He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! That’s what we do here this weekend. That’s what we celebrate this weekend! That’s the central mystery of our faith. Jesus Christ has conquered death! He is risen! That’s the formula. That was the first message of good news, the first Gospel. That’s the cry that changed the world. That’s the message that the early Christians proclaimed even when persecutions came, even when it meant their oven lives. After all, if Jesus is risen and will take us with him, what in this would could we possibly have to fear.
Last year at Easter, we celebrated a very different sort of Easter, all in our homes, clutching our loved ones close out of fear. The whole world had just shut down for the first time in our lifetimes. We were facing an enemy that most of us had never faced. It wasn’t something we could see or touch. It was something invisible, that we couldn't find out if we had contact until 7-10 days later. The closest in anyone’s memory to a real pandemic was a polio in the 1940’s and 50’s, but even there, it didn’t spread just by physically being in a room with someone. So looking into the unknown, watching mass at home with our families, we embarked on what became the long Lent of 2020. Thankfully in our parish, I was amazed at the responses, watching the stream. Last year for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Easter Vigil we had over 300 people watching each day, more than we’d have normally had in Church for many of those services. We looked out at the unknown, and we took a step back from the world, but toward Jesus Christ. Though we all grow weary of the precautions and the risks and sometimes it seems like we’re not doing as much as we should be, we really are a different Church than we were a year ago. We’ve suffered through this long lent, and now as things are beginning to open up again, it finally feels like it’s time to celebrate Easter.
Just as Jesus rising from the grave tells us beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has conquered death, now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, but we’re looking at a very different world than the one we had before this all began. We’re looking at a world that’s truly in search of good news…and today we have that good news. His name is Jesus Christ! Now, in this Easter season, as we begin to see the darkness conquered by the light, it’s our job to go out as those first disciples did and spread that good news to all the world. A hundred years ago, we as a Church lead through the recovery that followed the 1918 Spanish flu. Today, right in our own backyard, it’s our own local Catholic College of St. Francis University who has been orchestrating the lion’s share of the vaccine distribution in our area. Our Church is working together to help overcome this darkness.
Yet, I think we all know that COVID isn’t the only darkness in our world. So many people are lonely with all of the social distancing this year has brought. So many feel isolated. So many are struggling with all sorts of issues that this pandemic has only exaggerated. So many people in the world right now are hurting. Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we realize we have a message of hope, a hope that cannot be crushed, not by sickness, not by death. We have a hope that is eternal. We have good news that even sickness and death has no power over the one we follow. As our world begins to open up, we’re called to let that light of Jesus Christ fill our hearts so completely that it simply has to overflow into our world. We must let the joy of the resurrection fill our hearts so that we can share that light with everyone we know. As we celebrate the resurrection, let each and every one of us take that light into our homes, our families, our schools, our workplaces. Let the light of Jesus Christ shine in every dark place, and let them see our joy. For that joy that cannot be crushed, cannot be stopped even in the face of death, is the power that once transformed the whole world. It can do it again, if we’re willing to carry that light out into our dark world.
Happy Easter . . . God Bless You All!
This weekend, we celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week! This year feels like it’s my first time celebrating Holy Week with all of you. After last year’s Holy Week, celebrated in front of a camera and an empty Church, I’m so very thankful to be able to celebrate these days with all of you. There is so much that can be said about Holy Week, as it’s really the central focus of our faith. Yet, at the same time, it’s probably good to allow the rites of Holy Week to speak for themselves. This Sunday, we hear the story of the Passion. Holy Thursday, we celebrate the last supper, the first mass, and the institution of the Eucharist. On Good Friday, we recall the crucifixion, and on Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, we celebrate the reality of the resurrection an the empty tomb. I’d encourage everyone to make the time to participate in the services that make up Holy Week, as they are central to what we believe.
There will be a few small changes due to precautions this year, but nothing like last year. We will pass out palms this weekend, but on the way out after mass. On Holy Thursday, we won’t have the washing of the feet. On Good Friday, we’ll still have the veneration of the cross, but we ask that people do not physically kiss the cross. For the Vigil, while we won’t have the outside fire or hold individual candles, everything else should look pretty much as it normally would. Considering where we were this time last year, I’m hopeful that this year will actually feel like a real holy week. We also want to pray for our candidate this year. This coming Saturday at the Easter Vigil, Mike Mays will be received into the Church as a Catholic and be confirmed. So please join us in praying for Mike!
As I’m sure you’re all aware, last weekend our Drive-Thru Turkey dinner went exceptionally well. I really want to thank everyone who helped with the dinner. All of the folks in the kitchen did a wonderful job, I heard lots of great reviews about the food. The Drive-thru also went exceptionally well. From what I can gather from our preliminary data, we served almost as many dinners as we normally did, but unlike in the past, there was hardly a line. I real special thanks goes out to all of our young people. Everyone commented on just how hard all of our young people worked last weekend. We all owe them our thanks as we couldn’t have managed the dinner without them!
So as we continue this week, I hope we can all be thankful for being able to celebrate Holy Week together! I look forward to seeing you at each of the services this week!
The time has come for Turkey! This Weekend is our Annual Turkey Dinner and our first attempt at a Drive-thru. We’ve been working and planning all week. As I was up at the Garage this week with one of our parishioners working out the details of how everything would go, where the tables would be, how the setup would work, I realize just how much work and how many pieces have to come together to make an event like this happen. From the volunteers who spent weeks ahead of time getting ready, to our wonderful kitchen help who worked tirelessly preparing the food, to our young people helping with moving the dinners, to those working in the garage helping with packing meals, to our money counters keeping everything straight. I just want to thank everyone who’s working so hard to get this all done this weekend.
Remember, if you’d like to help work the dinner, we’d love to have you, just stop down to the Hall by 9am on Sunday morning and we’ll get you assigned to a place! Many hands make light work!
If you’re getting a meal at the dinner, check out the map on the back cover of the bulletin or our website. We have large signs posted on the front of the Church and next to the lower parking lot by St. John Byzantine directing you where to go. You’re welcome to buy both Dinner and Raffle tickets when you get to the garage. I just ask that you please be patient. We’ve thought of most of what we can imagine, but this is still our first time running a drive-thru.
For any of you who signed up for FlockNote when I had asked a few weeks ago, you got a nice little reminder about confessions and about the dinner. If you didn’t get that reminder, please either visit our website and click on “Flocknote” or text “popnc” to 84576 to sign up! It’s been very helpful to be able to quickly ask for volunteers and we already had a few people comment that they had lost track of time and were grateful for the reminder!
Also, later this week, we’ll be having our Lenten Confessions. Since we’re having a few different days, I was asked to make some times available in the daytime as well as the evening. So we have two more times with a different visiting priest for each. This Wednesday (3/24) at Noon, Fr. Brian Warchola from Holy Name in Ebensburg will be joining us, and this Thursday (3/25) at 6:30pm, Fr. Thad from Hastings will be joining us. Please take advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacraments!
Finally, it’s hard to believe but next Sunday will be Palm Sunday! We WILL be able to receive palms this year, but it’s going to look a little bit different than in past years. When you enter Church, the Palms will all be placed on a table before mass to be blessed. We won’t be holding the palms during mass, but everyone will be able to take palms home at the end of mass. I know it’s a little bit different than normal, but it’s certainly a lot better than how we had to do Holy Week last year.
Please know you are always in my prayers.
God Bless You, -Fr Matt
This weekend we celebrate Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent. It’s called Laetare Sunday for the opening antiphon of this weekend’s mass. “Laetare Jerusalem…”. In English it’s “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be Joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” In the midst of Lent, we’re given this one Sunday to rejoice, to celebrate what’s on the way. Just like Gaudete Sunday in Advent, we use rose colored vestments, symbolizing the color of the sunrise. (I wasn’t able to wear them for Advent, because we didn’t have any. However, I’m happy to wear them this Sunday, thanks to the donation of one of our online viewers who purchased them for us).
This Sunday is meant to encourage us to look forward to what’s coming, realizing that although we still have to go through Good Friday, although there will still be a crucifixion, on the other side, there is also a resurrection to come! The image we get in our first reading of Cyrus, King of Persia I think perfectly sums up what’s going on. The Jewish people had lost the land God had given them. They had been carried off into exile in Babylon. They were mistreated and persecuted. Then, Cyrus, a new King in Persia issued a decree that the Jewish people were to be returned to their homeland. That didn’t stop the persecutions. They didn’t move right away, the actual move might be years away. It didn’t really change anything in their daily lives, but it gave them hope. That’s what this Sunday is about, for as dark as the world can seem at times, we’re called to remember that just like the sun and the son we too will rise someday. So whatever’s going on, whatever we’re worried about, whatever seems dark in our lives, we’re called to always live as a people of hope.
In our parish this week, the fun is about to begin! We’re kicking into high gear for our spring dinner next Sunday March 21st! I know it’s going to be a little bit different than we’re used to. The dinner this year will all be served via Drive-Thru out of the Garage. We’re asking everyone to turn up the hill onto St. Stan Avenue (the road between our lower parking lot and St. John Byzantine). You’ll turn left at the top of the hill and be routed into our parking lot. We’ll have two stations set up for cars at the garage doors where you’ll be able to get your dinners. Due to Diocesean regulations there will be no dinner sales in the church hall, please go straight to the garage. While you can still put your tickets in the collection yet this Sunday, if you haven’t turned them in by this Sunday March 14th, please do NOT put them in next week’s collection! There will be dinner tickets available to purchase when you pull up to the garage. I know this is a bit of a different format, but I hope you’ll join us and invite your friends to join us as well. Please also pray for us that everything will go well.
Of course, a dinner like this can’t happen without your help. We’re looking for lots of help from volunteers, both adults and young people. We can use lots of help in preparations over this week, please check out the work schedule posted on page 4 in the bulletin this week. [Also posted on the main page of our website]. If you’re able to help the day of the dinner, please stop down to the Church hall by 9am on Sunday. We’ll get you assigned to a place either in the Hall or in the Garage. Please note that anytime we’re working with food this year, masks will be required. Thank you all in advance for all of your help! Our religious education students will be receiving a sign-up form from Sister for the day of the dinner. Please help support your Church. This is one of our Church’s two major fundraisers. We hope to see you there with all of your friends!
God Bless You
If you haven’t already, this week, you’ll be getting some mail from the diocese. Similarly, there will be envelopes available in all the pews for this year’s Catholic Ministries Drive. It’s a very important fundraiser for our diocese that keeps our diocesan offices running. In various places that I’ve been, I’ve found that often the people have never had it explained what exactly the diocese does, what services are provided, and why they’re important.
I know that many years ago when they started the former campaign called the Annual Catholic Appeal, I often heard all sorts of complaints asking “where does the money go?” While I can say I served as a priest in the tail-end of that era, I remember that there had been a lot of questions about how the money was used.
Over the course of the last couple of years, as the Diocesean offices moved out of their old location next to Garvey Manor into their new location in the former Our Lady of Lourdes School, I watched as the vast majority of the staff who had worked there under our previous bishop have slowly turned over. Now it’s a much younger crew with a very different attitude. When I call down asking for things, they’re happy to help, and they really do support us in the parishes in a lot of ways that we don’t always realize.
With that in mind, I was very pleased when a couple of years ago, our new diocesan Director of Development decided to revamp the Annual Catholic Appeal and rename it. The new Catholic Ministries Drive that we’ve been doing for the last few years has done an excellent job at letting us know exactly where the money contributed really goes. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be putting in the bulletin stories of each of the various ministries the drive funds, and how it helps us build up the Church here in our diocese.
The new Catholic Ministries Drive runs 14 specific ministries in our diocese that are divided into 3 basic categories. So I though this week, I’d list them and give a brief description of what each of them are.
The First Category is “Nurturing our Youth.” The drive funds Campus Ministry, putting Catholic campus ministers and ensuring the sacraments on each of the 5 non-Catholic Universities in our Diocese, Juniata College, PSU Main Campus, PSU Altoona, UPJ Johnstown, and Lock Haven. The Education Office handles all the Superintendent responsibilities for our Catholic School system, working on everything from curriculum to grants, to oversight of our various Catholic Schools. The Sacramental Preparation office oversees First Communion, First Reconciliation, and Confirmation throughout the diocese. That’s been especially important to us this year, as they’ve managed all of the virtual confirmation retreats until we’re able to have in person retreats again. The Youth Ministry Office runs other youth programming throughout our diocese including our Summer Camps and Youth Days.
The Second Category, “Caring for the Poor and Strengthening Families” provides both outreach and assistance to families. Catholic Charities is our primary outreach to the poor for most of the diocese, they provide everything from Catholic counseling services, to budgeting help, to a wide variety of help to the poor and social services. Whenever I have someone looking for help, it’s been amazing how between St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities, we can often get them what they need. Catholic Charities specialized in some of the bigger needs. For example, they just recently opened a new women’s shelter in Johnstown. The Family Life office supports families, both with family programming and classes, and by managing Marriage prep and marriage enrichment courses throughout our diocese. Our own Deacon Gary & Patti were trained through the Family Life office as sponsor couples. The drive also helps with our twin mission diocese in Mandeville Jamaica.
The Third Category is “Forming Clergy and Laity”. This includes the Adult Enrichment and Lay Ecclesial
Ministry programs. Over the last few weeks, I’ve advertised some of their classes in the bulletin. Both programs provide some excellent adult education in the faith. The Christian Initiation office helps support our converts, providing us with resources and programming to help bring people into the faith. The Vocation Office works to recruit and train seminarians so that they can become priests, considering we’re talking about a 4-6 year graduate degree program, realize that to train each seminarian costs just a little more than sending a young person to college for 4-6 years. The Ongoing Formation office provides continuing education to our priests and deacons, and finally our Evangelization office works to promote the good news of the faith to our diocese as a whole. For example, I know that many of you saw the couple of Proclaim! interviews that I had done in the last few months; that entire ministry falls under the Evangelization office.
When we look at all of those ministries together, it’s quite a bit that happens at a diocesan level. Nearly all of them are good, solid, Catholic things that we need to be doing to build up the Church, and 100% of the money sent to the Catholic Ministries drive goes toward one of those.
With that in mind, I’d strongly encourage all of us to help us work toward our goal for this year. This year’s goal for our parish is $27,753.00. There are options to give through regular pledged gifts and online. Please consider helping us work toward this year’s goal.
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..