Sisters that formerly cooked for the community were from Germany, and this buffet paid tribute to their culinary ministry to those of us who remember).  Even though I am a picky eater, I really enjoyed the spread.  Some of us sat around and talked, but many took advantage of a presentation at the science center planetarium, before bringing the festivities to a close for this first day.


     At our table for dinner we had Mr. Chuck Manoli and his wife.  Chuck was a professor of ours at the Prep and was celebrating his 70th anniversary as a Prep Graduate (class of '45).  Also at table was Mr. Leo West (Class of '46) who was a delight to talk with.  Leo is on my right in the above picture (in the tan coat), along with Dan Rafferty (with the tie) and my classmates Chuck Peters, Marty Mullen and Rich Stillwagon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What a weekend!

     In the first of a series of posts, I will attempt to share some reflections of a remarkably busy weekend in my life.  It involved two major events - my 50th High School Reunion celebration as well as the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of four men for the Diocese of Greensburg.

     First, the reunion celebration for the class of 1965 of Saint Vincent Preparatory School in Latrobe, hosted by Saint Vincent College and Archabbey, began last Thursday evening with an informal gathering of eleven of the class of 1965 for dinner and an evening of remembering and catching up.  We gathered at a local restaurant at the airport in Latrobe and shared a great meal and great friendships.  We were joined by the wives of most of the guys, and spent a great deal of time catching up and reintroducing ourselves to each other's spouses.  While dining, we were visited by Archabbot Douglas Nowicki and Brother Norman Hipps, the president of the college as well as Father Paul Taylor, all of whom were meeting with another group.


     I've included a picture of the table as well as one of the group which included Bob Baluh, Bill Hisker, Tom Jenkins, Matt Kristofik, Norm Mihm, Marty Mullen, Chuck Peters, Bill Pierret, Rich Stillwagon, Mike Vudragovich and myself.  These are great guys, and on Friday and Saturday we were joined by a number of other classmates.

    More on the reunion the next post.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A goodbye filled with gratitude

     This past Sunday afternoon I had the good fortune of attending a farewell party held by the Filipino Community of the Greensburg Diocese (there is such a group and they are lovely folks) for two of our Filipino brothers who are returning home.  To offset our shortage of clergy in the diocese, Bishop Brandt travelled to dioceses in the Philippines to seek out "missionaries" to our diocese.  A number of diocese have responded with the loan of their priests for a term of five years.  We presently have eleven men who serve in that capacity.

     The first two, the pioneer duo, are Fathers Jaime Sullan Ozoa and Joseph D. Armamento, and their five year stint is concluding as they prepare to return home to their families and their diocesan churches.  The party was for Fathers Jaime and Joe, and it was wonderful.  Friends from the Filipino Community as well as from the parishes were these men served were invited for good ethnic food, fellowship and entertainment (two different dances and a medley of regional Filipino songs), and an opportunity to thank these good priests and to wish them well.  It was an enjoyable afternoon.

     Both of these men, as well as the others who have joined them on this service of mission away from home, are dedicated priests who bring their faith and talents to ministry.  Father Jaime has a disposition and smile that makes you smile, and Father Joe is the calmest and coolest guy around.  Joe is ready to return home, but Jaime announced that his return will be delayed for awhile.  He picked up his mom in New York on Saturday for a visit to the U.S. and a vacation.  This is her first time in this country and her first trip out of the Philippines.  They will return home together.

     I am grateful for the friendship of these two men and join with our diocesan church in extending gratitude for their priesthood and ministry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Dean's Visit

     Last evening we at the parish welcomed Monsignor James Gaston, pastor of Mother of Sorrows Church in Murrysville and the bishop's representative (the Dean) to our area for a pastoral visit.  It is a part of his responsibility to meet with the pastor or priests of each parish, along with the Pastoral and Finance Councils (and we included our staff in the gathering.)  It was a pleasant and productive evening of discussion and evaluation.

     Msgr. Gaston and I go way back to when we served as associate pastors in our first assignment in Irwin.  I repeatedly tell him that he taught me all that I know.  I took him to dinner where he asked about my health and well being, my thoughts in this assignment and my needs, and we discussed my retirement when it comes in a few years as well as our newly appointed bishop and his upcoming ordination.  We also discussed the parish here and the working together of the three Catholic Churches in the Norwin Catholic Community.

     We came to the parish center and he met with the Councils and Staff in a productive and thought provoking discussion of our Mission Statement and of our strengths and weakness, as well as some visioning for the future.   I am grateful to those in attendance for their presence and openness, and their commitment to the larger Church and to the parish.  Jim emailed me this morning to thank me/us for a very good evening and meeting.  These meetings do not happen often, but it truly was a good evening, and I thank Jim for his leadership.