I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! It’s hard to believe that November has been breezing past us. Christmas will be here before we know it! Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent! Today we begin to make preparations for the coming of our savior at Christmas.
I think as we’ve walked through this pandemic for most of 2020, we’ve all become a little more aware of our own mortality. As we walked through the lockdown and all of the restrictions in our world, it’s easy for tensions to run high and for our patience to be tested. In short, it’s easy for us to see our own human weakness and temptations when we’re in the midst of something like this. At the same time, if we’re paying attention, that should also clue us in on just how much we all need a savior. The good news is that we not only have one, but he’s on his way. That’s the sense I’d like all of us to really reflect on this advent season. There’s so many ways to think of Advent, but this year, with all that the world has been through, can we recognize that we not only need a savior, but we have one, one that we can turn to when we’re in trouble, one that can actually help us. He’s given us his word and Sacred Tradition to instruct us, the sacraments to strengthen us on the way, and the Holy Spirit to empower us. As we walk through advent, I’d encourage you to take advantage of a program offered through FORMED that we subscribe to called “The Road to Bethlehem”. To sign up, go to their website https://advent.augustineinstitute.org/. You’ll receive a daily reflection in email, a weekly video and action item to help put advent into practice.
G.K. Chesterton once said that the Catholic Faith has not been tried and found wanting, but has been found difficult and left untried. Let’s together, this Advent, work to really dive into our faith. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this year, especially during the shutdown, it’s that while it’s easy to use to use the excuse that “I’d pray more if I had more time” when we suddenly were stuck at home with all kinds of time….did we pray more? If not, it’s ok...but why not start now? I know for myself, I’ve found that when it would be easy to put on music in the car, or when I’m working out, I find that after putting on one of those FORMED talks, really listening to something about the faith, I walk away with a deeper sense of my relationship with God. I’d challenge you to do the same this Advent!
In parish news, please make sure to stop by our Basket Party this weekend, during the week, or next weekend. We have 111 amazing baskets, many of which would make great Christmas presents.
We’ve also settled on our Christmas Schedule. I had wanted to leave the decision to parish council, but unfortunately, I had to get the schedule out this weekend before we could organize a meeting. Especially with the holy day coming up, I needed to make sure we got everything out there. Please take a look at the schedule that will be in the bulletin from now until Christmas.
Due to COVID, Advent Confessions this year will be a little different than previous years. Rather than have a single penance service with a lot of people and 6-7 priests, each church in our area will have 2-3 nights of confession with 1-2 visiting priests each night. Here at Prince of Peace, we’re going to have 3 nights of confession, December 16th, 17th, and 20th, each at 7pm. Each night will have myself and a different visiting priest. Once we work out the schedule, I’ll let you know who’s coming each night. Please take advantage of these opportunities for the sacrament!
This year, our Bishop has allowed us to celebrate an earlier Christmas Eve Mass than normal. Since our 4pm is usually the most crowded, we’ve decided to take advantage of that. Our Christmas Eve masses this year will be 2pm at the Chapel, 4pm at the Church, 6pm at the Church, and 9pm at the Church. Christmas Day will be 9am. Our Choir will sing for the 9pm Christmas Eve Mass. Sadly, we cannot do a children’s pageant this year. Our hope is that the large crowd who normally come for the 4pm Christmas Eve Mass will divide themselves between the 2pm and the 4pm. The 4pm and the 9pm Masses will be Livestreamed. Click here to see the full schedule.
I know everyone wants to come to Church for Christmas, so I ask that we work together to make sure that everyone can attend, and that we can do our best to keep everyone safe.
May God bless you now and always,
Even as we watch in our world as the COVID numbers continue to spike, still life continues. This weekend, our neighbor Fr. Jeremiah will be joining us for the Saturday 4pm Mass while I celebrate a wedding for a former student down at the Cathedral in Johnstown.
This week we celebrated the funeral for one of our parishioners, William Hendrick, and last Friday, we celebrated the funeral of one of our priests, Fr. Andrew Stanko. Most recently Fr. Stanko had been pastor of St. John Vianney in Mundy’s Corner, but I knew him best as pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Cambria City, Johnstown. Just like Northern Cambria, Cambria City had been a haven for Ethnic Parishes. About 13 years ago, when I was just a Seminarian, I spent a year in the parish with Fr. Stanko. He was a wonderful priest who had served for many years as a Hospital Chaplain. I remember how, in the days when we were able to do such things, every day he would make a point to stop out to the Hospital and visit his parishioners. I still think of him often when I’m able to do communion calls. I’d ask you to continue to keep Fr. Stanko and all of our priests, living and deceased in your prayers, as well as encouraging young men to continue to be involved in their faith, and should God call them to the priesthood or religious life, to generously accept that call.
Meanwhile, this week, as we wish everyone a joyful Thanksgiving, please know that you are all in our prayers as you make those difficult decisions on who to gather with. My own family has decided that we’re going to be scaling back dramatically for Thanksgiving this year, and although we’ll all eat Turkey somehow, we may not be able to gather as we usually do. Please continue to pray for all those who are unable to join their families this Thanksgiving.
In more joyful news, please also remember in your prayers Julie Pawlikowski and Brian Laurito, who are to be married next Saturday. If you see them, offer them both congratulations on their happy day and prayer for a faith-filled, joyful marriage.
We also have a couple of big things coming up in our parish. This weekend at the 11am mass, we’ll be drawing the names for our new parish council. One of the first orders of business for our new council (provided we can get things assembled in time) will be to decide the times for our Christmas Masses this year. We will need to make some adjustments so that we can accommodate all the folks who want to come to mass this Christmas, and if possible, I’d like to get the input of our new council as we do that.
Similarly, we’re working on Advent Confession schedules in our region. With the COVID-related restrictions, we won’t be able to have penance services as we typically do. Instead, we’ll have 2-3 evenings where we will have confession with 1-2 visiting priests from our neighboring parishes. We’re currently working on the schedule and I hope to have it out to you soon.
Also, please don’t forget to check out our baskets next weekend and the weekend of December 5th & 6th. We have some wonderful baskets that will make some great Christmas gifts! Stop by and check them out.
If you’d like to help us set up for the Basket Raffle, we’ll be moving tables and setting things up on this Tuesday, November 24th at 10am.
I hope all of you have a joyful Thanksgiving this week. Please stay safe and know that you are always in my prayers.
I’ve got to say, it’s good to be back! I really want to thank everyone for all of the thoughts and prayers, as well as the few care packages I got along the way. I have to say, I think I might have enough chicken soup for the second coming! I’m very thankful to the Benedictines for providing us a priest last weekend. I’m very thankful to be pretty much back to normal now and ready to get back to work.
I’m also very thankful to have had a relatively minor case. As we’re seeing cases begin to pick up in our area, I really want to stress to everyone to be careful. Please continue to wear masks, use the hand sanitizer. Let’s work as best we’re able to keep this virus in check. I really want all of us to be able to celebrate Christmas in Church.
Beginning Monday, everything at the Church will be back to normal. The office should be back open at the regular times, I’ll be back to SCI Somerset this Monday, and all the masses will be back to normal again.
Just so no one is too worried about me, I did also want to let you know that next Saturday I have a wedding down in Johnstown. Fr. Jeremiah from Nicktown has graciously agreed to take our Saturday 4pm mass. So when you see Fr. Jeremiah at Mass, I don’t want anyone to panic that something happened to me! I would ask that you keep in your prayers the wedding couples over the next few weeks. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress of a couple preparing for their wedding as all of these cases are spiking around the country.
Thank you also to everyone who has been so understanding about our modifications both with mass and the Turkey Dinner. After meeting with our committee, we’re going to offer two options to anyone who has purchased Dinner tickets. You can either request a refund, or donate your ticket back to the Church. There is a small cut-out on page 4 in this week’s bulletin. Please cut it out and send it to us either in the collection, the mail slot, or the regular mail letting us know your ticket number and your preference. We will then attempt to contact anyone we don’t hear from. This only applies to the $12 adult & $6 child “dinner” tickets. The basket party and raffle tickets will still be valid for our rescheduled basket party on December 6th.
Our rescheduled basket party has now become a “Pre-Christmas” basket party. The flyer for the party is included in this bulletin on page 5 and hopefully you should see those flyers appearing around town soon. Please stop by to see the baskets, invite friends, and don’t let all of these wonderful baskets that would make such great Christmas gifts slip by you.
There is also a list of all donated baskets and a slideshow of all baskets along with a picture of the Grand Prize TV on our website if you would feel safer “looking” at the baskets ahead of time from home. This information can be found on the Events page of our website under “2020 Basket Party & Raffles”.
Please know that you all continue to be in my prayers, now and always.
As I’m sure you’re aware, due to my coming down with COVID, we’ve had to cancel the dinner. We’re working through a plan to move forward.
Refunds: Once Sue and I are finally back and the office is open again, we will offer everyone the option of either a refund for the Dinner tickets or donating the money to the Church. We’ll have more details once the office is officially open again.
Basket Party: Since we have all these beautiful baskets sitting in the dining room, and Christmas is still coming, we’d like to still have our Basket Raffle, Drawings, and 50/50s. We’re going to hold the Basket Party & Raffle between Saturday, November 28th and Sunday, December 6th, with the Drawing at 1pm on Sunday, December 6th. See page 4 of this bulletin and/or watch the website for updates.
You’re welcome to bring the already purchased Basket and Raffle tickets, as well as purchasing new ones when you stop. You can see photos of all the baskets on our website.
Turkeys: Thanks to some quick-thinking parishioners, we were able to get the Turkeys moved into freezers where they will keep for a while. In light of all the COVID concerns in our area, we have decided to postpone the “dinner” part of the Turkey Dinner until after the 1st of the year when hopefully we are able to more freely gather.
I just want to thank everyone this week for all of the kind words and prayers while I’ve been quarantined. I’m happy to tell all of you that I am feeling much better. Last Friday I came down with a high fever. Saturday, as you know, I asked deacon to have a Communion Service while I got tested, and well, the rest is history. I’d also invite you to please keep our secretary Sue in your prayers, she also tested positive and while she’s feeling better will be working at home until we’re both cleared.
I’m also thankful to Father Earl, the Prior at St. Vincent Archabbey for sending a priest this weekend so that we are still able to have mass. At this point, provided all goes well, I’m due to be cleared on Tuesday November 10th. So I’m hoping to be back with all of you for next weekend. Just because I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, we’re going to plan on continuing to have all masses at the Chapel through November 14th & 15th, and then plan to go back to our normal schedule on November 21st & 22nd.
This has been quite the experience, walking through this mysterious illness that has changed our world so dramatically. I’m very thankful that I had a very mild case. Please continue to pray for those in our community who are also sick with COVID, especially all those who were far more sick than I was. I really appreciate everyone who offered to stop by and pick up groceries, or other little things as I couldn’t go out. Please make sure you’re checking in on your neighbors and doing the same for them.
As I look around the world right now, I know I’m not quite sure what to think. Emotions are high, people are upset. It’s a scary world right now. It feels like our entire world has been turned upside down. It’s tempting to want to lash out at the world, yet what good does that do.
On the other hand, I look at this Gospel, at the wise and prudent virgins, and I look around at our world. There’s one group that somehow, through all of this chaos, I keep hearing from. Some of my friends who are now women religious, especially some of our new vocations. Every time I encounter them, they’re simply living their life, full of joy with their love for Jesus Christ. It’s a joy that’s infectious. Simply because they realize that the real battle isn’t in this world. The real battle is between heaven and earth, a battle that Jesus has already won. It’s an amazing thing to watch these young women, all in their habits, all living together, praying together. The joy they radiate from their love for Christ has such a profound effect on everyone around them. The whole world simply changes in their wake. That’s the image I’d encourage us to capture.
In this moment, can we turn to our faith, look at the saints, and work to become the person that someone could look at us and see the joy of Christ radiating from inside of us, inspiring us to reach out and care for those around us, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. Even if all we are capable of doing is praying for them, those prayers are a very real help.
We live in a world that seems ready to hate and unwilling to forgive, let’s do what we can to be different. Care for others, even those we’re tempted to think don’t deserve it. We all need each other right now.
- Fr Matt
I have some unfortunate news to share with all of you. This past Friday night, I spiked a 103 degree fever and had a bit of a cough. Not knowing what it was and wanting to be safe, I asked Deacon Gary to have a communion service in place of our regular masses this weekend since I haven't been in contact with him for a while. Meanwhile, I scheduled a rapid COVID test. That test has now come back positive, so please, if you had been in contact with me unmasked for more than 15 minutes in the last week or so (So more than just walking up for communion last Sunday) , talk to your own doctor to see if you should be tested. Please take care of your own health!
I want to thank everyone for the prayers and support I've received so far. I know we're in uncharted territory. A lot of people have asked how I'm feeling. Right now, I'm just congested with a mild fever and a little cough. So health-wise yes, I'm sick, but it's not too bad for now.
After speaking to the diocese, there's a couple of practical things changes that are going to have to happen. For the time being, we're going to be shutting down the Office/Church buildings on Chestnut Ave. Next weekend and going forward until I'm cleared to return, Deacon Gary will hold a communion service at Holy Cross Chapel during the normal weekend mass times until I'm cleared for contact. Similarly, all funerals will be celebrated by a neighboring priest at the chapel. Once I'm feeling well enough, I'll celebrate mass and stream it from the winter chapel as we did during the lockdown. I hate to mention money at a time like this, but since I know people will ask, You're welcome to continue to drop off envelopes either at Deacon's communion services, through the mail-slot in the parish front door, or mail them to the parish.
Sadly, this also means our Turkey Dinner & Basket Party scheduled for next Sunday Nov 8th has been postponed until further notice. We were able to get all the turkeys refrozen before they thawed, so we should be able to reschedule that dinner once this is all over. Once we are able to reopen the office, we'll meet with the committee and figure out how to handle and refunds in a manageable way. More information will follow on that later on.
For our religious education families, please watch for updates from Sister Karen via email.
I know this is scary news for a lot of people. I know I tried to wear a mask wherever I went, to take whatever precautions I could, but this can happen to anyone. I'm reasonably young and healthy, I hope to weather this pretty well, but I worry for what this means for our parish. Please keep yourselves safe. Please help us rally together to keep our parish going through this. I've been so proud of how everyone had pulled together through this pandemic so far….please keep the faith!
Happy Feast of All Saints and All Souls! This year, November 1st falls on a Sunday, so the Holy Day of All Saints takes the place of our normal Sunday. Saints are one of the most incredible parts of our faith simply because they are very real people. They’ve lived in every age since Jesus Christ walked the earth, of every nation, people, language, gender, social class, and pretty much every other category under the sun. Even us, right here today in this parish, every single one of us could become a saint. Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis beatified Blessed Carlo Acutis, a 16 year old Italian boy who had died suddenly of Leukemia in 2006. This was a young man who had Playstation II in his house and worked on making websites. Yet, he allowed the light of Christ to shine through him and through that young man’s faith, his whole family and more came to believe in Christ. Now, that young man has joined the ranks of married couples, priests, deacons, religious, rich, poor, young and old, who have given their lives to Christ, and through their lives of holiness have fought the good fight and finished, now praying for us, encouraging us, and interceding for us from the other side of the finish line.
That’s the promise of the Saints, it’s open to all of us, if we’re really ready to let Jesus work through us. It will involve sacrifice though. We have to be willing to let go of everything so that we can receive everything.
Probably my favorite quote about the Saints comes from CS Lewis is his book “Mere Christianity”:
“There are no real personalities apart from God. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most 'natural' men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerers have been; how gloriously different are the saints.
But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away 'blindly' so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality; but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him...Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
I love the way he puts it, it’s only when we’re really ready to turn everything over to Christ...that we find we actually lose precisely nothing and gain everything. That’s the glory of the saints! Right now, all of those saints are in Heaven praying that we might join them someday. So the real question we have to ask ourselves is…”I know I’m not a saint, but do I really want to want to become one...and am I really, honestly working toward that goal?
This is also a busy week for our parish. I want to give a special thank you to everyone who helped clean the hall this past Saturday, Monday, and Thursday. It’s so nice to see everything clean! We may have welcomed pets for the feast of St. Francis, but I’m glad to expel the dust bunnies! This week we’ll be doing our food prep for the Turkey Dinner. Thank you in advance to everyone who will be coming to help both with the food preparation and the day of the dinner. Even if you’ve never helped before, please join us! We’ll be happy to put you to work supporting our parish. As you come, I’ll leave you with one observation someone made to me this week. “With everything shut down, there are a lot of people who have been shut up in their homes. With the drive-by, this dinner might be one of the few times that person stopping had physical contact with their church in quite a while. So let’s provide that moment together.” I thought that was an excellent way to look at the upcoming dinner. Please consider volunteering! All the information is listed on the Turkey Dinner Page.
Also, even if you’re just stopping by to eat, This Sunday is the last chance to turn in your pre-sale tickets. So if you forgot them this weekend, that’s ok. Just bring money with you and purchase your dinner at either the walk-thru or drive-thru lines. I’m putting a map of the drive-thru, walk-thru, and basket locations on the back page of the bulletin this week. If you’re walking through, there will be separate lines for the baskets and for the dinners, so feel welcome to come check out the baskets first, then get in line for your dinner, or if you’d like to avoid the crowd, get your dinner and go, please check out the baskets at one of the other dates and times we have listed.
As per usual, both the 8am and the 11am Masses next weekend will be held over at Holy Cross Chapel on Campbell Ave so that we can minimize the traffic. Please help us spread the word! We hope to see many of you this week to help prepare the Turkey and all of you next weekend for the dinner!
This is the final Sunday for Religious Education for the fall. We’ll resume in January. So with that in mind, this is also the final Sunday for our 5PM Sunday night mass. Sadly, we didn’t get enough of a turnout to make it worth continuing, but I’m glad to have tried.
Finally, Thank you to everyone who responded to my phone calls about the parish council nominations. We’ll be drawing 6 of these this weekend, and then appointing 4 more. Then, finally I’ll appoint a youth rep from among our high school students. The accepted nominations are: Pat Kelly, Stephanie Baran, Diane Waksmunski, Wanda Brown, Coleen Cedor, Joe Philips, Russ Weakland, Chris Hoover, Steve Kirsch, Dennis Pawlikowski, Michelene Weiland, Steve Bender, Bethany Barnoski, Jody Delosh, Jennifer Wilson, and Erin Shutty. I thank everyone who both nominated someone, those who accepted the nominations, and even though who for various reasons had to respectfully decline. I’m very much looking forward to working with whoever is selected!
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.