Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sunday, October 26, 2017

Before this month of October runs out, I want to take an opportunity to reflect on a special feature of this month. No, I am not speaking of the World Series, even though I consider it to be the “High Holy Days” of the year in sports. I am not referring to the autumn colors in the trees, although they certainly are a gift of God to show us His love. And I am not writing about Hallowe’en, a day that was once a fun little time for children to dress up and enjoy candy, and which has become overdone and over-commercialized.

We also look at October as the month of the Holy Rosary. This month offers us a chance to see what a wonderful form of prayer we have. It is a chance to reflect with our Blessed Mother on all the mysteries of faith that are part of the story of our salvation. In that sense I sometimes think back to the days when my father took photographs with slide film. Every so often we would set up the projector and screen in the living room and have a slide show. We would remember our family stories, and as the youngest, I would feel a certain connection even with events that happened before I was born or when I was too young to remember. Having Mom and Dad there to tell the stories made them real to me in a deeper sense. So reflecting on the story of our salvation in the presence of our Blessed Mother can help us relate and can show us that the stories in the Scriptures are not so distant from us. They are our stories. And reflecting on the mysteries brings us close to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom we share the grace of her Divine Son.

I like to say that one of the great aspects of the rosary is its flexibility. By that I mean that you can pray it in different ways. Some people like to concentrate on the Hail Mary, while others allow the repetition of the prayer to block distractions so they can open their minds to meditate more deeply on each of the mysteries. Some people get more out of praying the rosary in a group, while others (like me) prefer to pray it alone. For one thing, I like to do it at my own pace rather than go at someone else’s speed. And there are quite a few factors that could make me either speed up or slow down. We can pray in church before the Blessed Sacrament, but I like praying while I go for a walk or take a drive. For such a purpose, I prefer to carry a one-decade ring rosary, though I also have my favorite rosaries of the more traditional style. Also, I will occasionally draw upon my seminary training and do one decade in Latin. I know the basic prayers (the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, and the Gloria Patri) in Latin well enough to do it without reading them, but I still need to stop and think about the words, which is the main point in my using Latin. It forces me to remember what I am saying.

Thus the rosary is a prayer that we can use in many different ways. So if you find yourself frightened by a Halloween ghost, grateful at the beauty that God puts into beautiful autumn foliage, or even depressed that the Pirates are not in the World Series, take it as an opportunity to pray the Rosary. Allow Mary to bring us closer to Christ and His saving love.
                                                                                         Father H                 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 22, 2017

I had already written a column for this week. I got a little bit of an early start on this column and felt good about getting ahead. Perhaps I can save the column that I first wrote for next week, although time is running short on the topic.

Just as I was emailing my column to our bulletin editor, I got a call from Fr. Michael telling me that his father had died. As much as he is a part of our parish family, in addition to being a good friend, I felt that I had to comment in this space.

When I heard the news of Fr. Michael’s father, I couldn’t help but think of my own parents. My mother died in 1992, just a couple of weeks before her 72nd birthday, after a short battle with cancer. At the time I was Parochial Vicar at St. Gabriel Parish in Whitehall. We had a retired priest, Fr. Thomas Carey, living with us at the time. I later heard that at the Sunday evening Mass the day Mom died, Fr. Carey told the people to pray for me in a special way. I would like to remember Fr. Carey’s remarks for Fr. Michael. As a priest who made a commitment to celibacy, Fr. Michael relies upon his parents to be his family. He does not have a wife or children to turn to for comfort. A priest’s relationship with his parents is a special bond.

After my mother’s death, my father lived on his own for another 19 years. He died in 2011, just a couple of months before my silver anniversary. I remember once as a little boy when I commented that it was going to be exciting to see the year 2000. Dad said, “For you, maybe. I would have to live to 85 to see 2000.” I reminded him of that conversation somewhere around 2010. Like my father, Fr. Michael’s dad lived to be 96. I guess there was something particularly hardy about those World War Il veterans. As I had done, Fr. Michael consoled himself with the thought that his father lived a full and good life. He felt that it was time for his father to go. His father, in fact, had said that he was ready some time before.

Before he entered the seminary, Fr. Michael used to help his father in his work, learning such skills as installing tile. In recent years, when Mr. Maranowski could not do the things he liked, Fr. Michael often had to do things for him, including helping him stand when he fell. As I sometimes told Fr. Michael, “It’s tough raising parents these days.” He will certainly miss his father terribly, but his faith is his source of strength. He will also be a source of comfort to his mother. And fortunately he still has brothers in the vicinity.

Please keep the Maranowski family in your prayers, and pray for eternal rest for Joseph Maranowski.
If you would like to send your condolences to Fr. Michael, his address is:

        Fr. Michael J. Maranowski
c/o Felician Sisters Motherhouse
1500 Woodcrest Ave.
Coraopolis, PA 15108-3054
                                                                                                          Father H                 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 15, 2017

When representatives from the several states met to the Constitution, they designed the House of Representatives to be based on the population of each state. They soon had a concern that a change in population could leave some heavily populated areas without sufficient representation, while more sparsely populated regions could have disproportionate influence, as had happened with the House of Commons in England. So the Constitution mandates that the government take a census every ten years and that the data accumulated be used to determine how many representatives shall serve from each state.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has done something similar to a census over the years. Every year, every parish has kept a running tab on the number of people attending Sunday Masses during the month of October. Every Sunday during this month, ushers in every parish count the number of people at every Mass, and the number is turned in to the diocese. These numbers helped point out the trends that every parish has faced over the years of declining attendance. Furthermore, the data has helped the diocese know how many priests are needed to serve each parish, although now priests are stretched thin throughout the diocese.

Much of the data collected over the years has gone into the planning process, On Mission for the Church Alive. The information helped frame the issue that had become apparent over the years, at first highlighting the need for such a process. Those figures have also helped the diocese to formulate the original “models,” and after those numbers were available for us when we were invited to give feedback, they were part of the “groupings” that we are currently working with.

Given how much those numbers have meant to this process, the diocese is keeping the count going up through April. Once we begin the transition next year, this data will be one of the factors used in determining Mass schedules. Of course that leaves us with an issue of nomenclature. Since we count people during the weekends of October, we have always called it – simply enough – the “October Count.” It would seem rather odd to call it an October Count in February (though I will probably continue to do so out of habit). So now we are calling it the Mass Attendance Count. So if you see ushers looking at you in your pew during the readings, don’t get paranoid. They are only counting you to include you in our data.

Finally, I will add a somewhat trivial note. Some time ago I read an interesting article that claimed that 100 years ago the census bureau was afraid that it would not be able to keep up with its duty because the population had grown to such an extent that a census would eventually take more than ten years to complete. Then the advent of the computer enabled the census bureau to do its job. Similarly, in the past we mailed a paper to the diocese with the numbers at the end of each October. Now we are logging in each weekend to send the numbers in online. Who says we don’t keep up?
                                                                                                      Father H                 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 8, 2017

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. When I was ordained in 1986, I was assigned as Parochial Vicar at St. Francis de Sales Parish in McKees Rocks. I remember one day my pastor telling me that something was going on at one of the neighboring parishes and that they were looking for priests to come and help out. I don’t remember the details, though I suspect it involved helping with confessions. What I remember is being greeted by Fr. Nick Mastrangelo and then coming in to find myself amazed at what a beautiful church St. Malachy was. Over the years of visiting Fr. Michael during his time here, I again found myself admiring the beauty of this building. I have often said that, in terms of beauty, I have two favorite churches. My favorite traditional-style church is my home parish of St. James in Wilkinsburg, and my favorite modern-style church is St. Malachy.

When I began as pastor here about 3½ years ago, I was thankful to be part of this beautiful church. I soon realized that the sound did not measure up to the visual beauty of the church. That is why I was happy that we had the opportunity to “test-drive” a new sound system in recent weeks. Since that test period ended, people have been asking, “What next?” That is a decision that we still have to make. As we look at that decision, I want to thank the 547 people who responded to the survey during the test period. (I call it a “survey,” for it doesn’t sound right to use the term “feedback” about a sound system.)

The people who delivered the system for our test made a prediction. They said that the speakers we got would be so impressive that someone would give us a check for the whole amount and tell us to buy them. What happened was that we got several different reactions. There were some people who did not notice much difference. I haven’t checked the locations of those comments, but I suspect that they were seated in places where the current speakers cover well. Many others said that the new system made a world of difference, and some people spoke personally to me to tell me that they had hearing problems and that they were able to hear much better than they had before. Also about 25% of the respondents asked for adjustments, some of which we made each week of the trial. At least one person said we should “shop around” for other possible solutions.

Now we have to figure out where we are going. Before this trial, we had a bid on a sound system that would cost us over $40,000. Any expenditure of that magnitude requires diocesan permission, and the diocese is not currently giving that kind of permission while On Mission for the Church Alive is going on. We can probably handle the $27,000 through the Campaign we had, but the sound system was not on our case statement. We can ask the diocese to adapt the statement for us, but again we don’t know if the diocese would accept at this point.

We will review the question with the Finance Council at our next meeting, later this month. In the meantime, I am thankful for all those who took part in the whole project. I am particularly thankful for Dan Chujko and his help in arranging the demonstration and in monitoring the progress. Finally, please pray for us as we look for the best way to enhance our liturgies.
                                                                                           Father H                   

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 1, 2017

I think it was two years ago that I was walking around our parish festival when I met a group of our high school girls. They invited me to join them in their challenge. They were going to eat something from every single food booth at our festival. I told them that, at my age, my stomach couldn’t take it if I ate that much at one time. I’m not sure, but I think they accomplished their goal. I don’t know, but I suspect that they won’t try it again this year.

As our festival begins this week, we have a lot of fun ahead of us, and we may want to try to enjoy all of it. First and foremost, we have a lot of wonderful food. I can’t tell you everything that I’m going to eat, but I do know that I will sample the German booth, and I’m looking forward to having a gyro. Beyond that, I know that anything else I eat will be good. As I like to say, if you leave our festival hungry, it’s your own fault. There will be plenty of good food, and you can’t go wrong with any of it.

The food is the primary draw of our festival, but there will be other enjoyable things as well. For me, I’m particularly eager for the entertainment. Our St. Malachy School cheerleaders always put on a good show at the festival (as they do anywhere), some of Fr. Russell’s friends from his barbershop singing group will be with us again, and there even are rumors that Elvis will make an appearance. What I’m eager for, however, is the first act of the festival, at 5:00 on Thursday. I have thought of the festival as a time to try something new, but in the past I meant that I would try different food. This year I have been working on a new skill that can be used to entertain people, and I’m going to do it in public for the first time at 5:00 Thursday. I’ve always enjoyed entertaining, whether acting, singing, or playing guitar (as you may have heard at the Christmas Masses last year). So now I’m going to try something new at the festival. I hope that I will be entertaining, but it would also be interesting to watch and to talk about if I fall on my face. So come on out and see what will happen. (And even if I flop, the cheerleaders are performing after me.)

In addition to the food and the entertainment, there are games to be played. Many of the games will be for children, but the adults can have fun with such things as the wheel of money. And don’t forget the various raffles. There will be a number of prizes that you can take a chance on, especially the main raffle. We have already given away two “early bird” prizes of $200 each, with a prize of $250 going this weekend. The main prizes, of course, will be drawn each night at the festival: $1,000 on Thursday, $2,500 on Friday and $5,000 on Saturday.

So I hope that I get to see all of you at the festival this week. It will be a wonderful time for all of us. I suppose it will be a particularly good time for whoever wins the $5,000, and I hope it will be a good time for whoever watches my act on Thursday. Finally, if the girls again decide to eat something from every single booth on one night, then we will consider opening an antacid booth at next year’s festival.

                                                                      Father H