Monday, August 14, 2017

The support of friends

     One thing about my new residence at Neumann House at the Bishop Connare Center in our diocese is that we priests who are retired from active pastoral ministry are at the heart of many activities held by the Diocese of Greensburg.   One of those occurred Sunday evening when our bishop, at the invitation of the Office of Vocations and the Catholic Foundation, met with laity and priests who have shown their support of our vocation efforts through prayer and substantial giving.   Approximately one hundred and forty people gathered for Evening Prayer in the Saint Joseph Chapel, followed by refreshments and a fine dinner.  During that time, they were introduced to our four seminarians present, thanked for their generosity and encouraged by Bishop Malesic and those running the program to be as supportive as possible in these crucial efforts.  An insightful talk on the vision of priesthood of Pope Francis was given by Benedictine Father Edward Mazich, the rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, and a newly produced video from the Vocation Office was previewed. It was an encouraging evening for all of those in attendance.  This event, called the "Friends of Seminarians Dinner" is an annual event.

 The reception outside the Chapel
 Bishop Malesic addressing those in attendance
 The new Vocation Video
Benedictine Father Edward Mazich, keynote speaker


     As I sat in the Saint Joseph Chapel and prayed with these good and supportive people, I reflected upon the sacrifices made throughout the years by those who have been friends, to seminarians and priests, and who have made my priesthood possible.  The support and encouragement that I received in my formative years, by family and friends, by the Diocese and the local Serra groups, and the countless prayers of untold people throughout the twelve years of seminary and the forty-four of priesthood are an outstanding testimony of faith and action.  The very chapel we prayed in, and the facility we gathered at, are examples of that sacrifice and support.  Many of the men that have gone through the seminary programs have become priests and deacons, and an even greater number have become good, solid Catholic men of family and faith, involved in the Church and committed to the Good News of the Gospel.

     When I began this journey fifty-six years ago this Fall, we had twenty-one in our class of High School Freshmen.  I remember Bishop Connare telling us that if we get one ordination from this group, we will be fortunate.   From that group we saw two men ordained priests, with one leaving active ministry after a number of years and now one retired, and two men ordained later in life to the Permanent Diaconate, one of whom is now retired.  Not bad, four out of the twenty-one.  But the good news is the great lives of faith lived by so many of the others and the service to the Church that they have brought and continue to bring to the Church's mission.  As a side note: one of those men stopped to see me just this afternoon.  Rick Pedzwater, originally from New Ken and a classmate from the old Saint Joseph Hall days, stopped by with his grandson on their way to Steeler Camp at Saint Vincent for the day.  Rick lives in the Eastern part of the Commonwealth, and his grandson is from York, Pennsylvania.  It was a delightful surprise, and it was great seeing Rick again.

     Those Friends of Seminarians of the past and the present have laid the foundation and set the stage, and the Friends of Seminarians of the future are as vitally important as ever.  Be one of those good people through your prayers, encouragement and support of our seminarians and deacons and priests.  We need you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Companions on the journey

     None of us journeys through life on their own.  As human beings, we are social in nature, in need of interaction and the stimulation that comes from our experiences and the giving of ourselves.   As people of faith, we are even more aware of our dependence upon God and upon those that he places in our lives as companions on the journey.

     In the life of the Church, there are many examples of such companions among the saints of God.  Some are related, like the siblings Scholastica and Benedict.  Some are inspired by the lives of their founder or patron and reflect the charisms found there.  And some are rooted in friendship, like Francis of Assisi and the saint of the day, Clare of Assisi.  Clare lived from 1194 to 1253.  Her family was well to do, and she lived near the town square of the town of Assisi.  She was a friend of the young Francis, and when his "conversion" to a simple way of life brought him to the attention of the community, she was attracted not only to the person and to his message, but also to the spiritual transformation that she saw in his life.  She desired to "give up" everything and follow this simple way, running away and entering the local Benedictine Convent.  Her family rescued her and brought her back home, insisting that she give up on this fantasy, but she persisted and eventually gave up her family and status to embrace Religious Life and eventually follow her spiritual companion, Francis.  She founded the Poor Clares, a community of nuns devoted to a simple, austere life of prayer.  Famously, she defended the town of Assisi from attack by boldly brandishing the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance before the town gate and scaring off the attackers.

     Clare is buried in the church that bears her name, and her body is visible to those who come as pilgrims, since she is an incorruptible.  While Francis is skeletal, she is incorruptible - the power of this woman of faith.   To view her body and to pray at her tomb, and that of her companion, Francis, has been a true blessing in my life.   On this, her feast, we pray: Saint Clare, pray for us!   Allow is to be grateful for our companions on the journey. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another need

     This afternoon I responded to an invitation to join with Bishop Edward Malesic of our diocese for a Mass and Luncheon in recognition and honor of members of the Our Lady of the Assumption Legacy Society.  This event is an annual opportunity for the diocese to express its gratitude to those who have remembered the diocese in their estate planning, and to those who have given significantly to the ongoing work of the local Church over the year or years.  This gathering takes place on the feast of Saint Lawrence, who was a martyr in the early Church and a deacon entrusted with the "treasures of the Church in Rome" at the time of his death.  The Legacy Society was established by our retired bishop, Lawrence Brandt, and builds upon the Catholic Foundation established by our second bishop, William Connare.
Today's event took place at the Bishop Connare Center, our diocesan conference center in Greensburg, and my new home in retirement.   It was a great event.

     Bishop Malesic led us in prayer and broke open God's Word in his usual, pastoral way.  He spoke of the ministry and responsibility to respond to God's gift to us with the sharing of our blessings with the Church.   As I sat in the Saint Joseph Chapel and prayed today, I was keenly aware of the sacrifice of so many in the building of this place (which was my High School Seminary residence) and the support given to me in my journey toward priesthood.  What little I can give in return is inadequate in expressing my gratitude, but those who sacrificed over the years have my prayers and my deepest thanks.

     Our crowd today was small (a Thursday, early afternoon event is difficult for those who work) and I was a little disappointed with the turnout.  But then I reflected that this was my first time in attendance at such an affair (I was usually too busy or uninterested to attend), and that I should not be overly critical.

     And then another thought occurred to me.  I do not need to be "thanked" for my support or the sharing of my gifts, but there is another need - a need for the Church, through our bishop, to extend thanks for generous love and support.  The presence of those here today brings a visible component to the grateful commitment to the work of the Church.  And the prayers that we offer go out to all of those who through the living out of their faith, in their life of love and service, and in their generous support of the Church, have sacrificed much.  We have all been blessed ... and our response in whatever way and at whatever level, is our natural response. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Holy Wisdom

     There are two sources of wisdom that we as followers of Jesus Christ are called to embrace and into which we immerse ourselves.  Obviously, if we are to be leaven in the world and affect a radical transformation of a world touched by sin, we need to have a wisdom and a knowledge of what we speak of and to whom we witness.  This knowledge is more than just book learning, it requires the ability to think, to reason, to make critical decisions based in truth and not in whim.  It requires our use of one of those specific and unique qualities that defines a human being from the rest of creation - that we reason and decide, and take responsibility for our actions.

     To be truly wise, though, requires that we become one with Christ ... that his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, which he gives to us with deep love and affection find a place in our hearts and guide and direct our minds and hearts to choose wisely. 

     Miriam and Aaron chose badly in the first reading of today's liturgy and find themselves at odds with the Lord.  Psalm 51 show the wisdom of the repentant sinner who humbles himself before a merciful God.  And in the gospel we encounter those who need to justify themselves in the law and close themselves to the heart of the message of the great commandment of love.

     Today the Church honors Dominic, a contemporary of Saint Francis who lived between 1170 - 1221.  He founded the Dominicans - the Order of Preachers - and in his ministry and the charism that he shared with his followers, preached with power and conviction the Holy Wisdom of God united to the wisdom of this world.  He/they preached the goodness of all that God has given us, including our bodies and the things of this world.  Dominic instructed his followers to engage in rigorous academic studies so that this aspect of wisdom can be transformed by that Holy Wisdom that we are called to embrace. 

     May the Holy Wisdom of God inspire us, guide us, and enlighten us as we continue our journey.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Contrast of Power

     The following reflection I posted on August 6, 2013.  I share these thoughts again with you.

     Things were looking bad.  The end was near.  Hopelessness and despair were setting in.  It was at this juncture that Jesus took his closest friends, Peter, James and John, with him to the mountaintop to pray.  Nothing unusual.  It was at this moment that Jesus decided to give them hope, to share a vision of the divine reality, to let them know that all was not lost.  He was transfigured before their eyes.  A blinding light, immense power unlike anything ever seen before, a vision of all human existence brought together in the presence of an all powerful God as represented by Moses and Elijah - the law and the prophets.  By rights and from tradition Peter, James and John should be dead.  Very few see the face of God and live ... and if they do, they are never the same, they are transformed as were Moses and Elijah.   But this release of power brought life.  It gave hope and joyful peace to hearts.  It was a reminder that the power of God is meant to give life and transform a fallen world.   Those three came down from that mountaintop bolstered in their resolve to be disciples and strengthened to share the Good News.

     Today the Church celebrates that moment in the great feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   It is a celebration of the wisdom that when we are one with the source of true power and glory, we are at peace and filled with joy, we are right with the world and right with God.   May our lives always be found in this wonderful moment.

     Ironically, today the world remembers the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, called "Little Boy" on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  It happened on the morning of August 6, 1945.  A second such bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9th, this one named "Fat Man".  These bombs unleased a blinding fireball of light and cloud such as the world had never seen before.  It also unleased death and destruction upon Hiroshima (70,000 to 80,000 killed outright by the blast, with between 90,000 to 166,000 total deaths) and Nagasaki (60,000 to 80,000 deaths).  Most of these were civilians.  It brought about the end of the war with Japan.

     The genius of creative minds developed this ability, and political necessity justified its use.   But the moral implications have affected us ever since.  Some power is beyond our ability to use wisely.  Just because we can do something does not mean that we should do it.   Despite the good that may have come from the actions on those two days in August, we have unleashed a power that is not our right to possess or to use in order to take life.  We have lived in fear of others possessing such power ever since.   We have made ourselves into gods, rather than bringing ourselves into the reality of the one true God.   The road to redemption is repentance, prayer and fasting, and a renewed commitment to Christ rooted in a renewed commitment to the peace found only in Christ Jesus. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

An inspiration for parish priests

     I always love looking at the book of the saints, reading of their lives, and most especially seeing what they have been named "patron" of.  Some are highly unusual, while many make great sense and are easily understood.

     The saint of the day - John Marie Vianney - is the patron saint of parish priests.  For those who serve in parish ministry, his story gives hope and his example gives inspiration.  I have found him to be a favorite of mine since seminary days.





     His story is one of struggle and difficulty in his studies.  He desired to serve as a priest, but he was challenged academically, and could not master Latin or the philosophical training required (probably why I find him so relatable).  Yet he had a deep desire and a pervading spirituality that prompted the Church leaders to train him privately and to ordain him because of his virtue.  So that he would do no harm, they assigned him to a small, backwoods village in France named Ars-en-Dombes.  Nothing much happened there, especially on the spiritual level. 

     Pere John Mary Vianney became a noted catechist, spiritual director and confessor - spending most of the day in the confessional.  As his reputation spread, the little village  of no consequence became a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of pilgrims daily ... attending his liturgies and going to confession.  They came to see the "Cure of Ars" (the pastor of Ars) and to be blessed.  He served there from 1830 to 1845.

     The challenges of priesthood today are very different from the mid 1800's, and yet even more challenging.  The apathy found in a worldly Church has become a complacency with the status-quo.  The need to be spiritual, to bring and to be Christ to others is still vital to the life of the Church,  So pray for your priests, and remember those of us who are retired.

A new responsibility

     On Monday of this week I awoke early to travel the few miles from my new home to attend an Orientation Meeting for the new Board Members of St. Anne Home in Greensburg.  The Orientation was hosted and guided by Jeff Long, the President and CEO of St. Anne Home, assisted by a number of his staff.  I have been asked and have been approved to serve a three year term on the Board of Directors.  There are four of us who are joining the Board.

     St. Anne Home is a ministry of the Felician Sisters of North America dedicated to the continuing healing mission of Jesus Christ by providing a continuum of care and supportive services to adults, their families, and their caregivers.  Originally established in 1964 by the Diocese of Greensburg and placed under the care of the Felician Sisters, in April of 1996 St. Anne Home sponsorship was placed under the Felician Sisters as a non-profit corporation.  Originally built as a 125 bed facility, St. Anne Home has continued to expand facilities and programs to meet the every growing needs of God's People.


A service in one of the courtyards.

Entrance to St. Anne Home - Villa Angela building

     The meeting was long but interesting, and the great work being accomplished there, while long known and acknowledged by those in the Church and in the civic community, is a blessing to the residents and their families.  I am honored to lend my gifts to the ongoing ministry of St. Anne Home by serving on the Board of Directors.

     I myself have spent a few days of rehab following my knee replacement about seven years ago, and received great care.  I have known many of the Sisters and some of the staff over the years, and have been able to be supportive of the fundraising efforts and pastoral ministry through the Anointing Services.

     The core values of this important ministry within the Church are these:  St. Anne Home values Personhood ... People ... Community ... Our Physical Assets plus Teamwork and Communication. Information on the program and facilities can be found on their web site - www.stannehome.org

     Also present at the Orientation was Christy Kremer, the assistant Administrator, who reminded me that I witnessed the wedding of she and her husband while pastor at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg in 1995.  Another presentation was made by the Director of the Fund Raising Campaign who remembered me from my Scottdale days.  Her name has slipped my mind, and I do apologize.

     The Lord is good, and I entrust this new experience to his grace and mercy.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Choosing wisely

     We all know the story of Aladdin, the genie in the bottle.  The one who found the magic lamp and rubbed its side had a genie appear and was granted a wish.  Whatever they asked for would be granted.

     Today in the Scripture reading from the first Book of Kings, we fine no magic lamp, no genie and no need to do a rubbing.  But we do have a young man, Solomon, who has been designated as king to follow his renowned father, and the Lord.  God said to Solomon, "Ask something of me and I will give it to you."  What an opportunity.  Ask anything of me and it will be granted to you.  Your wish is my command.

     What would you ask for?  How would you use this unprecedented opportunity?

     The Lord was pleased with the request of Solomon.  He had asked for "an understanding heart", for a wisdom to lead and guide God's people, to judge them wisely and to distinguish right from wrong.  Although acknowledging the fact that he was a mere youth, inexperienced and not knowing how to act as a king, he wanted what would serve him well in governing "this vast people of yours."  He asked for a gift for the greater good rather than for his own interests.  And the Lord was pleased.

     The Lord pointed out that Solomon could have asked for anything - long life, riches or dominion - but chose to ask for understanding.  God said to him:
"I do as you requested.  I give you a heart so wise
and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you." 
His wisdom will be a benefit not only for Solomon but also for his kingdom. 

     In Jesus we are shown the way to be like Solomon, to seek the wisdom to be humble, to place our gifts at the service of others, to allow God to be Lord in our life.   And in Jesus we are gifted with wisdom and love.  For that, today, we praise our Lord.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     Yesterday I had the blessing of meeting with a Sabbatical classmate from my Sabbatical in the Fall of 1996 at the School of Applied Theology (SAT) at Berkeley, California.  His name is Romy Lazlo, and he is now the bishop of the Diocese of San Jose de Antiqua in the Philippines.

     Bishop Lazlo had lunch with our bishop in the course of his pastoral visit to one of his priests who is serving in our diocese through our International Priests Program.  It was his first trip to Western Pennsylvania.  It was good to see him again, to share some of our memories, to show him my apartment, and to receive his blessing.   May the Lord continue to bless him in his ministry.


Friday, July 28, 2017

A New Day, A New Beginning, A New Place

     On a rainy Friday afternoon on this day in July, I have moved into my new home and officially began my retirement from active ministry.   The first day of retirement was Thursday, July 6th, but the apartment at the Diocesan Priests' Retirement Residence - Neumann House - was not ready until early this week.  After remaining at my previous residence these past three weeks through the very gracious kindness of my successor, Father John Moineau, the move happened these last few days, and I arrived officially this afternoon, in time for supper.  I have two nice rooms and a bath, and there is a chapel, dining facility, common rooms and beautiful grounds.  There are about fifteen men living here, and I have known them all for many years.  I am looking forward to my years here and developing my new vision of ministry as a priest.  The director of the facility told me that he felt bad about the delays in getting the apartment ready, and said that he felt like the airport tower advising me to keep circling the runway until the runway was clear.  I was running out of fuel, but now that I am here, there is the relief that comes with finally landing after a prolonged holding pattern.

     Neumann House is a retirement residence built years ago by the Diocese of Greensburg at the Bishop Connare Center, a retreat and conference center run by the Diocese that was originally our Minor High School Seminary, then called Saint Joseph Hall. 


     The complex opened in the Fall of 1962, and as a Sophomore in High School, I was a part of the founding group.  My arrival today marks fifty-five years since I first rode down the driveway and moved in.  The place has changed tremendously over the years, but the experience of beginning something new is the same.  Those early days helped prepare the present Father Len Stoviak ... may these next years continue the blessing.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Our Blessing

     For the past two years we in the Diocese of Greensburg have been blessed with the friendship and ministry of our shepherd, Bishop Edward Malesic.  He came to us at the invitation of Pope Francis from a ministry of pastoring a wonderful small parish in York Haven, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Harrisburg.  He was in the midst of building a new church building for that family.  I know that there was difficulty in leaving his good friends and neighbors at Holy Infants Parish.

     When he came to us, he did so as a pastor and a friend.  He embraced this Community of Faith as his own, and has immersed himself in the personal, everyday joys and challenges of life.  He brings wisdom (as evidenced by his acceptance of my retirement request!) and humor, warmth and joy to every encounter.  He is a good teacher and a wonderful listener.  As I said at the beginning, we are blessed.

     This past Thursday marked the second anniversary of his ordination as our bishop.  He celebrated the anniversary with a Mass at the Cathedral, along with the prayers of so many of the people of this Diocese.

Before Mass with Deacon Bill Hisker (my H.S. classmate) and soon to be deacon Dan Carr.

     The bishop immerses himself in his work.  Just this week, he celebrated a great Youth Honors Mass at the Cathedral last Sunday afternoon that I attended.  He pointed out as he so often does, that these young people are not "the future of the Church", but that they ARE the Church.  We had five from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish honored (I call them the "gang of five" - five great youngsters who are a blessing to the Church).



 Alex Kohanec, Sarah Rickard, Mark Downey, Jenn Henry & Paige Thornburg.

     The bishop is embarking on an educational campaign on the opioid crisis facing society and the Church, with a Pastoral Letter and a series of regional meetings that began this week.  He is promoting Vocations through Saint Andrew dinners, is meeting with various groups and folks, and yesterday ordained to the Transitional Diaconate a fine young man, Dan Carr, who has been studying in Rome and will continue to prepare for priesthood, God willing, next year.

Deacon Daniel Carr and Bishop Malesic.

     My gratitude to Bishop Malesic for his Shepherd's Heart, and our thanks to God for the blessing that we have received.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Our Benedictine Family

     Today the Church honors the memory and spirit of Saint Benedict of Nursia, who lived from 480 to 543 in what is Italy.  Benedict is known as the founder of western Monasticism, the founder of twelve communities before founding the great Abbey of Monte Casino, and is regarded as a patron of Europe and of Western civilization.  He is the giver of the great monastic Rule of Saint Benedict, which is the foundation of monastic life.

     On this feast of Saint Benedict, I reflect upon the gift of his family to my life and to the Church of Western Pennsylvania.  We are blessed in this Diocese to have Saint Vincent Archabbey, one of the largest Benedictine monastic communities anywhere, in our midst.  The members of this Community, under the pastoral leadership of Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, minister not only at the Abbey, with Monastery, College, Seminary, but through a multitude of other ministries throughout the world.  My ties to Saint Vincent go back to my High School days at the College Preparatory School and have continued through years of shared prayer, hospitality and ministry.  My memories are many and deeply cherished.

     Saint Vincent recently buried retired Archabbot Paul Maher on July 3rd.  Archabbot Paul was a very simple man of God who served with quiet zeal and spirituality.  He served as Archabbot from 1983 to 1990.  He was 91 years of age.  We offer our prayers to his family at Saint Vincent.

     Another part of the Benedictine Family are the Sisters of Saint Benedict at Saint Emma Monastery in Greensburg.  A small but dedicated group of women who pray with great intensity and offer Benedictine hospitality at their Retreat House and Bed and Breakfast, they are spirited by Mother Mary Ann, a real dynamo.  My priesthood retreat, and many subsequent retreats and days of recollection have brought me to their doorpost and to their hearts, and I am most grateful.

     There are another group of women of faith that I have worked with and befriended and they are found in the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh.  I served with them in Scottdale for a number of years, and have visited them at their new residence in Bakerstown, north of Pittsburgh.  Sister Karen Brink provides guidance to their leadership team.

     So, on this Feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, I am grateful for the charisms that he brought to his family, and to the generous spirit that they have shared with me over the years.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The beginning

     The first days of retirement have been out of the ordinary to say the least.  On Thursday, retirement day, I slept late, got myself pulled together, and headed to my family home.  My sister, Jane, was having major surgery on Friday morning, and I planned on being there for her.  It was an unexpected way to begin this new chapter in my life, but then life is exciting.

     Before heading home to Uniontown, I stopped by the parish office to turn in my keys and other essential items.  While there speaking with Cathy, the secretary, two people came to the office looking for our Pastoral Associate.  They looked upset, so I asked if there was anything wrong.

     They had just lost their Mom, a longtime parishioner, and were upset that after all of her loyalty, their Mom could not be buried from our church.  I inquired about the circumstances and found out that in their grief they were upset to find out that Father John, the new pastor, wanted to schedule the funeral at 9:00 am (they wanted it at 10).  They had also heard that the family could not do a eulogy at the funeral Mass, and that Sister Charlene, the Pastoral Associate, would be doing the internment.  This was not satisfactory for the family.  I tried to reason with them in their grief, pointing out that no one was denying burial to their Mom ... that the time might have to do with scheduling (which was the case, with Father John having a funeral at 11 am at his other church) ... that many parishes do not permit a eulogy during the funeral Mass but encourage one at the Wake ... and that Sister usually did the committal service for my funerals because of my difficulty getting around at the cemeteries.  They understood that with me, but felt that Father John just didn't want to do it.  After a time of discussion, they did meet with Sister and as I understand it, the funeral took place at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton this morning.  What a difficult time for this family ... and what an introduction for Father John.  The thing that brought home the reality of retirement to me is that I could head for home and leave it to someone else to sort out.   My prayers are with the family.

     Janie had her surgery Friday morning at 7:30 (arrival at 5:45 am - so much for sleeping in) and all went well with the surgery.  There was a difficulty with intubation because of a narrow airway, which delayed the surgery for a short time, and meant that she needed to be kept on the tube for a while post-op.  With that in mind, after the tube was removed, they kept her in ICU to watch and monitor her breathing.  She stayed overnight, all is well, and I brought her home around Noon today.  She is resting, and somewhat sore from the surgery.  She had good care and a great staff at the Uniontown Hospital.  She will be doing some of her post-op with me.  I returned to North Huntingdon this evening, and am looking forward to celebrating the 11:00 am Mass this week at Saint Elizabeth Seton, at the request of the new pastor.  I am like a "bad penny" - they just can't get rid of me.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

This is it - RETIREMENT

     My last post was on June 6th, a long time ago.  It has been a month filled with thoughts and remembrances, with a desire to post and yet a difficulty putting those thoughts and feelings into words, and as I mentioned in the last post a roller coaster of events and emotions.  Add to that the daunting task of packing and downsizing as you realize how much "treasure" you have accumulated over forty-four years.

     Tomorrow is July 6th, and the official date of the 2017 clergy summer assignments taking effect in the Greensburg diocese ... and thus my official date of retirement from active parish priestly ministry.    I turn over my keys to the kingdom and relinquish my responsibility to sign checks and pay parish bills.  I take on a new role, that of retired priest.   I must admit that when I was ordained, I never envisioned such a moment, and even now, ever since I requested retirement in January from Bishop Malesic due to health issues, I wonder if this is the right move.   Reality says YES, but the uncertainty of the future prompts me to say - are you sure.  But it is time, and I am ready for the next chapter.   Tomorrow I wake up and will no longer be pastor.  But tomorrow I will wake up and still be a priest of the Lord, continuing my journey and sharing the Good News in differing venues and opportunities.  It is exciting, and a bit frightening, so pray for me.

     The daily readings these past days have been about the call of Abram.  The Lord saw this good man and chose him for a purpose.  He told Abram that if he trusted the Lord, he would become the father of a people greater than the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore.  God promised that he would be the God of Abram, and that Abram would be his son.  The only thing required was faith in God and trust in his word.

     But God told Abram to pack up everything and to move to a new land.  When asked where, God said that he would tell him when he got there.  Thrust him.  Abram did, and moved into the uncertain future with the assurance of faith.  And Abram was seventy-five at the time.

     As I heard these readings, I saw the Lord inviting me to "pack up" and move to a new land of opportunity, into an uncertain future but with the promise of the Lord's faithfulness.  And he reminded me that Abram (Abraham) was actually five years older than me when he trusted and moved on.  If he could do so and make a difference in the world, whom am I to doubt.

     So tomorrow begins a new experience of priesthood.  Some things will not change immediately - my apartment at Neumann House, the Priests' Retirement Residence in Greensburg is not yet ready for my move, so I will remain in my present residence for a few more weeks, thanks to the generosity of our new pastor, Father John Moineau.  But "all my bags are packed, I'm ready to go" and have survived the ordeal of downsizing.  The good-bye's have been many and very emotional.  My level of mental and physical exhaustion is high.  And I am ready to rest and relax, to re-create and renew, to adjust and unwind.

     JOURNEY THOUGHTS will continue to be an important part of my new life and ministry.  I will attempt to get back on track in sharing reflections from the Scriptures and personal stories and experiences.   I guess that I will have to change the subtitle of the blog, since I am no longer a parish priest, but I haven't found one that I like as yet ("reflections of an old timer" doesn't do it for me).  In the meantime, please pray for me as I enter this new phase of priesthood ... and I will pray for you, and be grateful for your faithful reading of these posts.

   

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kind Words

     The "winding down" aspect of retirement is challenging.  It involves a series of "lasts" and an emotional roller coaster that leaves you exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. 

     This past Friday was our last day of classes for our Regional Catholic School, and following dismissal, the teachers from Queen of Angels gathered for an end of the year lunch.  Of course, they invited me, and had a cake to celebrate my retirement.  We ate, reflected upon these past years with their blessings and challenges, and prepared to go into vacation mode.  They shared a kind gift as well as the cake, and I am grateful.   My last duties were to sign a last batch of checks, turn in my key fob for the building, and promise to hold the school dear to my heart.

      On Saturday morning I had the delight to welcome Bishop Robert Lynch, retired Bishop of St. Petersburg and a blogger for many years, to our parish.  The circumstance was a sad one, the death of a longtime friend and co-worker at the Bishops Conference - William Kassane.  Originally from this area, Mr. Kassane's family brought him home for his funeral.  The Bishop celebrated the funeral liturgy, and true to my expectations, ministered to those in grief with the heart of a shepherd.

     I have for a long time been a fan of Bishop Lynch, and in the blogging world he is one of my heroes.  He is a delightful man, warm, personable, very kind in his praise and encouragement, and a true pastor.  We spoke of retirement a bit and he gave me words of encouragement.

     Sunday was Pentecost, one of my favorite feasts in the Church year.  The parish had set this day to celebrate my retirement with the 11:00 am Liturgy and a wonderful reception in the parish hall during the afternoon.  The committee did an outstanding job, and the many who attended enjoyed themselves.  I was busy greeting friends and parishioners from 12:15 to 4:00 without a break.  I was truly humbled by the outpouring of affection and love, and the many kind words spoken and written in cards and notes.  It  makes me keenly aware of the need of God's grace and the working of the Lord in our lives despite ourselves.  My gratitude is immense, and it begins with the Lord.  To Him be all the praise!

     Everyone asks "When is the last day?"  The truth is that we are waiting for the Diocesan Priests Summer Assignments to find out the moving date.  So we don't know ... but will soon, I hope.  Until then we continue and we wait with expectant hope.



Monday, May 29, 2017

A hectic pace

     May has been a whirlwind of activities, set within the context of the transition toward retirement at the end of June and all that this event demands of my energies.

     A week ago last Thursday, our Christian Mothers Confraternity held their final meeting of the current year with the annual wine and cheese social following.  They had asked me to install the new officers (usually done in the Fall, but since I will not be here at that time, they wanted to get me to do the honors).  We have had a tremendous crew of officers for these last years and the group has been revitalized and energized and given a new spirit that I am confident the new officers will pick up on and continue.  They support the parish in so many ways and provide two $500.00 scholarships to graduating seniors who submit their applications to help them in their future endeavors.  These were awarded yesterday at our Mass honoring our Graduates of 2017.  Also at the meeting, the ladies brought out a cake with candles to help celebrate my 70th birthday which is tomorrow.  Fortunately they only used two candles - a "7" and a "0".  That was the first time that I saw those numbers used to describe my fleeting youth.  It was scary.

     The next evening, Friday the 19th, Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School that serves our area held a "Casino Night" dinner and fundraiser at a local event facility, Antonelli's.  A large crowd gathered for an evening of good food, fellowship, entertainment and prizes.  All of the pastors were there, and I was humbled to be singled out by my brother, Father John Moineau, in his introduction and welcome and acknowledged for my support of Catholic School Education over the many years of my assignments.  Preparing to say farewell is an interesting experience.

     Saturday evening after the 4:00 pm Mass we recognized our volunteers that worked so tirelessly at our Lenten Fish Dinners.  We had invited them to a dinner catered in our church hall, and assured them that we would not serve fish.  There was no agenda or speeches, but simply a relaxing evening of food and fellowship.  All went away satisfied and hopefully eager for next Lent and our continued tradition.

     On Sunday, after the 11:00 Mass and two baptisms that followed, the Norwin Area Community Resource Center which serves the needs of our senior community members, hosted a Reception and Fine Arts Sale on my behalf.  I have over thirty framed, signed, numbered prints (Civil war, florals, landscape, pastoral scenes) that I need to sale in my downsizing efforts.  The Center was very gracious in organizing and hosting the afternoon event.  The weather was bad, the crowd small, and the sales minimal, but it was a great afternoon.  We were even visited by Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln who graced us with her presence and her accounts of her husband, the late President, and her recollections of the War between the States.  This good lady stayed in character the entire afternoon.  She was good.



     Monday evening saw the eighth grade graduation of Queen of Angels School with a Mass at our place followed by a reception in our church hall.  We had twenty-four graduates who were outstanding on so many levels.  Well over two hundred people attended, and we had seven area priests concelebrate.  Recognitions were made and awards were distributed as the youngsters celebrated their past and looked to the future.  I had the honor of being the celebrant for the Mass.










Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching up - in pictures

     My last post involved some "catching up".  However, I was not able to include pictures until I upgraded my browser.  That completed, I would like to add the pics that correspond to the last post.

     I wrote of the passing of Sammy, the faithful companion of my sister, Jane and favorite of "Uncle Len".  This is Sammy in all of his cuteness.  We shared eleven years and a month with him, and were blessed.



     On the 5th of May, Janie celebrated her birthday.  She is the best of sisters and a great friend.

    
Telling the Bishop what a wonderful brother she has

     On the afternoon of the 6th, we were visited by Bishop Edward Malesic for his pastoral visit to the parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Here are some of the pictures of the visit.


 My welcome of the Bishop
 Our deacon, Jeff Cieslewicz




 The Bishop with First Communicant, Wren Peters
 The cake
 With some of our Christian Mothers, who hosted the reception
 With Diana Mikash, our Director of Music
 With Ethan Guyer, a First Communicant
Yours truly, the Bishop, Alex Kahanik, a senior & server & Father Tyler Bandura

     And then, in a change of pace, our Sixth Annual Blessing of Bikes on Sunday afternoon.  Cold weather, somewhat smaller crowd, great time had by all.
Good News Blues Gospel Group
 Diana Mikash as MC
 John Mikash with favors given out

 WPXI Channel 11 news interview
 Heads bowed in prayer

Deacon Jeff enjoying doing the blessing







Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching Up

     I have resolved my computer problems at last (almost), and as of this morning are now able to post once again.  My browser was outdated and my computer was unable to upgrade, so it took an investment into a new set up.  The (almost) referred to above involves not yet transferring my pictures for download, but that too will come.  

     There is much to report from these past few weeks.

     On Tuesday of last week, May 2nd, Sammy, the faithful companion for the last eleven years of my sister, Janie, reached a point of deteriorating health where we had to put him to sleep.  Sammy was a cute little puppy that has brought much joy to Janie and myself, and to so many over these years.  Our vet was very gentle and understanding, which made the experience bearable, but the loss is deeply felt by Janie in particular.  We had almost five weeks since he was diagnosed with a stomach growth and cancer.  This gave us time to prepare and to cherish these precious moments, but it is never easy.   We had his remains cremated, and received them just yesterday from our good friends and funeral director, Frank and Rhenee Kapr of Scottdale.

     Friday the 5th of May marked Janie's birthday (I won't tell you which one) as well as my forty-fourth anniversary of ordination.  After Mass we went out to breakfast and then relaxed for the day.   I have three ordination classmates from our diocese, all still in active ministry - Monsignors Paul Fitzmaurice and Roger Statnick and Father Peter Peretti.  Father Pete's Mom, Mary, died just yesterday morning.  Keep her and Father Pete and their family in your prayers.  Roger and I will be retiring at the end of June.

     On Saturday morning we had the second of our parish First Communion celebrations.  The week before we celebrated with sixteen, and last Saturday we had nine.  I always enjoy these gatherings as I gather the children around me at the altar and share the Lord with them for the first time.  

     On Saturday afternoon at our four o'clock Mass we welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic of our diocese for his first pastoral visit, one long in the planning.  The church was full, our new Generations Choir (made up of those seven through seventy-seven) led the singing, the Lord was greatly praised by our worship, and the Bishop was warm, gracious, generous in his time, and truly delightful.  We are very blessed in having him as our shepherd.   Following Mass was a reception, and then I took the Bishop, Father Tyler Bandura, his MC, our Deacon Jeff Cieslewicz and his wife, Roseann, and my sister, Janie out to dinner.  A delightful evening.

     Sunday afternoon we had our sixth annual Blessing of Bikes at the parish.  Our bikers came to show off their rides, to share in fellowship and food, to listen to a Gospel group called "Good News Blues", and to receive a blessing before we sent them on their way.  The turnout was a little smaller this year (it was breezy and chilly) but those who attending are the most gracious of people.  Some look a bit tough, but all are kind and grateful.  One of the local tv stations from Pittsburgh (WPXI, Channel 11) sent a photographer and they had a nice piece on the evening newscast, interviewing Diana Mikash who planned the event and myself.

     Other things have happened, but these are a few of the highlights of this past week.  The month of May is jammed pact with activities, and then comes the wind down of June

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another in the series of finals

     As I am sure that you know, I will be retiring from active ministry at the end of June, after forty-four years.  Transitions are always difficult, and yet wonderfully challenging.

     On Tuesday afternoon I had another "final event" in the journey - the final scheduled Mass for our Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School family.  I celebrated the feast of Saint Mark for the youngsters from grades one through five, along with a number of parents and guests, in the school chapel.  As always, it was a wonderful expression of faith and love.



     At the close of the liturgy, there was a surprise presentation made by one of the students on behalf of the school family. 

 
     I was presented with a framed image of a "Heralding Angel" beautifully crafted from words and phrases that the youngsters offered to their teachers to describe me.  I have included a copy of the image for your appreciation.



     A while back, when Bishop Malesic visited the school and blessed the new chapel, he was presented with a similar image.  In an observation at the time I shared my admiration for it's unique beauty.  And now I am the proud recipient of this expression of love that will be for me a life-long remembrance of my time in the Norwin area.  To the school family, a great big THANK YOU!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sacred Days indeed

    Our paschal journey through the week called Holy and the Three Sacred Days of the Triduum has reached its end.  Now begins the true celebration of New Life in the Easter Mysteries which will be the thrust of the next fifty days.  We sat at the Table in the intimacy of a supper meal ... we prayed quietly in the garden with our friend and brother, Jesus ... we contemplated the account of his passion and death, we bowed before the starkness of the Cross, and we found nourishment as we continued our journey ... we entered into the darkness of Good Friday night praying in song and word the prophecies relating to this moment in time as we experienced Tenebrae ... and we waited, waited for the Vigil.

     Then we began the Solemn Vigil.  A new fire dispelled the darkness.  A candle, blessed, lit and set apart, led the people of God into their House to contemplate the mystery of salvation.   A great proclamation, the Exultet, spoke of this night in beautiful terms, and of the Happy Fault, the necessary sin of Adam that brought to us so loving of a Redeemer and the fulfillment of a longstanding Promise.   The Church then invited us to listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God - elaborated through nine readings with psalms and prayer.  After breaking open the Word, we moved into the Baptismal Liturgy.

     This year we at the parish had one young man of catechetical age who we shared the gift of Baptism with and then later brought to the Table of the Lord for Eucharist.  His name is Conner, and he was ready and willing with his "YES" to his desire to be baptized and his "I DO'S" at the Baptismal Promises.  In the newly blessed water he entered into the family of God and all of us, renewing our Promises, were reminded of our baptisms in the Rite of Sprinkling.  Conner was welcomed, embraced by the community, prayed over, washed clean in baptism and anointed, entrusted with the Light of Faith, and made ready for the Table.

    And then we returned to the Table that we had left on Thursday to celebrate with Easter joy the Eucharist which is our life-blood.  Having been inspired, having been renewed, having been nourished, we prepared to go forth and proclaim the Good News.  The blessing that sent us forth prayed:

May almighty God bless you
through today's Easter Solemnity
and, in his compassion,
defend you from every assault of sin.
 
And may he, who restores you to eternal life
in the Resurrection of his Only Begotten,
  endow you with the prize of immortality.
 
Now that the days of the Lord's Passion have drawn to a close,
may you who celebrate the gladness of the Paschal Feast
come with Christ's help, ans exulting in spirit,
to those feasts that are celebrated in eternal joy.
 
 
ALLELUIA!  ALLELUIA!  ALLELUIA!
 
 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The vanquished foe

     As our journey through Holy Week continues, I would like to share the words from Preface II of the Passion of the Lord from the Roman Missal which is prayed this week.  We hear it for only a few days, but its beauty deserves our attention.

"It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For the days of his saving Passion
and glorious Resurrection
are approaching,
by which the pride
of the ancient foe
is vanquished
and the mystery of our redemption in Christ
is celebrated.
Through him the hosts of Angels
adores your majesty
and rejoices in your presence forever.
May our voices, we pray,
join with theirs
in one chorus of exultant praise."
 
     We celebrate our redemption in Christ's passion, death and resurrection, but we also celebrate the defeat, the conquering, the vanquishing of the ancient foe.  There are countless enemies facing us in this world and beyond, but none compare to "the ancient foe".  And it is with confident assurance that we acknowledge his being vanquished and the freedom that his defeat brings into our life.  The power of these days awakens in us great joy. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday of Holy Week

     On this Monday of Holy Week, the Prayer Over the People reads:

"May your protection, O Lord, we pray,
defend the humble
and keep ever safe those who trust in your mercy,
that they may celebrate the paschal festivities
not only with bodily observance
but above all with purity of mind.
Through Christ our Lord."
 
 
     These next few days are days of quieting of our lives, quieting of mind and heart, so that the Triduum may bring forth within us the sacredness of the mysteries that we celebrate.
 
 
     These days of Holy Week 2017 are precious to me in that they will be my last in active ministry.  My retirement from pastoral assignments is quickly approaching, as is my seventieth birthday.  The date for retirement is not yet set, but will probably be close to July 1st.  Pray for me ... and pray for the people of this great parish family.