All this week, I’ve been busy calling people. Thank you to everyone who’s answered my calls so far and agreed to be in the drawing for parish council. I’m happy to say that we had 28 people nominated, and it really is a very nice cross-section of our parish. The ages ranged from around 19 to 80, with men, women, people from pretty much all of the former parishes, younger people with kids, retired folks, and folks from all sorts of different backgrounds. I’m very excited to get things together and I do think it will be a nice group. It’s taking me quite a while to get everyone called, so I’m looking at drawing the names on November 1st.
As I said before, there will be 6 names drawn, and 4 appointed to make sure we have nice representation, and 1 youth representative. I’m very much looking forward to having a stable group of parishioners to help in our decision-making and planning here at Prince of Peace.
Meanwhile, we’ve been very busy up in the garage! I want to thank the Knights of Columbus for a generous donation toward the purchase of power tools for John. We’re setting up his workspace in the garage and it really feels good to be getting things cleaned up & functioning. We’ve been testing a lot of older appliances that had been used for the festivals in the past, moving them around, getting rid of what doesn’t work, and getting what does work into more useful places.
We’re also getting into high-gear for our Turkey Dinner. Every day we’re seeing a few more baskets come in. All the surfaces in both kitchens have been professionally cleaned. I’d like to thank everyone who helped Saturday morning with beginning to clean the hall and move around some things. It’s been a while since we’ve given it a good cleaning, and especially with everything going on with COVID, I wanted to make sure that we had everything nice and clean for the dinner. For those who weren’t able to join us Saturday morning, the reason we’re having two times was that we moved all the tables in the hall to one side to scrub the floor, the next time, after it’s dry, we’ve got to put them on the other side to catch the other side.
Please also check out the upcoming cleaning and work schedule for preparing the Turkey Dinner. We’d certainly love to have your help. I know after my first experience with dinners here, I was so very impressed with how many people turned out to help us prepare these wonderful meals. I know so many of us are anxious to get out to do things, and with our nice clean working areas in the hall, I’m looking forward to seeing and talking to all of you as we prepare for our big dinner.
For the dinner itself, please check out on page 5 in of this bulletin and tell everyone you know! We’ve posted a Facebook event on our page so for those of you who are on Facebook, please help us get the word out and share it. Please also make sure to tell all your friends that the dinner is on, it’ll be all drive-through or take-out, and that we have additional times to look at the baskets for those who want to avoid the crowds.
Finally, as I’m sure we’re all aware, the election is coming up in a little more than a week. Please make sure to vote. As a Church, as a rule, we don’t officially endorse any candidates, it’s been that way for generations and for good reason. The Church teaches about moral issues. Certainly some issues, like the Right to Life, are more important than other issues, but at some level, no matter what the election, no matter what the situation, there are not perfect candidates, so rather than play the game and be seen as endorsing views that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach, the Church simply speaks about what we believe as Catholics, believing that all of you are smart enough to look at where the candidates stand on what we believe and make your own decisions helping to protect our ability to live according to our faith, and to share the goodness of Jesus and His Gospel with the world.
I know a lot of emphasis is on the presidential election right now and it’s dominating everything, but I’d encourage you to read the voter guides, realize that as important as the presidential election is, it’s not the only election going on next week. Please take some time to read up on ALL the candidates for all the various offices you’ll be voting for and know where they stand with regard to what we believe. With that in mind, I’ll be posting our Diocesan Voter Guide on the parish website. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard quite a bit already about the presidential race, but please read up on the others ones. It’s so important that we not just vote, but that we know just who and what we’re voting for. One of our parishioners passed on a prayer for the election, I found it worth sharing. It’s at the back inside cover of the bulletin, right after the music. Please remember that no matter what, we need to continue to pray for our nation.
Finally, next Sunday is All Saints Day, which means Monday, November 2nd will be All Souls Day. Due to some COVID restrictions, I won’t be heading to the Prison on Monday for All Souls Day. That means we’ll be able to have a 6:30pm Mass at the Church. At that mass, we’ll remember in a special way all those who have passed in this previous year and light a candle in their memory. As we were only just starting to get things in order this time last November, I apologize in advance if I miss any names of people from our parish who passed in the last year. We should have the names in next week’s bulletin, so if I miss someone, please give us a call before Monday’s Mass.
Please also remember your All Souls Day envelopes next weekend. They have a space for additional names. Please be sure to mark on them any other souls you’d like to pray for during the Month of November. After they’re counted, we’ll place those envelopes in a basket by the altar all month.
I hope all of you have a wonderful week, and I hope to see many of you this week as we get our hall cleaned up and begin to get ready to cook those Turkeys!
It must be Turkey Season because our parish is starting to spin into motion getting ready for our big Turkey Dinner on November 8th! It’s hard to believe that back in March, just barely the weekend after our dinner was the great shutdown. Baskets are rapidly coming into the office, we just had our 2nd planning meeting, and the plans for the dinner are really starting to take shape.
It’s going to look a little bit different than previous years. All the food will be take-out, and there will be a drive-through available. If you’d like to take advantage of the drive-through, simply begin on St. Stans Ave between our Church and St. John Byzantine up to the corner, turn left onto St. Elizabeth Street between the Church and the upper parking lot and you’ll see a canopy set up. The Dinners will be available for sale there under the canopy.
For the basket party and walk-through dinners, just enter the Church hall through the doors on the font side of the Church. At last count, we have just about 70 baskets and they’re all wonderful. If you’re a little cautious about the crowds, please take advantage of one of the alternative basket party times.
As we get ready for the dinner, I do have to ask all of you for a little bit of extra help. We’ll post our normal work schedule for kitchen cooking help next weekend, but right now we could really use you help with cleaning. Both of our kitchens have been basically closed up since our last dinner back in March, so they really need a good scrub before we get to the dinner. Typically, in the past we’ve gotten help from the inmates at Cambria County Jail to help scrub the floors. With COVID, we’re not able to get that help this year, so I’m asking all of you for your help. We’ll need both folks able to help scrubbing floors, wiping and cleaning tables, dishes, and kitchen equipment, as well as people able to help move the tables and other kitchen equipment around to clean under and behind. We’ll provide all the cleaning materials, but we really need help making it happen. We’ll gather in the Church hall at around 9AM next Saturday October 24th. Thank you in advance for being willing to help us get the hall ready for the dinner. I know I’m really looking forward to some Turkey Dinner and to start putting my tickets in for all these beautiful baskets!
This week, we also had our Cemetery Committee Meeting. I’m really pleased with how things are coming along with our mapping. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we can start to see a real pattern coming together. We’re using a drone to rebuild our cemetery maps from aerial photographs. Those completed maps will then be used in conjunction with our new cemetery software to help us get all of our cemetery data organized. I don’t think even I really grasped just how big our cemeteries really are until I realized that just at Holy Cross, each section is at least 25 rows with 50 graves per row, that’s around 1,250 graves, and there’s 3 of those sections just at Holy Cross. Multiply that by 5 cemeteries, and it’s a lot of information to get into order. I really want to thank everyone who has been helping so far. I think we’re starting to get a system down, so if you like puzzles and you’d like to help, either here in the office looking at maps and entering information into a computer, or by walking the rows with a clipboard, please let me know, at this point, I believe we’ve got a plan and we’re ready! I also want to thank the extra parishioners who came by for the cemetery committee meeting just to see what was going on. I know those meeting can get a little dry and boring at times, but remember, it’s easy to be faithful and engaged when things are exciting, but in life things aren’t always exciting. I find it’s exactly when we keep at it through those dry and boring moments that we can see real long-term improvements and progress happen. So thank you to all of you who have shown such interest.
Finally, this will be the last weekend to put names in for our parish council nominations. So far, we had 25 nominations which is wonderful. After this weekend, I’ll start calling people to see who is willing to accept their nomination. If you get a phone call, please be generous with your time and remember, you’re being called because someone thought you would do a good job.
By our new bylaws, we will draw 6 members from the nominations. Normally we’ll draw 2 each year and they’ll serve a 3 year term, but since we are just getting started again, we’ll draw all 6 and then those 6 will then draw for 2 one-year, 2 two-year, and 2 three-year terms. Then, once those 6 are drawn, I’ll appoint 4 additional members along with one youth representative for a total of 11 on the council. I plan to take the appointments from the nominations, making sure that there’s some good representation of the various groups at our parish. If, for example all the names were men, I’d appoint a few women. If they’re all older folks, we’ll appoint some younger folks, etc. I hope to get the phone calls completed in the next week or so. As soon as that’s completed, we’ll have the drawing at a Sunday Mass. I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to having a real representative group of the parish so that we can move forward with a lot of planning at our parish and know that we really are making these important decisions and plans together as a parish.
God Bless You Now and Always,
We’ve had quite the busy week here at the parish. First of all, our sympathies to the family of John Frontino whose funeral was this Friday. Please keep their family in your prayers as with all families in our parish who lose a loved one.
It’s been pretty busy up at our cemeteries this week, with a few committal services, marker installations, and people inquiring about plots. Although it’s been a lot, I’m glad to have gotten to work with some wonderful families. I know that many of us aren’t always ready to face those sorts of decisions, but having worked with many families, losing someone is stressful enough, before adding all the complications of purchasing a lot at the time of death. It’s good when all those arrangements are already taken care of so that the family can focus more completely on what’s going on in their lives at that moment. If you’d like to reserve a plot, just call us at the office. All the pricing information and regulations are available on our website.
I also want to apologize to anyone who attempted to attend our last cemetery meeting. We had scheduled the meeting, and the night of the meeting, nearly all of our members had something come up and we had to cancel. I tried to watch for folks who might be coming, but I know I missed at least one person who contacted me wondering where everyone was at. We’ve rescheduled the meeting for this Thursday, October 15th at 7pm. If you’d like to hear more about how the new maps are coming along or even help, you’re certainly welcome to attend.
Over in our new maintenance department, John has been starting to get his feet wet here. We’ve been cleaning out the garage getting prepared to set up a bit of a workspace for him. We’ve already cleaned out quite a bit and over the next couple weeks, we plan on moving some of the older tables and chairs as well as some of the older refrigerators that have been sitting there for a while. It really feels good to be looking around and seeing these spaces start to be cleaned up, moving them into good working order. We will have some costs as we get his area all set-up with the necessary tools, but as we do, I’m excited to be able to start to get a lot of things fixed up around the parish that have been needing attention for a long time.
Meanwhile, plans are in the works for our Turkey Dinner coming up in a few weeks. After meeting, we have a couple big announcements to make about how things are going to work this year in light of COVID restrictions.
The biggest change is that there will be no eat-in option for the dinner. Everything will be take-out. Some folks have asked about the price change; the cost change is simply due to the cost of the take-out containers. On the day of the dinner we will have both a drive-through and a walk-through option.
If you’d like to walk-through, everything will function just like you’re used to. Simply park in either parking lot, walk through the hall doors down into to the hall as normal.
The drive-through will be held on Elizabeth Street just behind the Church. As we get closer to the dinner, I’ll be putting a map in the bulletin to show everyone how things will work. We simply wanted to let anyone who has concerns about going down into the hall know that a drive-through option would be available.
For the Basket Raffle, TV and 50/50 Raffle tickets, first of all, thank you to everyone who has contributed a basket so far, please keep them coming! In order to reduce the number of people in the hall, we’re going to offer additional times to participate in both the Basket Raffle and the other chances. They will be set up in the part of the hall where people would normally eat. You will be welcome to come into the hall first to participate in the Basket Raffle portion, then get into the dinner take-out line when you are ready.
To provide additional times for those who want to participate in the basket raffle, but are not comfortable with crowds, we will not draw the basket, TV & 50/50 tickets until Sunday, November 15th after the 11am Mass. At that time, the drawing will be livestreamed. Please watch the Turkey Dinner Page in the bulletin and on our website for all the times and for more information.
Finally, we had our first meeting with our family-centered Catechesis group for religious education. It’s a bit of a different model than we’re used to, but it’s one had been around since the earliest days of the Church. It’s simply helping our families live as good, solid, prayerful, Catholic families and share their faith with their children. Please continue to pray for all families taking part in our religious education programs, both parents and children.
May God Bless you now and always.
I hope I didn’t overwhelm everyone last week with the finances. I know it was a lot of information, but I was a bit surprised that I got very little feedback from folks. I guess it just took a while to process where we are. Aside from the Cemetery, we’re doing reasonably well all considered. There’s always going to be struggles and challenges, but it’s good to be open and transparent, working together to build up the kingdom of God. I know all those numbers are a necessary thing, but it is nice now to get back to the regular work of our parish.
I must have reminded a lot of people about cemetery business because we’ve have more than a few people checking on plots, putting in stones, and the like. I do want to thank everyone who’s come in this past week with cemetery related issues for your patience. We really are working on things, and slowly, day by day, we’re getting more organized. Everyone I’ve spoken to in the last week or two has been very patient, and I just want to say how much I appreciate that. We’re all in this together.
Now it is a little bit ironic, to follow up stewardship Sunday with celebrating a Saint who spent his life specifically renouncing everything, his inheritance, even his very clothes, for the sake of the kingdom of God. I know that sometimes we think of Saint Francis primarily for his love of animals, but he’s so much more than that. His one true love, was Jesus Christ. He wanted to be like that rich young man in the Gospel story, and literally give up everything to follow Jesus, unbound by all the cares of the world. Now of course, he understood that whether in the Church or in the outside world, someone had to mind those concerns, and he never degraded those who did, but he knew for himself, he longed for the freedom of complete poverty, dependent complete on God, sharing the good news and never worrying about what tomorrow might bring.
If you’ve never heard the story, or even if you have, I can’t recommend enough the Audio Drama of Saint Francis that’s on FORMED. You can easily listen in your car, on a walk, or anywhere. It’s one of the best audio drama’s I’ve ever heard, and the 2nd best version of Francis’s story I’ve ever encountered. Second only to Saint Francis’s Biography by GK Chesterton, which is also a freely available ebook or audio book.
Saint Francis is a pretty amazing figure, and I think we can all certainly understand his desire. Over the last year I know I’ve had to spend a lot of time on the practical matters of our Church, with things like hiring staff, dealing with building repairs, cemetery maps, managing grass cutting, budgets, technology, and the like. Of course, I’d love to spend more time teaching adult education, preparing for homilies, anointing the sick, hearing confessions, and doing priestly work, and I hope as we get some of these concerns ironed out, I’ll be able to do just that.
That’s part of why I’m very excited as John’s starting to find his way around here, he’s starting to get set up with facility concerns. We’re going to have to clear out the garage and get him set with a workshop, but with time, I think we’ll get a handle on our buildings maintenance so that we can focus more on the reasons we have a Church.
I’m also excited to soon be able to put our parish council together, form committees, and be able to better involve you, the people of our parish in the everyday decisions, so that you can feel you have more of a say and more ownership of your parish. Over the last year, I’ve had lots of people offer to help, the trouble is, it’s hard to get organized enough to know what to ask for help with. I really hope that as our nomination process concludes in a couple weeks, our parish council will be able to help organize many of both our material and spiritual tasks as a parish.
Please continue to keep me in your prayers, as I keep you in mine. God Bless, -Fr Matt
As you pick up the bulletin this week, you might notice that it’s a little bit thicker than usual! Inside you’ll find all sorts of boring numbers that for some reason I decided to put into the bulletin this year! In all seriousness, I really do believe it’s important that we be as transparent as possible in our finances as a Church and that we do what we can to help you, the people, be part of the decision-making. To paraphrase one of my favorite Catholic writers, GK Chesterton: Democracy is a wonderful thing that works very well, when you're not in a hurry. Then he goes on to explain that sometimes we need to let everyone in on the decision, but when we do that it takes a long time. Other times, we need a decision right away and someone has to make the decision. It’s a balance.
Over the course of this year, there’s been a lot of decisions that simply had to be made on the spot. Every so often though, it’s good to stop and get input, to set our priorities, and to look forward together at how we’re doing and where we’re heading. That’s part of what I hope to do this weekend and through restarting our parish council. This year has been quite the experience for me. We had quite a few routines I had to learn, others that simply weren't working that we had to revise and lots of systems to change.
We’ve accomplished quite a bit this year. In the office, we’ve completely updated our parish registrations and moved them into a new, manageable system. We’ve revised our mass intention process and gotten that into a manageable process. We’ve gotten our minister schedules working well, we’ve dramatically straightened out our bookkeeping, we’ve redone our website into something useful, and we’ve completely redesigned our bulletin.
In terms of the facility, we’ve sadly had to close the activity building to programming, but we managed to negotiate a lease with the Library, giving them an area to store their extra books, and keeping the building from being a drain on us. We’ve fixed up some, but not all of the indoor and outdoor lighting, both at the Church and at the Chapel. We had an amazing Christmas display, most of which was purchased and constructed this year. We did have to replace a water tank in the rectory, but we also installed a heat pump system in the rectory, giving us both air conditioning and more efficient heating.
In terms of programming, with the retirement of our DRE, we’ve revamped our religious education program with new books and programming. I’ve very excited for the future there. We’ve secured an online subscription to FORMED, which gives our parishoners access to some amazing Catholic materials, talks, videos, books, and more. We’ve also implemented a new sacramental prep program for Marriage Prep and Baptism Prep. We started a few adult education classes through the use of FORMED. One got cut short due to Covid, but then we hosted another class on prayer entirely online through Zoom. We’ve purchased and installed equipment to do online streaming and we’ve begun streaming both weekend and daily masses, reaching as many as 350 simultaneous viewers during holy week. Even now with things mostly opened up, we still reach around 50 viewers daily. We hired a new Maintenance Man who started just this past week and will be beginning to work on a lot of long-deferred minor repairs and upkeep to our facilities that have needed done for quite a long time. Finally, we’re starting to move on those things.
We had two wonderful dinners, Turkey in the Fall, and Halupki in the Spring. I was so very impressed with all the baskets and all the help. Each of those dinners brought in just about $12,000 a piece to help with the expenses of our parish. I want to offer a special thank you to everyone who was involved with those in any way.
When it comes to our Cemeteries, we’ve come a long way. We’ve gotten our policies firmly straightened out and clarified so that they’re clear, public, and consistent for everyone. When I started, we quite a few maps and no one was quite sure how to make sense of them. We revised our records, our easement forms and clarified processes so that we have clear records when easements are sold or transferred. We raised money for mapping software that’s now purchased and ready. We have aerial photos of the Cemeteries and are nearly ready to enlist volunteers to begin to walk the various sections, identify stones and input data to our new system.
When I look at that, it’s quite a bit to manage in just a year. I’m thankful to everyone who has helped with that process. On the next few pages, you’ll see the various budget numbers. As I prepared my notes on finances, I realized that there was quite a bit to talk about and explain, so I recorded a series of YouTube videos explaining our finances and budget in detail. If you’d like all the nitty-gritty details, please check those out via our website. Here in the bulletin, I’ll just hit some of the highlights.
Overall we’re doing relatively well as a parish. We’re not rich, but we’re stable and able to pay all of our bills. This year we’re up just about $4,000 from last year. With our new bulletins and the restriction of putting out hymnals, we cut our hymnal order for this year. Between savings from the hymnals, income from bulletin advertisement, the cost of licensing for printing the music, and the cost of printing the bulletin, we should come out just a little bit ahead.
This year we received an estate gift that really helped us out, and we had two large diocesan assessments that were not billed due to a change in accounting. Put together that makes us look a bit better than we really are this year. Next year, we’ll be adding a maintenance person, and a bit to the Religious Education budget for the new materials. We will be installing the new heat-pump in the Church. It’s been ordered and is currently being shipped to the vendor who will install it. The Church heat-pump will be paid out of our monthly maintenance savings. So when you see those monthly envelopes, that’s the sort of major repair they go towards. For this upcoming year, we also renegotiated our school assessment. Moving forward, we should be much more in-line with what other sending parishes pay.
I know that’s a lot of information, and I still need to say a few words about the cemetery, but I just want to offer a heart-felt thank you to everyone here at Prince of Peace in the last year. We’ve done some amazing things this year. I know we’re only just getting started, but I want to thank everyone for what they’ve done so far and I’m looking forward to what we can do in this coming year.
Whenever we put together our financial reports for the Parish, I'm very happy to report that while we're not rich, our parish is now in reasonably healthy financial shape. I wish I could say the same about our cemetery. In the year I've been here, there's been a lot of mis-information making the rounds about our cemeteries and I wanted to wait until now, a year later to set some of the record straight and share some of the real numbers with you.
We do have a few pretty serious concerns with our cemeteries, but I'm hopeful that we have some reasonable strategies to begin addressing those concerns.
Before I get too far, I think it's helpful to give a little bit of an overview of how cemetery finances are supposed to work. I hope that will clear up some of the conflicting pieces you may have heard in the past and help us all get onto the same page making a path forward.
A well run cemetery has two main accounts: An ordinary fund and a perpetual care fund. The ordinary fund is the checking account we use to pay all of the normal bills for the cemetery, things like paying the people who cut the grass and maintaining the equipment they use.
The perpetual care fund is something called an endowment. It's money that's permanently invested and the interest on that investment goes into the ordinary fund to pay the bills. By design, we can never take out the principal from that fund so that it will continue to produce interest funding the cemetery's operations perpetually, hence, "perpetual care"
The perpetual care fund is supposed to be managed by a foundation on our behalf. In our case, the Independent Foundation for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown manages our perpetual care fund. Every time an easement is sold for that cemetery, a percentage of that sale goes into that perpetual care fund. That way, there's enough money to pay for the grass-cutting and any needed repairs for the cemetery.
That's how it's supposed to work, but now comes the part where things get interesting. I can't speak for how things were handled before my arrival here at Prince of Peace. It’s easy to go round-and-round talking about things should have been done. Yet, we can’t change the past, we can only examine where we are and look forward. With that in mind, I'd like to give you an honest accounting of where we are right now.
When I arrived, we had just about $250,000 in our perpetual care fund. That fund typically pays out around 4.5% interest every year. In a normal year that would give us around $11,250 in interest. In 2018, Fr Don had moved the money into the Independent Foundation as it should have always been. That move happened mid-way through the year. That’s why last year we only received about 1/2 of a typical year's interest. When we combine that with the instability fo the market this year, our perpetual care fund gave us just about $4,600. This fiscal year, we just recently received the endowment check for a little over $8,600 or about 3.3% interest. Considering the current state of the market, that’s still a pretty good return. The only other major income the cemetery has are grave sales and our parish cemetery collection. This year, Grave sales, grave opening feesbrought in $4800 and our parish collection brought in $3,200. Not counting our special projects, that brings us to about $12,600 total annual income.
Here's the problem. We have 5 Cemeteries. Just the mowing and trimming costs between $250-$400 per cemetery, per cut. Currently we have each of the cemeteries cut and trimmed every other week. When we consider a cutting season of March through October our grass cutting costs come to around $27k. It doesn't take an accountant to figure out that it's pretty hard to manage a cemetery when our income on a good year would be $19k, and our regular expenses not counting improvements are around $27k.
For many years, the cemetery had simply paid the bills out of the grave sales for the year and did not invest any money in the perpetual care fund. Over time, that sort of band-aid gradually made the problem grow bigger and bigger. Combine that with the fact that as that budget became tighter and tighter, there weren't funds to properly maintain the cemetery records, volunteers from before the merger grew older and older, and it became more and more difficult to locate and sell graves. That meant the cemetery gradually had less and less income.
That pretty much describes the problem as well as I can put it. You're welcome to look at the numbers to get a good sense of what I'm describing.
So I’m proposing we work toward a realistic long-term solution for the problem. The reality is, if we keep doing what we're doing, the problem is only going to get worse. I'm proposing that in the short-term, we as a parish, need to assume the responsibility for the bills the cemetery can't afford to pay right now. If we do that, we'll be able to start to properly fund our perpetual care fund from the sale of graves, the way it was supposed to happen in the first place. If we are consistent, over the next few years, we will be able to build up our perpetual care fund to the point where the cemetery will be self-sustaining in the way it's supposed to be.
In real numbers, I believe that's going to cost the parish around a $10k-15k per year. Thankfully, since we've restructured our Catholic School assessment this year, we'll basically be swapping some of what we used to pay toward Catholic Education with this new cemetery assessment. We estimate that it’s going to take around $700k in the perpetual care fund for the cemetery to be fully funded and fully self-sufficient. Obviously that's not going to happen in one year. It’s going to be a process that will take many years. Still, it’s not an all-or-nothing solution. Every time we add money to that perpetual care fund, we get a little more in interest the following year. Each year can move us closer and closer to sustainability.
I have to be realistic that it’s going to take a long time to build that fund up to where it should be, but like most things that take a long time, they won't ever happen unless we start somewhere. I know it’s not the most pleasant news, but I really think we can do it, and leave things set up well for the next generation.
God Bless You—Fr Matt
It was a long time in coming, but it’s so good to see so many things that we’ve been working on for a long time really start to take shape.
Last week, we started religious education again. The students and catechists are started with their new materials, and our first week went very well. I was joking with Sister Karen that we’ve been doing about 6 months worth of planning work over the course of about 3 weeks. Now that we’re started, it’s good to see our kids learning again, and to see the possibilities ahead of us.
This weekend, we celebrate Catechetical Sunday. I want to really thank our team of very dedicated catechists who have really stepped up this year. I can’t say enough how important our catechists are to our parish. Of course if you’d be interested in helping as a Catechist, either as a sub, or as a teacher in the future, please contact Sister. At the 11am and 5pm masses we’ll be having a short prayer and blessing of our Catechists.
For the last few weeks I’ve been mentioning how I’d like to get our Parish Pastoral Council up and running again. I’ve posted a copy of the new by-laws to our website, and I’ll have a few copies in the back of Church for anyone who wants to look over them. Beginning this weekend until October 18th, I’d invite anyone to put a name of someone they’d like to nominate in the box. Please don’t limit this to people who have served in the past, I’d really like to see our new council be a healthy cross-section of our parish. Please think of folks you would like to see in charge of things. It’s easy to say “Someone ought to do something about that.” Please help me find the people who will say instead, “I’d like to do something about that.” Remember, all parish council members must be a registered parishioner and a practicing Catholic in good standing. Due to the nature of COVID, I do have to ask that anyone that serves be at least willing to work with us on the potential for virtual meetings occasionally. I’m very much looking forward to being able to have some open meetings discussing plans for our parish and involving more members of our parish in the decision-making process.
The other major project that’s been pending is our cemetery mapping. We have access to the new system and it feels like we’re finally making some progress. We’ll be having a Cemetery Committee meeting this Wednesday at 7pm in the Hall discussing the mapping project. So far we have the new section of St. Stan’s cemetery pretty much mapped. It was one of the smallest, easiest sections, and we wanted to establish a process before we dove in head first. I hope to be ready to work on the other sections soon. Thank you again to those who have already volunteered to walk the cemeteries helping us to verify maps and collect information off of stones. I hope to have more of a plan together after we meet this Wednesday.
Next, I’d like to remind everyone that we won’t have a normal homily next Weekend. Once a year, I like to set aside one Sunday as a Stewardship Sunday to share with everyone a sort of “state-of-the-parish” talk. I’ll be sharing an overview of our parish finances. Some of the major things we’ve accomplished in the last year or so, as well as some of our concerns and setbacks. Because this is the end of my first year here and there’s a lot of information, particularly financial information, I’ll be giving you the “cliff-notes” version at mass. For those interested in the full, detailed picture via a YouTube video that I’ll post to our parish YouTube/Facebook/Website. I’ll be including an overview of the parish financials in the bulletin, with copies available on the website.
Finally, on a lighter note, please get all of your dogs, cats, birds, turtles, guinea pigs, bunnies, snakes, and ferrets ready on a leash or in a cage. It won’t be long until Sunday October 4th, the feast of St. Francis is upon us. We’ll do the annual blessing of pets at 1pm on Saturday, October 3rd. We’ll gather at the handicapped entrance to the Church. I always look forward to the most unusual pets. So far, my favorite was a few years ago when I had a family pull in with a pickup-truck and trailer so that I could bless their goats. Just so you know, that’s the standard to beat this year!
God Bless You All! Now and always!
I hope that everyone had a joyful Labor Day weekend. Every year, Labor Day seems to mark the change from summer vacation into the return to our normal schedules in the fall.
I hope that all of our young people at Northern Cambria had a good first week of school. For those at NCCS or Bishop Carroll, they’ve been back for a little while now. Still, now that all the schools are back, it feels like fall is officially here.
This weekend our parish religious education also begins. I’m thankful to our new DRE, Sister Karen, all of our returning Catecheists, and all of our parents for working with us to get this very different year off the ground. I know it’s not easy adjusting to a new schedule both for regular school and for religious education, but we will continue to work through everything together. I know that I’m very much looking forward to being able to play a more active role in our High School Religious Ed this year, as we move into a bit of a different format. I know it’s been a bit of a change. Some of our 7th-11th grade young people really liked the idea of being able to sleep in on Sunday Mornings. Others are a little worried about conflicts in the schedule through the upcoming year. With Sister joining us very quickly, and with our information constantly changing, I’m always afraid that information gets missed in the shuffle. Please continue to watch the bulletin every weekend for updated information. I know this is all new territory, and we had to rush some of these changes through without as much of the normal survey process that I would have liked. We know that with COVID, we all need to be hyper-vigilant about sickness, and we’re working on making sure parents have access to online tools to make sure our children can continue to learn about their faith no matter what the future brings.
Please know that if there are concerns, you are always welcome to contact Sister or I about them. Most of the time we can work something out together, but we can only work things out if you talk to us!
I’m also very excited that in the last few weeks I’ve been contacted by a number of adults who were either interested in becoming Catholic or coming back to the Church and completing the sacrament of Confirmation that they had missed when they were a teenager. It’s exciting to know that we’ll be beginning to work with those folks in the near future. As our class is still forming, if you know of any other adults who missed their confirmation or are interested in becoming Catholic, please ask them to call the Church office or contact Deacon Gary very soon.
Last week I mentioned that I’m interested in getting our Parish Council up and running again. I’ll be quite honest, over the last few months of COVID, it’s been overwhelming trying to pull a large number of things together here at the parish and I need your help. I really need better ways to be able to get input from you, our parishioners, work to help you feel like you have a say in what goes on in your parish, and form committees that can begin to work toward building up our parish. I’d really like to thank our Parish Council Steering Committee who between the beginning of the year and March worked to put together the by-laws that we’ll be using as we reform the council. It was a lot of work, but I think time well spent. I’ll be posting a copy of those by-laws to our website and leaving a few copies in Church for anyone interested.
The council will consist of 10 members who will each serve 3 year terms, and a youth representative who will serve a 1 year term. Six of those members will be elected. We’ll have a jar in the back of Church where we ask individuals to drop nominations in the jar. Once I contact those individuals and confirm that they would be willing to serve, we’ll say a prayer at mass, and draw 6 of those names. The other 5 will be appointed to make sure that, as the by-laws state “Members of the former parishes, residents of the former towns, men, women, and various age groups, of the parish shall be appropriately represented.” I would really like to see this new council represent a good cross-section of our parish.
The regular committees that we’ll start with for the council will be Liturgy, Education, Social, Christian Service, and Maintenance. We’ll ask a member of the council to chair each of those committees, working with those in our parish who are already fulfilling some of those roles, and helping us pull things together as a parish. Hopefully, as time goes on, those committees will each be able to have their own meetings, starting to get those various parts of the parish a little more organized, and to give anyone who wants to be involved a way to help make that happen. I’m planning for the meetings to be public, and to have some procedures for anyone who wants to bring up ideas to share.
It’s not a perfect system, nothing is, but it’s my hope that by at least setting up a structure, there will be meetings that anyone could come to, organizing the upcoming events at our parish. I can understand how in the past the decision-making process may have seemed a little secretive. That’s never been my intention, but until we could get committees organized, particularly when we were all shut down and stuck at home, I was left making most of those decisions on my own in the dark.
So I’d ask you again, please keep thinking about individuals who you think would be good to serve on that sort of Parish Council. As a parish, there’s lots to be done, and many areas that I know many of you are passionate about. Let’s work together to build up rather than tear down. Perhaps you know someone who would be a great representative on Parish Council because of a specific area, or might represent a certain group in the parish well. Maybe you know someone who might not want to serve on parish council, but would be interested in helping on one of those committees. I’d love to see as many people involved as we can, working together to build up the kingdom of God.
Finally, our Financial Reports are pretty much completed at this point. I’m hoping to designate Sunday Sept 26-27th as our “Stewardship Weekend” when instead of a homily, I’ll share our financial status as a parish, and a bit of an annual “State of the Parish” update. I’ll try to keep things as straightforward as I can on those days, but I’ll distribute our financial reports to the parish on those masses, and probably give an online video going into more detail for those who love details.
God Bless You Now and Always
- Fr Matt
I want to say a big thank you this week to Sister Karen. We just finished our parent meetings this week, and I was joking with her that we’re trying to do 3 months of work in about a month. I’m pleased to say that for the most part things seem to be going well on the religious education front. It’s going to be a bit different than in years past, but well, everything this year is already quite a bit different than any time that I think any of us have ever known. I know change is hard, but as we move forward, it’s good to hear a little bit of excitement starting to build. I’m ever so thankful to both our families and our catechists for working with us to keep teaching our children and young people the faith and making sure that Jesus is a priority especially in times when it feels like everything is changing.
I’m also happy to say that our State Prison Chaplain’s conference went very well this week. We had some wonderful speakers, and I know I learned a great deal. It’s a blessing to be able to live out one of the corporal works of mercy that Jesus gives us and be able to visit those in prison. It was also a blessing to be able to work with a group of really caring and invested chaplains who worked very hard to plan the conference. Thank you for your prayers this week.
This Monday we celebrate Labor Day, one of the American Holidays that our Church played an enormous role in creating: a commemoration of the dignity of work and the average worker. In the late 1891, Pope Leo XII wrote an encyclical that shook the world, Rerum Novarrum, on the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor. That encyclical formed what would later be called our Catholic Social Teaching. Just to give an idea of the impact, later Popes would write 14 more encyclical following up on what Pope Leo XIII taught, three of those were simply named the 40th, 80th, and 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarrum. It’s an amazing document that lays out what we believe as Catholics about the dignity of human beings, the dignity of work, and that document helped change the face of work in the world forever. What’s amazing is, even though updates were given since, even 129 years later, if you read it now, we can hear these same issues being talked about and debated in the news. It’s very easily available online and it’s well worth your time to read.
As I was thinking about that, and as we start to get things up and running for the fall, it got me thinking of all the things that we beginning to happen in March just before we got shut down. Coming off an experience working with a wonderful committee, I look around here at the next few months in our Church, and realize that we’re going to have to make some serious plans for the future. I don’t know what the future will bring any more than you do. What I do know is that we’ve got a lot of things going on here at our Church and I really need your help as we look forward to the next few months and years. Back in March we had formed a Steering Committee to reconstitute our Parish Council. That group had just finished all the by-laws, and we had been just about ready to publish those by-laws and put out the call to ask for nominations to get it up and running again.
Obviously, a few realities have changed since March. I’d really like this council to be both representative of the parish, able to really help everyone feel like they have a say in some of the directions our parish is going, and be people capable of leading committees who can work to figure out good ways to not just keep our parish running, but to help our parish grow into an ever more excited and faithful group of Catholics.
So with that in mind, for now, I’d just ask you to start thinking about capable, faithful people in our parish who, if they were running a committee, you would be willing to work with and help. Perhaps it’s someone who is already active. Perhaps it’s someone who hasn’t had a leadership role in the past, but you think would do well. As we look forward to the fall, realizing what we went through in March and April, members of council will need to be willing and able to meet virtually in case that becomes a need. We’ll have nominations soon, but for now I just want to give you a few weeks to really think about names. Talk to each other. Ask each other what you’d like to see at our parish and who would be a good person to represent that interest who you would be willing to help if they asked you. I don’t want people who are simply going to say “This is what I think we need”. I want to find people willing to say “This is what I think we need, and I’ll organize it, will you help me?” So I’d ask each of you. Start to think about it, pray about it. I’ll share more details in the upcoming weeks on how the initial nominations will work. But for now, I just want us all to start thinking seriously about not just what you’d like to see at our parish, but who would be good on a parish council to help actually make it happen.
Please know that you're always in my prayers.
I think it’s official, fall is in full swing. I have a couple of major announcements this week! Let me start with the most exciting change. As our religious education schedule is starting up again, we’ve had to make some major changes in light of COVID restrictions. Sister has shared most of those changes with everyone in her section of the bulletin and with the parents this week at their parent meeting, so I won’t steal her thunder.
However, there is one change that will affect everyone. We’re going to be making a slight change to the mass schedule in light of our religious education changes. Our fall in-person religious education will be running every Sunday for 8 weeks from Sunday, September 13th through Sunday November 1st. We will have a similar schedule in the spring. During that time, our 7th-11th grade students will be meeting from 6pm-8pm Sunday evenings. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that with our every-other-pew seating, our Saturday night 4pm mass has been getting a little crowded.
For that reason, we’ve decided that for the weeks that the religious education program is running, we will be adding a Sunday evening 5pm mass. All of our other masses will continue as they normally do. Please understand that this mass will ONLY be held during the 8 weeks of Religious Education in the fall and if all goes well similarly in the spring. As we add this mass, we’re asking any existing readers or altar servers who would be interested in serving at the Sunday 5pm, to please let us know.
As a parish last fall, when we did our survey, it was very clear that you wanted to see us put a larger focus on what we’re doing for our young people. I know this year isn’t what anyone had anticipated, but I want to see us go above and beyond to encourage those young people we have in our parish. I hope you’ll support us in these efforts.
This week I’m also going to be making a major policy change on how we handle mass intentions.
We’re blessed to have many people in our parish who take seriously the idea of having masses offered for their loved ones. It’s a long tradition of our Church and a very good one. The struggle though, is that with only so many dates available on the calendar, we want to be as fair as we can to everyone requesting that a mass be said. Now that I’ve been here a year and seen some of the concerns, our old system was a little bit confusing. I want to lay out some new rules to help us keep the process as clear as we can, and to not completely overwhelm Sue.
I have posted our new policy on page 7 in the August 30th bulletin. This will go into effect beginning with the new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, November 29th, 2020. I’m hoping it will eliminate a lot of the confusion from the past.
Please read the policy in detail, but to make it simple:
1. We’ll accept masses from whoever wants to send them to us.
2. Registered parishioners can reserve up to two dates as space allows, and only registered parishioners can request specific dates.
3. We’ll do our best to fit masses without specific dates into our calendar, but any that we can’t fit will be sent to retired priests of our diocese, other parishes in need of intentions, or to the missionary priests in Mandeville, Jamaica. I’m hoping that this simplifies and clarifies a lot of the process making it fair and understandable for everyone.
In light of those new changes, we’re going to open our mass book for 2021 this Tuesday, September 1st. Please be patient with us as I know there’s a bit of a rush whenever the new book is opened. Overall, I’m hoping that most of you will look at this and ask, “isn’t this basically what we’ve always been doing?” It basically is, just with some minor changes and clarifications.
Finally, I was originally scheduled to be away this Tuesday-Thursday for our State Prison Chaplain’s Conference. However, this year it’s being held via webinar, and somehow I ended up running the webinar. As our program runs all day Tuesday-Thursday of this week, I’ll be unavailable this Tuesday-Thursday.
Also, as the program starts early, rather than cancel them, I had to move our daily masses back a little for this week only. So, for Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday of this week only, Daily Mass will be held at 7:00am. Thank you for your understanding.
Please know that you are all in my prayers, and please keep us in yours as we walk through this world that seems to change every day.
God Bless You,
I ran across an article this week that really hit me, and I’d like to share some things I gathered from it. It was on a site called “www.realclearscience.com” that’s devoted to what’s going on in the world of science. They had devoted a number of articles to COVID-19, and one of them was on the Catholic Church. This science magazine was praising the Catholic Church for it’s swift and organized stance to address the pandemic. When I saw that, I had to stop and take a second look. This wasn’t a Catholic group, this was a secular science group saying how well we had responded. They estimated that with more than 17,000 parishes in the United States, each typically holding 3 or more masses a weekend, that without counting daily mass, there have been nearly a million masses celebrated with congregations in the United States since public Mass started up again in June. Of those cases, in parishes that followed the Church’s guidelines for distance, masking, and hand-sanitizing, and only had brief mask-less contact for communion or anointing, out of nearly a million masses there have been zero cases traced to those parishes.
In Seattle, one of the hotspots, here are some of the scenarios they listed:
· During a July 3rd funeral mass (45 attendees, capacity 885), two members of one household notified the parish that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and were infected and pre-symptomatic during the mass.
· A volunteer at a July 5th mass (94 attendees, capacity 499) became ill 24 hours later and then tested positive for COVID-19.
· During a July 11th wedding (200 attendees, capacity 908), fresh air circulated from multiple open windows with the aid of fans. The following day, an attendee developed symptoms of COVID and on July 13th tested positive. The attendee was almost certainly contagious with pre-symptomatic infection during the wedding.
· On July 12th, an attendee at a parish board meeting (six attendees, room capacity 30), tested positive shortly thereafter and was determined to have been infected and contagious during the meeting.
· Finally, three priests anointed sick individuals in non-ventilated rooms during five- to fifteen-minute visits. The sick persons were not thought to have COVID-19 at the time but within two days each tested positive for COVID-19.
In every one of those cases, everyone followed the guidelines, and there was no spread. The same hasn’t been true of other faith groups or of Catholic Churches that haven’t been using the masks. When I look at all of that, and I hear the stories of all the issues at the various colleges around the country that started back to school this week, it really makes me think. It means something that science groups are listening to the Church, that when we listen to science in times like these, we are not only protecting ourselves and each other, but we’ve got their attention, when we as Catholics need to stand on moral issues that don’t always line up with popular opinion.
As we keep walking through this, I keep thinking. The more I reflect, the more I come to the same answer when I reflect on all this stuff in our world. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. We come to mass to do what we can’t do anywhere else, receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. If we realize what that really means, it changes everything. It’s something that we’re ready to really sacrifice for. If we really know who is present at the mass, who it is that we receive, it changes everything. That’s why I’ve been pushing for Eucharistic Ministers to bring Jesus to those who can’t go out. That’s why it’s so important to encourage those who have been away from the Church to come back. That’s why it’s worth every bit of our time doing whatever we can as individuals and as a parish to help anyone who’s been estranged from the Church and the Eucharist to find healing and work to help heal those wounds wherever we can. Whatever it takes to help people receive Jesus Christ. It’s worth the sacrifice!
As far as our parish, just a couple of quick updates:
We had our first meeting of the Deanery Pastoral Council, a group of clergy and laypeople representing the different parishes in our region looking to find better ways our parishes can collaborate to build up the faith and meet the needs of our various communities.
If you know of anyone who has school aged children who has not yet registered for this fall’s religious education, please fill out the form we’ve included in this week’s bulletin. Please use one form per child. There will be both an option for in-person religious education as we have in the past, as well as an at-home family based program that I’m very excited about. We’ll be trying to explain those options in a parent meeting soon, but we need all the forms so we can contact the parents and make that meeting happen.
If you see some big trucks around the church in the next week or two, they’re repairing one of our three heat pumps. They will be replacing the heat pump on the tabernacle side. I want to thank everyone who has been contributing to our monthly collection, a/k/a the maintenance fund. You’ve all been caring for our parish and thankfully, we’re able to treat these repairs as what they should be, routine maintenance that comes up every few years, rather than just in a crisis situation. That’s a wonderful thing. Thank you!
I can also announce now that I have some news. As you know I’ve been serving for the last 4 years as the Chaplain at the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon. I’ve just received word from our Bishop that I’m being transferred. Don’t worry, I’m still staying at Prince of Peace, but I will be leaving St. Dismas Parish behind the walls of SCI-Huntingdon, and beginning at St. Peter in Chains Parish, behind the walls of SCI–Somerset. My day at the prison will remain on Mondays, so it shouldn’t really affect anything here at the parish. Still though, please keep the men at both St. Dismas Parish and St. Peter in Chains Parish in your prayers during this transition.
God Bless you, Now and Always
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.