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.
Father Matthew Baum was the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA from July 2019 thru June 30, 2021..