It’s hard for me to believe that after just about two years here, this will be my final bulletin article with you folks. As I look around, the shelves are bare. My things are all in boxes and I’m mostly just working out of a few bags at this point. Next weekend I’ll be celebrating my first weekend mass at my new parishes. Transitions are always a bitter-sweet time. Change is hard, especially when these changes happen so quickly, and priests are only in a parish for so short of a time. Still, it’s been a very good two years. I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with you folks.
We’ve accomplished a lot here at Prince of Peace. In the office, we’ve updated all of our parish records, and we’ve gotten our finances into pretty good order. We’ve redone the bulletin and brought printing in-house, replaced the website, implemented On-Line Giving and our Cemetery Mapping project, and overall we’ve moved things into a pretty stable place. In the Church, we’ve fixed up the air conditioning and heating, gotten the hall and garage cleaned up and created a maintenance workshop inside, and updated some of the lighting. We’ve made new liturgical decorations for both the Church and Chapel, and we’ve brought back some wonderful Christmas decorations. We’ve had a few adult classes, and we have revamped our Religious Education program. We’ve trained Eucharistic Ministers to visit the homebound and we’ve had some very successful dinners and basket parties.
Then, of course, for the last 16 months or so of that time, we’ve walked through a pandemic where we launched into the adventures of streaming. Folks who had been previously unfamiliar with terms like Facebook and YouTube were able to join us for Mass virtually. We spent some time with masks in Church, and yet, we’ve come through it pretty well. I’m happy to say that as we look at the end of the fiscal year end attendance and financials, we’ve done very well through it all. While our numbers have dropped a little, as have all Churches, we have weathered the storm far better than many. Our collections haven’t really dropped at all. All of that involvement is a testimony to your faith here in Northern Cambria. I’ve been blessed to walk this journey with you.
I remember when I first arrived, one of the biggest concerns was the cemeteries. While we haven’t quite finished, we’ve made enormous progress in getting our five cemeteries into good order. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s so good to know that we have everything in place to keep good records and be able to sell the plots that keep the cemetery running. The grass is being cut on a regular schedule, and while it’s not perfect, things are slowly getting moving again.
With all that in mind, I had a chance this week to meet with your new Administrator, Fr. Mark Groeger. After showing him around, walking him through the buildings, and giving him a brief rundown on things, I think he’ll do very well here and I’m much more comfortable with moving on when I know I’m leaving things in capable hands. I hope that you will continue to work with him as you worked with me and together work to build up the kingdom of God here in Northern Cambria.
If you’re ever in Johnstown, please stop by either the Co-Cathedral or St. Patrick’s for Mass!
God Bless You all!
New Assignment Locations:
St. John Gualbert Cathedral
117 Clinton Street in Johnstown
609 Park Avenue in Johnstown
My new mailing address:
Very Reverend Matthew Baum
c/o St. John Gualbert Cathedral
PO Box 807
Johnstown, PA 15907-0807
It’s good to be back, at least for a few days. We had a very nice retreat this week with a number of our priests at the Antiochian Orthodox Retreat Center in Bolivar, PA. Our speaker was a priest from the Diocese of Brooklyn who spoke on 12-step Spirituality. It was some really good, down-to-earth, practical stuff. As I looked around, the majority of the priests at this retreat were all using some form of cane to walk. Please continue to pray, both for new vocations as well as for our older priests.
Although I did have to head back in to celebrate the funeral of Mike Kordish, I’m very thankful to Fr. Ron Osinski who joined us last Monday to celebrate the funeral for David Campbell.
As for myself, you might have noticed the trailer in the upper lot. I’ve started to really launch into the process of packing. It really brings home the reality of our lack of priests when I look at the rectories of the two new parishes I’m taking over and realize that both of the rectories were built with suites ready for 6 priests each. Even within my time, I remember a time when 4 priests lived at just the co-Cathedral. Soon, it’s going to be just me at both places. So please continue to pray for me through this process.
Please pray also for our neighbors to the south at St. Benedict’s in Carrolltown. Their pastor, Fr. Jude has also announced his retirement, and his replacement has yet to be named. I know that Fr. Jude has been the pastor there for many, many years. This will be just as much of a transition for them as it will be here.
I know we’ve talked about the priest shortage for years, but we’re coming to a point where there simply aren’t enough priests to go around to staff parishes. We really need to do what we can to encourage young men to answer the call.
Of course, not everything is bleak, now is the time to encourage all of you to really step up and take ownership of your parish. Now is the time for each of you to help the faith grow in Northern Cambria and to work to share the good news with your neighbors. Now is the time for you to come together and work to help to build up the Church. I can honestly look back and say that in the last two years, we’ve come a long way in that direction, but there’s still a long way to go. We’re starting to get councils and committees up and running. Things are happening. Let me encourage you to work together to keep those things running. I’m thankful to everyone who has already stepped up in my time here and I hope that in the next few years, you can work with Fr. Mark Groeger to continue to build on the foundation we’ve started.
While there will be plenty, two immediate things we’re working on right now is getting ready for my going away, and for our Summer Dinner and Basket Auction.
For the going away, please bring something to share for noon (after the 11am mass) next Sunday, June 27th. As for the Halupki Dinner, we’re going to be asking for donations of cakes the week before the dinner. Many of you have been generous in the past, but at the Spring Turkey Dinner, we didn’t have quite enough and had to order some sheet cakes to fill in the gaps. I do hope you’ll be willing to help us make that happen.
If you haven’t already, please get those baskets in. As of my writing this, we have around 33 baskets (so far). Also, as we have done in the past, a list of basket donations with donor names & descriptions, as well as a picture slideshow of all of the baskets we have received, have been uploaded to our website. There is a link on the home page. We will continue to update the website until the deadline arrives.
Finally, this is a special weekend in our secular world. This weekend is Father’s Day. Please make sure to wish all the fathers in your life a Happy Father’s Day. We live in world where too often we don’t always appreciate the contributions fathers make, where so many children grow up with strained relationships with their father. So this weekend, please remember and celebrate your father, or whoever has filled the role of father in your life.
God Bless You,
This week, things are finally starting to get going with my upcoming move. Over the last week, I had 3 different Parish Council meetings: ours here, as well as St. John’s and St. Pat’s. Although I’m sad to be leaving all of you, I’d like to remind everyone just how lucky you all are to be able to continue to have a priest who is only serving in one parish. I hope that’s able to continue for as long as possible. In my new assignment we’re already doing a mass times survey because as the schedule currently stands, I’m not able to say all of the masses, as they schedule at the two parishes conflict. So far, people have been very understanding, but these things are always difficult.
I’d also like to thank in a special way, the crew who helped out this week changing light bulbs. When you take a look at the sanctuary at the main church and all of the lights in the chapel, you might notice a bit of a difference. It’s a job that we’ve been meaning to do for quite a while, but I’m glad it’s mostly completed. It’s so nice to see everything bright and clean in our buildings. It’s also good to see people beginning to step up and make things happen. Thank you to everyone who’s helped with various things over the last two years. Please continue to do so with Fr. Mark!
Please also keep in your prayers the family of Mike Kordish who passed away this week. From what I understand Mike spent many years working for the parish before I came. Please also pray for the family of David Campbell. David had asked and was received into the Church as a Catholic just a few weeks ago. We just received word this week that he passed away.
A few people have been asking about having a gathering before I leave. My last weekend here will be June 26th-27th. So on Sunday the 27th, we’re going to have a small going away party potluck after the 11am mass. Please bring something to share. Fr. Mark has let me know that he will also be able to be there that day. So it will be both an introduction as well as a going away party.
Finally, this week is our Priest’s Retreat. Since I’m sure things will be very chaotic when I arrive at the new places, it’s good that the retreat fell now, before we the change. I’ll be away from Sunday evening through Thursday. All of the mass intentions for the week will be said while I’m on retreat. Sue will still be in the office as normal.
Please know that you are all now and will continue to be in my prayers.
It’s hard to believe it’s June already! I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day holiday with their families. I’d like to especially thank our local VFW and American Legion posts for walking through another wonderful service at each of our cemeteries. Every year I’ve been here, I’ve been blessed to be able to go with the group as we visit each of our 5 parish cemeteries, say a prayer, and have a short service to honor all of our fallen veterans. It’s good to see the support in our community for our fallen veterans. If you didn’t get a chance to see it yet, we took a drone video at some of the cemeteries that’s posted on the parish’s Facebook page.
Speaking of our parish cemeteries, this has been a very busy week for our cemeteries. This Thursday we finally managed to get our new section marked at Mount Carmel Cemetery, so we’re prepared to begin selling plots in that new section. It’ll be right next to the existing section at the bottom of the hill across the road from the altar. Similarly the word seems to be out in town that since I’m going to be moving, now is the time for everyone to get their cemetery plots all settled. I think we’ve sold more plots in the last week than any time since I’ve been here. Of course, I’m happy to work with any of our parishioners or folks who grew up here who would like to purchase plots. It’s also nice for all of us to work through these things now as it’ll be one less thing for Fr. Mark to worry about in his first few weeks. So if you’re considering getting a plot at one of our cemeteries, give us a call and set up a time. Although I will admit that it’s a bit disappointing that I never got to put out an ad that said “buy your cemetery plot today, it’s the last thing you’ll ever need!”.
Meanwhile, on Memorial Day, I had an unpleasant experience that I wanted to let everyone know about. Over the last few years, there have been all sorts of scams out there. Most of us are familiar with the regular calls about extending our car warrantees. This week, I had a few parishioners contact me that they received text messages from an unknown number claiming to be me and asking the person to purchase and mail them gift cards that would be used for shut-ins. This is something that’s happened to a number of priests in our area over the last few years. If you receive a similar message, please know that I would never ask anyone to purchase and mail gift cards. If anything ever sounds suspicious and you’re not sure, please just call us at the Church office, and we’ll let you know if it’s something legitimate going on, or if it’s a scam. It’s better to call and be safe than sorry.
As far as my departure, we are going to be having a joint welcome/going-away party for myself and Fr. Mark on Sunday, June 27th so please mark your calendars. We’ll have more details in the next couple weeks.
I think that’s all of the parish business I needed to share with all of you this week, but I can’t end this week without mentioning how important today’s feast day is. Today, Corpus Christi Sunday, celebrates the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of all the parts of the Catholic Faith, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith. It’s in the regular experience of the Eucharist that we encounter Jesus on a regular basis. Right now, as we’re emerging from the Pandemic and life is returning to normal, the whole world is having to come to terms with what can remain virtual and what really has to happen in person. I think this is a good time for us to remember, even though we can hear a sermon on TV or over a live-stream, the one thing we can’t do is receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We can’t receive food online. That has to be done in person. At some very basic level, that’s why it hurt so much to have the Churches closed back in March of 2020. It meant that we were separated from the Eucharist. That’s why we bring communion to those who are unable to attend mass. Eucharist given to one who is dying is called “viaticum” literally, food for the journey. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it is Jesus who sustains us, who gives us life. So now, this week, as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, let’s all take some time to realize and appreciate the amazing gift that we’ve been given every single time we come to mass.
This Sunday we celebrate “Trinity Sunday” and next week we’ll celebrate Corpus Christi. So while we’re back into the season of Ordinary Time, we still have another couple weeks of white. The Mystery of the Trinity is probably one of the most confusing parts of our faith. Probably the clearest expression was the statement by St. Athanasius,
We worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
Now doesn’t that clarify things? If it still seems confusing, please remember that’s ok, it should. We have a God who created the universe, do we really expect that we’d be able comprehend everything about him? We can certainly understand some. We should always work to better understand, but we’re never going to understand God in himself perfectly. That’s ok, because we don’t have to perfectly understand him to follow him. Probably my favorite explanation goes something like this:
God created everything, including Love itself. He can’t make something he doesn’t already have, so God is Love, and he exists in an eternal relationship. All our feeble human efforts at love are in imitation of the Father’s perfect Love of Jesus, and Jesus’s perfect Love of His Father. When we encounter God, we’re just trying to listen follow him and learn, because we know he created us and loves us.
In the parish, we’ve had quite a whirlwind since the announcement of the upcoming move. The new Pastor here was ordained a priest this Saturday morning and he’s looking forward to joining us here. Thank you to everyone who made it down for the ordination.
It’s been pretty busy for me here between visiting my new parishes and working to wrap things up here. I really want to thank our Parish and Finance Councils and the Cemetery Committee for working together to help begin this transition process. There’s a lot to get done, but it’s good to see we’re well on our way. This week seems to have been cemetery week. I’ve been fielding calls all week as we’re getting plots settled, transfers done, and sales completed. Thank you to everyone who’s stepped up to get those things finalized for your family while I’m still here. I’m hopeful that by working through that now, it will make things easier for Father Mark when he arrives.
Every day, it seems that there’s a few more things to hand off or show to others as we make preparations for this move. Thank you to everyone who has been so willing to help, I’m very hopeful that the good things that we’ve started will continue in the future. So much of that depends right now on folks who step up to help us keep that momentum going.
Meanwhile, I thank you all for your patience, as half of my days right now are on the phone organizing things at my new places for my arrival. Over the next few weeks, I’m also starting to get packed, and get ready for the big move. I want to also thank everyone who’s offered to help. I do really appreciate it.
Finally, the baskets for the basket raffle have started to arrive. Thank you all again for all of your donations of such beautiful baskets. I trust that the upcoming summer dinner will be a wonderful introduction for Father Mark.
God Bless You,
Happy Pentecost! This weekend is Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Church. This weekend, we celebrate the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, empowering them to go out and make disciples of all nations. We hear from the book of Acts about how the Apostles, all huddled in one room for fear after the crucifixion of Jesus, received the Holy Spirit and were empowered to go out into the world proclaiming the good news and the mighty works of God.
I’d like us to think about that this week. If you were asked to go out and proclaim the mighty works of God in your life, how well would you be able to do that right now? What would you say? Jesus is asking us to do it right now, so what DO we say? Do we talk to others about how God is working in our lives? It’s something to think about honestly. If we really can focus and see that, it changes everything. As I walk through all the transition stuff this week, as I get to tour my two new parishes, and as I work with the staff, councils, and committees here on the transition, a thought keeps hitting me through all of it. What we’re doing here really is the work of God. Our Church is so much bigger than any one of us. None of us are irreplaceable. There’s only one who’s really irreplicable and that’s God himself. Those first Apostles never thought they would have been able to do a tiny fraction of what they actually did. I can look at my own life, and my time here. It’s amazing how many people have really stepped up in my two years here. All sorts of people here have all sorts of different skills. Just as we hear from St. Paul, there are many gifts, but one spirit. Whether it was parishioners stepping up to help cut the grass, change light fixtures, cook for dinners, make baskets, serving on a committee, or bring communion to the sick. I’ve been amazed at the willingness of so many to step up. Thank you to each of you for answering the call in so many different ways over the last few years.
As we move into the next few weeks, our real challenge is going to be working to make a smooth transition, work to bring your new pastor into the loop, and build on what we’ve been working on so far. I keep thinking of those apostles, they were worried about how things would go too. Yet, they realized the Holy Spirit was with them, empowering them, but it was their turn to step up. So as we move forward in the next few weeks, there’s quite a few things we’re working on. I’d ask that you please be open if I call asking for your help with something in the next few weeks. Right now, I’m asking for your help with two specific things.
First of all, next Saturday, May 29th, Deacon Groeger will be ordained as Father Groeger at 10am at the Altoona Cathedral. The assignment has officially been made public, so it would be wonderful if we had a healthy representation from his new parish attending his ordination. Please consider making the trip down. Additionally, if you’re a little worried about crowds, on May 28th, from 6pm-7pm at St. Michael Church in Hollidaysburg, there will be a Eucharistic Holy Hour to offer prayers for those to be ordained. Let’s work together and make a good first impression on this new guy!
Secondly, I’d really like to see us begin to focus on our Summer Dinner. Please start bringing the baskets in, helping us hang up the flyers around town, taking a look at that weekend as we get requests out for help. I’d love to see that dinner be an opportunity for your new pastor to be able to meet and greet everyone, as well as helping that event get things off for him on the right foot financially with a few extra resources for us to be able to get some new things done at this parish.
Please continue to pray for me and the soon-to-be Fr. Mark Groeger, as we walk through this transition.
It’s with mixed feelings that I share with you the news that was made public this Friday. Very soon, Bishop Mark has asked me to take on a new assignment. I’ve just been appointed the Rector of St. John Gualbert Co-Cathedral in Johnstown and Pastor of St. Patrick Church in Moxham. As I’m sure you’re all aware, St. John’s is home to our Diocesan TV Mass, which I’ll be taking over from Fr. Crookston who will be retiring. I know these moves never come at a good time. I’m not sure there really is such a thing as a good time for a priest to move parishes. I know when I arrived here, just a little less than two years ago, it wasn’t under the best of circumstances: Father Dusza had just been removed, and he had only been here for about a year.
I keep thinking of the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians…“One plants, another waters, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” We’ve come a long way in the last two years. We’ve been through events that no one could have ever imagined. We’ve accomplished a lot. We cleaned up our office procedures, reorganized and expanded our bulletin and implemented a new Census System. We’re well underway toward the process of remapping our cemeteries. We have revamped our Religious Ed program and engaged some families in Family Catechesis. We’ve dramatically stepped up our Eucharistic Ministers in visiting the homebound. We’ve revived our Parish Council and worked to help make sure our parishioners can be heard. We’ve expanded our Finance Council, moved all of our bookkeeping into QuickBooks and issued some real Financial Reports with some really improved transparency. Then, of course, that was all while we’re all weathering a pandemic and all that has come with it. We’ve begun streaming the mass, and who would have imagined that for my first Holy Week here, we’d have had just 5 people present and over 300 watching online. I think we’ve all realized that we live in a time when things we never could have imagined have become reality. We’ve launched our first full take-out dinner and we have another one on the way. In that same time, we’ve celebrated many funerals, a few weddings, a couple of baptisms, and we received one RCIA candidate into the Church. It’s been a blessing to be with you for this time.
I’m also pleased to be able to say that I think I’ll be leaving you in good hands. Deacon Mark Gregor will be ordained a priest on May 29th and this will be his first assignment. I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years, and I really think he’ll do well here. He’s a bit older than me and although he’ll be a newly ordained priest, he brings with him a great deal of experience. I don’t want to say too much, as I’d rather allow him to introduce himself when he arrives. I hope you’ll be as kind and welcoming to him as you’ve been to me.
At the same time, please pray for me, this is an exciting move, but also a little overwhelming. I’ll be the new Rector of the Co-Cathedral, Administrator of St. Pat’s, overseeing the TV Mass every Sunday on Fox 8, while remaining at the prison in Somerset. I know quite a few folks down there, and please know that if you’re ever in Johnstown, you’re always welcome to stop in to say hello.
I know this isn’t something that any of us expected. I had thought I’d have been here a little bit longer than this and I had only barely gotten my things unpacked. Still, I’m very happy that you will still be able to have a full-time resident pastor here at Prince of Peace, and you don’t yet need to share that pastor with another parish. That’s something to be very thankful for, especially when we realize that even the Co-Cathedral where I’m heading will have to share me with St. Patrick’s in Moxham.
Over the next few weeks as we prepare for the change, I’ll be asking many of you for help. I ask that you please consider being generous with your time. As soon-to-be Father Mark Gregor will be a brand new priest, I’d like to hand off as many practical things to as many parishioners as I can in the next few weeks so that we can make the transition as smooth as possible and not overwhelm him as he walks in the door. Of course, over time, he may change many of those things, but I know this parish has been through a lot of changes in recent years, and I really want to help make this transition as smooth as we can.
I’ve certainly been blessed to be able to spend this time with you, and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I won’t be leaving right away. Because of the nature of a newly ordained taking this on as his first assignment, there will be a little bit of lag time. I’m not sure what the final transition schedule will look like yet. We want to give the soon-to-be Fr. Mark a few weeks to be able to visit the parishes he was assigned as a seminarian to say his thank-you’s, as well as some other things he needs to take care of. The transition will happen between June 6th and June 30th, and I’ll keep you posted on what’s going to be happening as I work with the soon-to-be Fr. Mark and Father Crookston.
Please know that through all of this, you will always be in my prayers. Remember, it is not who plants or waters that matters, because it is God who causes the growth.
-Fr. Matt Baum
First of all, I’d like to congratulate our 2nd grade children on receiving their First Communion this week. It’s been quite a year for them learning about Reconciliation and Eucharist via Zoom. I’d really like to thank Mrs. Sherry Delosh for all of her hard work preparing our young people, even though she wasn’t able to join us for their First Communion last Sunday. I’d also like to thank everyone who was involved in helping prepare those three children for communion last weekend, especially their parents. Even though we had a smaller than normal crowd last Sunday at the 11AM, I’d really like to thank all of our parishioners who came to that mass to support those parents. As we all know, over the years, so many families who have drifted away from the faith. It’s vitally important that all of us do all that we can to welcome, support and encourage our young families to continue to practice their faith. As I said last weekend, I didn’t realize until I was visiting another parish how much I miss hearing more babies crying at mass, so if you know anyone with little ones, please invite them. Sometimes, all it takes is a little encouragement, and the best encouragement of all is when each of us makes a personal invitation, one person at a time.
This past Wednesday evening, we also held our last parent sessions for religious education, so that marks the end of this year’s Religious Education Program. I’d like to thank Sister Karen for all of her hard work. I can’t even imagine picking up a new job as a DRE in the middle of a pandemic, but she has done a wonderful job. It’s such a blessing to have a religious sister on staff. I know she’s worked many, many hours of phone calls, emails and texts, with catechists that she had only met a few times months earlier and many parents that she was just meeting for the first time. We made it through a successful in-person fall, and a mostly virtual spring. We’ve started a new series in every grade level, and she’s got some great plans for the fall. Although this year wasn’t what anyone could have ever predicted, I think she’s really got our program on the right track and it will be good to look forward to the fall, and the good things that are to come.
One thing I know that everyone I’ve talked to has been buzzing about is the governor’s most recent announcement. As of May 31st, all PA gathering restrictions are being lifted, except for masks. Those are due to be lifted when we reach 70% vaccination statewide. If you haven’t already, and you’re able to get the vaccine, please help us reach that number. Unless we hear differently, we’ll be planning on removing the ropes and allowing people to sit anywhere beginning that day. It’s my hope that for those who are comfortable, they’ll sit closer together, while those uncomfortable sitting close to others, will end up with a little more room to be able to distance themselves. As those changes begin to happen, I just ask that we all be as considerate as we can of each other. Different people have different comfort levels and medical conditions that we don’t always know about. If someone is uncomfortable with someone close to them, please be respectful. What’s most important is that we do our best to be welcoming and to make sure we never become the reason a person doesn’t feel welcome in our parish.
As we move into the summer, the other big news is that things are finally taking shape for our summer dinner and basket raffle. The Halupki Dinner will be Sunday July 11th from 10:30am-2:30pm. It will again be in a take-out format. The tickets are being printed and we hope to get them in the mail to you soon. The drawing for the basket raffle will be the following Sunday, July 18th. In the fall, we had a very positive response to allowing multiple times for buying chances on the baskets, so we’re finalizing a variety of times for folks to drop by and buy chances on the baskets. We hope to have those times published in the next week or so as our advertisements go out. With that news, that also means that basket season is upon us. After visiting some of the other basket parties around the area, I might be a little prejudiced, but I think we have some of the nicest baskets of any I’ve seen anywhere. So many of you do such an amazing job bringing in those baskets every time. So since we didn’t have a basket raffle with the Spring take-out dinner, let’s make this one a good one. Just as a reminder, we’re not able to accept baskets with alcohol, but we can accept baskets with gift cards to the liquor store. We’ll begin accepting baskets Wednesday of this week when Sue gets back.
Finally, and most importantly, this is Mother’s Day weekend! Please make sure to wish all mothers, and those who have come to fill the role of mothers in someone’s life in your prayers. If you’re blessed to have a mother still alive, make sure to call her today. If your mother is deceased, if you can, make sure to visit her grave, but regardless, please pray for all mothers.
God Bless you now and always,
As we move towards the end of the Easter Season, we’re beginning to celebrate all those Springtime events that come with this time of year. This Sunday we congratulate our three children who will be making their first communion. They’ve been such troopers this year, meeting weekly with their teacher, Sherry Delosh via Zoom. While it’s been a strange year for everyone, I know I’m excited for some of these normal things to begin happening again. So this week, we congratulate these three children as they make their first communion at the 11AM mass. Then, at the end of Mass, we’ll invite them to come up and crown our blessed mother for the month of May. I hope that you will join me in congratulating these children and thanking their parents for continuing to answer the promises they made at their child’s baptism. Each of these families need our prayers and support, as do all of the families with children in our parish. I think we all realize it’s a difficult time in our world right now and we all need our Lord to lead us and our parish family to walk with us on that journey.
In the next few weeks we also have some very exciting moments coming up. On May 29th, after a very long 4 years without any new priests, we’ll have the next priesthood ordination in our diocese. Two men, currently deacons, Deacon Mark Gregor and Deacon Mike Pleva will be ordained priests. One of those men should sound familiar to many of you. A few years back Deacon Gregor spent a summer living here as a Seminarian. As I was talking to him, he spoke fondly of his time here. In just four short weeks, he and Deacon Michael Pleva will be our two newest priests. The week before, one of our seminarians, Brian Norris, will be ordained as a Deacon and God-willing next year ordained a priest. Then, just a week later, on June 5th, a parishioner of St. Peter’s Somerset, Mark Komula, will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Please continue to pray for all of these men as they are ordained to the priesthood and diaconate and as they begin their new assignments. Please also pray for all of our existing priests and deacons, as well as any young men who may be called to discern the call to diaconate, priesthood, or religious life.
As all those wonderful things are happening, we’ve got a few things coming up in our Church as well. This coming Thursday, May 6th, is the National Day of Prayer. I’d invite you to join us down at the Contres Greer Social Hall at 6pm for a prayer service for our town. Let this also be your reminder, if you haven’t gotten something for your mother, next Sunday is Mother’s Day. At the end of all the masses next weekend, we’ll have a special blessing of all mothers. Next Week, Thursday May 13th, is Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation. We’ll have mass at 6pm Wednesday at HC Chapel, and 8am, 12:05pm & 4pm Thursday at the Church. Then, coming up the weekend on June 5th, after missing them last year, we’ll be having some religious sisters from India coming to talk to us about the missions for our missionary co-op.
Finally, as we approach May, it’s getting on toward Spring Cleaning and vacation times. Our secretary Sue will be away on vacation this week from Wednesday the 5th through Tuesday the 11th and the Church Office will be closed.
Meanwhile, it’s Spring cleaning season. Since I’ve taken over as the Catholic Chaplain at the prison, I haven’t been able to clean out the Catholic office, and they’re on my case to get things cleaned up and organized. So I’ll be down there during the day this Thursday and Friday. So, there will be no mass on Thursday the 6th & Friday the 7th and no one will be around here at the Church on those days, as well as Monday the 10th.
Of course, if there’s an emergency, please leave a message via phone or email and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able.
May God Bless you now and always,
Two steps forward, one step back! It almost sounds like a dance move. I think we’ve all had the experience at some point in our lives when we had everything all planned out, but then plans change, things get cancelled or postponed, and suddenly we look around and your world looks nothing like what you had planned. In any other year, I think those experiences would be surprising, but this year, it’s almost become normal.
Originally this week, we had planned to layout a new section at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. However, as we were about to meet, we looked outside, only to see a nice coating of snow on the ground. So we’ve had to postpone that plotting for a few weeks until everyone can get together again.
Then, I got a phone call letting me know that there was a COVID outbreak at Northern Cambria Elementary, so we had to postpone our First Communion originally scheduled for this Sunday until next Sunday.
With all that we’ve been through over the last year, these things can feel like minor inconveniences, as we’re all getting used to the world where people have to cancel due to quarantine, things feel like they’re always being rescheduled, and so many things that used to be family gathering huge social moments we feel like we’re simply happy if they can happen somehow.
I was talking to a number of people this week and I can almost feel the anxiety in the air as things begin to re-open, as we begin to transition back out of crisis into normalcy. As more and more people are being vaccinated and returning to a functioning world, I think we’re beginning to come to terms with just how much has been lost in this last year. We’re allowing ourselves the space to really grieve those losses.
I’m looking at my calendar in the upcoming months and we’re starting to have the memorial services for those who passed during the thick of COVID back in January and February, but the family wanted to wait to celebrate the funeral mass and burial. I think we all realize from our own families how difficult it is to deal with the loss of a family member, and how much consolation the closure of the funeral liturgies can bring for a family. How much more difficult now, as families have had to wait for months for those events to happen. Please keep those families in your prayers as we walk through all of these funerals and memorial services in the next few weeks and months.
Still, it’s not just the ultimate loss of life that we’re grieving. For so many of our young people, this year has disrupted much of their whole world. Imagine all of the Graduations, Proms, Confirmations, Holy First Communions, and other events that haven’t been able to happen, and if they did, the family who would have been invited weren’t able to make it to those events. Even now, as we had to push our first communion back a week, I’m so thankful that our parents have been understanding, but it’s still hard, realizing that before last year, whole families would have made plans to travel, just to be able to be present for these events. Please remember our young people and be kind to them as they struggle to work through the fact that even as they are struggling with virtual learning, they’ve missed so many events they may have been looking forward to.
As we open too, I hear from so many who are now struggling, having been isolated for a year, just with the basic dynamics of starting to get together again. As we’re slowly able to gather, it’s amazing how many times feathers are ruffled unintentionally as we all begin to learn again some of those social dynamics that so many of us haven’t been using in the last year. It’s going to take a lot of patience as we work back into our new normal.
Yet, this weekend, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we realize that as we work through all of these struggles, we have someone who cares for us, loves us, and watches over us through them. He’s right there with us, looking out for us, ready to seek us out when we’re lost, ready to guide us home. The trouble is, in order to be willing to be found, sometimes we have to realize that we’re lost. Admitting that we’re lost can be a scary prospect. It means we’re struggling, we’re in trouble, we need help, and we can’t help ourselves. It means we’re going to have to put our trust in someone bigger than ourselves.
So this week, as we begin to move out of this crisis, I’d invite all of us to really reflect on how we’ve found ourselves lost and grieving in this past year. There is real hurt and loss there. Yet, we have a God who cares, who will walk through all of that loss and hurt right along with us. We have a God who not only understands loss, he was willing to sacrifice himself, so that he might rise again and that we might live forever with him in eternity, that we might be, in a word, saved.
God Bless You,
Father Matthew Baum was the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA from July 2019 thru June 30, 2021..