Tuesday, September 22, 2015

He has arrived

     We live in a vast nation that prides itself in its diversity despite generations of hostility and fear and prejudice for what is different.   That is why the welcome and the coverage of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States is so unusual and comprehensive and gratifying.   Watching his arrival in Washington this afternoon and the fact that most stations devoted enormous coverage of the events was uplifting as a Catholic.  I pray that his visit with us be one of safety, health and spiritual challenge.

     Everyone wants to know what he is going to say and do, what issues will he challenge our leaders and the representatives of the world with, and the reaction of our society and politicans to his message.  Sometimes I find the commentators frustrating in their "analysis" and words of prophetic controversy, even Raymond Arroyo and his companions at EWTN.

     I enjoy the posts by Bishop Lynch of Saint Petersburg, Florida.  In today's, entitled "The Barque of Peter Arrives on the Shores of the U.S.", he had this to say about how we as Catholics should be attentive to the message of Francis in these next few days.  He says:

" ... listen to the Pope and carefully read and ponder what he has to say.  Agendas abound for this visit but there is only one which really matters and that belongs to the Successor of St. Peter, Francis.  His is a message of "yes" and not "no".  His is a message of God's love for every human being and not just for those who feel they have it made.  His is a message of mercy, not punishment.  His is a message of sharing not hoarding.  His is a message of inclusion, not exclusion.  His is a message of joy in the Gospel, not burdens.  His is a message of relief, not bondage.  Listen to him - this immigrant to our shores, as he opens the vision of Jesus to all humankind.  Don't let the "spin-doctors" spoil the moment - one of the greatest for Catholicism in my lifetime."

     I wholeheartedly agree.  We live in a world of many talking heads, of opinions that are rooted in the greatness of the one expounding them, of an intolerance of others.  I spoke this past Sunday about the basic truth of the Gospel message, which Francis bases his life and message on.  It is stated well in the Collect of last Sunday, the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  I repeat it here because it is important to keep before our eyes and in our hearts.

"O God, who founded all the commandments of your sacred Law upon love of you and of our neighbor, grant us, by keeping your precepts, we may merit to attain eternal life."

     "THE" God given Law, rooted in the love of God first and then of neighbor (not self) must guide our lives ... and by keeping to that Law we may attain to that life that is unending and filled with ultimate happiness.  I look forward to hearing and witnessing that message of love in the visit of Pope Francis.  I hope that you do as well.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Youthful enthusiasm

     I just returned from the first fund raiser of the school year for our Regional Queen of Angels Catholic School.  School began a few weeks ago, and we are at it already.  This first fund raiser is a "Walk-a-thon" held for the past few years on the campus of Saint Edward Church in Herminie, one of the five parishes responsible for the school.  The day was beautiful and the kids filled with energy and enthusiasm.  Saint Edward is in the country, and the course was set around their upper parking area with plenty of grass and trees to provide a relaxing setting.

     The kids get pledges or gifts from family and friends for the laps that they complete.  The day began with a prayer time in church followed by a group picture and then the laps. Teachers and parents helped with the kids, the older ones walked with the younger ones, and a number of parents and even grandparents also did the laps.  They had fun.

     For the past few years, there has been a friendly competition among the five pastors as to who might bring in the most money for this event.  We share this challenge with our people, and encourage them to support this effort by sponsoring us.  My unique perspective on this challenge is that, given by back problems and mobility issues, I ask them to sponsor me to watch the others walk.  Our people are great, and to date I turned in $2,100 from about 90 donors from the parish.  I have to report that I watched everyone walk and cheered them on with enthusiasm.  I hope to bring in more this weekend.  People are great, and so is the cause.

     Last evening I attended the Open House at the school, where the administration gave a "state of the school" report, we opened a twenty-five year old "time capsule", blessed a renovated front entrance way with new ramp, visited classrooms and teachers, and had an ice cream social, thanks to the generosity of a local ice cream parlor owner and supporter of the school.  The school was bustling.  Queen of Angels has an enrollment this year of over 260 from PK through grade 8, the second largest elementary school in this Diocese.   Our enrollment remained consistent with last years numbers.  Enrollment continues to be a challenge with tuition being high and surrounding school systems that are very good.  I remember the days when our grade school at Saint Joseph in Uniontown had over three hundred kids, and we were one of four grade schools in town, plus a high school.  Now there is one catholic school in Uniontown.  Times and circumstances change, but our commitment to Catholic School education continues.

     And this past Tuesday I had the weekly school Mass for the kids.  We celebrate Mass in the auditorium, and it is a little bit strange to have the altar "on stage".  But I always enjoy the experience.  This was a "school week" for me and a week of youthful enthusiasm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Good and Faithful Servants

     Within the past few weeks the people of this area have lost three priest who have entered Eternal Life.  Two were retired diocesan priests, and one was a monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe.  I knew all three, and can attest that they were good priests.  Together, they gave 158 years of service as priests, and the Church has been truly blessed.

     On August 7th, Benedictine Father Blane Resko died at the Archabbey.  He was 75 years old.  He was from Patton, Pennsylvania, a great Benedictine stronghold, and was solemnly professed as a Benedictine in 1954.  He served in school ministry, parish work, and held various positions at the Abbey.  It was during his tenure as pastor of Saint Bruno Parish in South Greensburg that I came to know Father Blane.  I was pastor at the neighboring parish of the Church of Saint Paul.  Blane was a quiet, simple man of deep faith and gentle pastoral zeal.  He was also a good friend and brother in our shared ministry.  He has been at the Archabbey since 2007.  His funeral Mass was on August 11th.  God grant him eternal rest.

     Ordained fifty years ago by the late Bishop William G. Connare, Monsignor Charnoki served Bishop Connare as his secretary during two different terms.  It was sort of a running commentary that he shared with everyone, and the lighthearted banter usually involved someone saying: "Did you know that Bill was Bishop Connare's secretary?" followed by a knowing smile.
     Father Bill Charnoki was ordained in 1965 and his first assignment was at Saint Mary (Nativity) in Uniontown, my hometown, where as young high school seminarians Father John Cindric and myself received lots of encouragement and support from this young priest.  Bill served in many parishes, was secretary to the bishop, received his degree in Canon Law and served on the Diocesan Tribunal, was assistant chancellor and served on many committees and councils, and was named a monsignor in 1986 and in 2005 was named a prothonotary apostolic supernumerary, the highest rank of monsignor.  Proud of his humble upbringing in Greene County and his Slovak heritage, he was also very active in support of Saint Vincent Seminary which he attended, he retired from parish life in 2013.
     An interesting fact about Bill was that he was the third priest in the family - he had two uncles who were priests: Father Andrew Charnoki (whom I replaced in Masontown) and Father John Charnoki, a priest of the Pittsburgh diocese.
     Bill was always warm and caring, showing a genuine interest in priests and seminarian, and loved his people.  He was buried from his former pastorate at Holy Family in Latrobe on August 19th.  May he rest in peace.
     And finally we received word of the death of another retired priest of our diocese, Monsignor Stephen McCarren, who died on August 31st at the age of 86 in Florida.  Monsignor McCarren served in a number of parishes and capacities over the years in the diocese, and in 1983 went for further studies before serving for many years as a chaplain for the Archdiocese of Military Services at VA hospitals.  In 1993 he was named a Monsignor.  He has been living in Florida, where his funeral rites will be held.  Steve was another warm and outgoing guy who always shared a smile and a good word.  His 60 years of priestly service have been a blessing to countless people.  God grant him joy and peace.
The Church is so blessed
with good and holy priests.
These three are but a small example.
Pray for continued vocations to priesthood
and religious life.