Sunday, October 14, 2018

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 14, 2018

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” I believe that I have quoted those words of G. K. Chesterton before, most likely in a column around the holiday of Thanksgiving. But I cannot think of any better sentiment to begin my final Pastor’s Ponderings for the St. Malachy bulletin. I have truly loved my time at St. Malachy, and these past few weeks I keep finding myself thanking God for the past four-and-a-half years. And while I am excited to begin my new adventure – and to get reacquainted with people I have served in the past – I feel a certain sadness at saying goodbye to the people of St. Malachy whom I have come to love. But the sadness hardly compares with the gratitude I feel for what I have experienced.

Thanks be to God for putting me in this beautiful setting. I have said that I was impressed with St. Malachy long before I came here. When I was first ordained and was assigned to St. Francis de Sales in McKees Rocks, we came up here occasionally to help out. I was impressed with the beauty of this church the first time I saw it. I also visited here quite frequently when my good friend Fr. Michael Maranowski was pastor here. Once I moved in, it took quite a while for the novelty to wear off.

Thanks be to God for the staff I have been privileged to work with. It would be hard to find a more dedicated group of people, and their devotion to Christ and His Church are evident to anyone who has the blessing of working closely with them. They have complemented my strengths and weaknesses very well. They have kept St. Malachy running smoothly and have made it look like I knew what I was doing.

Thanks be to God for all of the wonderful parishioners of St. Malachy. I knew that I could always find a true expression of faith when we gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. Our Sunday celebrations were always the highlight of my week. And the community that formed at the 7:15 Mass every weekday morning became a special part of my family. I know that whenever and wherever I celebrate the Eucharist, I will still be in Communion with this parish in the deepest way possible.

Thanks be to God in a special way for Fr. Russell Maurer. We had a professor in the seminary who told us that the most important thing was to have a priestly heart. Fr. Russell, despite his physical limitations, truly has a priestly heart and wants to continue being a priest to the best of his ability. Thanks also for the opportunity to work with Fr. Patrick O’Brien until he could no longer continue.

Thanks be to God for the families of St. Malachy School and CCD programs. When I came here, Fr. Eckman of the Clergy Office told me that they knew they had to send me to a parish with a school since that is so much a part of my ministry. Our students have had some of the best leadership, with Janet Escovitz and Cathy Militzer as school principals, and with Joanne Swank and Steven Swank as Catechetical Administrators. We have wonderful teachers and support staff. But there is a special joy of getting to know the students. With the students, you see the growth more clearly than with adults. I think of when I was preparing to come here and Fr. Michael was showing me around. I met a fifth grader who struck me as a sweet but giggly little girl. I see that same student, now in high school, when she serves as a Lector at Sunday Mass, and I see someone who has grown and matured so dramatically. I am proud to have been part of the lives of these young people. As we often say, “Once a Bomber, always a Bomber.”

So as I leave Kennedy Township, I leave a part of my heart here. For all that I have experienced since April 28, 2014, I have only one thing to say: Deo gratias!

                                                                                        Father H  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 7, 2018

Four and a half years ago, I had the great privilege of becoming pastor of St. Malachy Parish. As with any priest beginning a new assignment, I knew there would be surprises. But I did make two promises on my first weekend in the parish, the same promises that I made to every parish where I have served as pastor or administrator. I promised to celebrate the Liturgy with reverence and joy, and I promised that I would be present to the students of St. Malachy School and of our CCD program. You have heard me speak or read what I have written about our school and CCD, so you can tell that religious education has been very vital to me. So today I want to reflect on the Liturgy.

About a month ago, I was the homilist at the annual Forty Hours celebration at St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Parish. Fr. John Skirtich asked me to take that role even before we knew that I would be part of that parish and its neighbors as parish chaplain. As I thought about what I wanted to say, I thought it was important to speak about the Eucharist in light of the implementation of On Mission for the Church Alive. After all, the Eucharist is the single most important aspect of our lives as Catholics. Without the Eucharist, we cannot maintain our faith.

I based my homily at St. Gabriel on a first-century document called The Didache. This writing offers some prayers to be used at the celebration of the Eucharist, including, “As this broken bread scattered on the mountains was gathered and became one, so too, may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” The Eucharist is the greatest sign of our unity, as well as the source of that unity. As we share the Eucharist, we share as members of the Body of Christ. So as we prepare to move into this new phase in the history of the Church in Pittsburgh, we remember that the celebration of the Eucharist is the most important thing we do and the most important element in bringing our community together with St. John of God and Holy Trinity.

I know it won’t be easy for the new priests coming into this grouping. Each parish has its own ways of celebrating the Eucharist, and they will have to get used to the differences among our three parishes. Similarly, I will have to get used to the differences of St. Gabriel, Nativity, St. Germaine, and St. Valentine parishes. The difference is that I have a bit of a head start, having spent six years as an assistant at St. Gabriel and eight and a half years as pastor of Nativity. And in that time, I was a frequent guest celebrant at St. Germaine. But still, each priest has to remind himself that each parish has slight differences. Moreover, each priest has his own way of doing things. Even staying within the guidelines that the liturgy offers, there are many different customs, and each parish has to get used to each new priest.

With those last differences in mind, I also will tell you a joke that I offered in my Forty Hours homily, directed mainly at the other priests who were there that evening. I told of a woman who was getting ready for church one Sunday morning. She told her husband to hurry up, but he said that he had decided not to go to church. When she asked why, the husband said that he didn’t like the new priest at their church. She responded, “You also told me that you don’t like the new bartender down at Joe’s Bar. But that hasn’t stopped you from going there.” Five minutes later, he was ready to go to Mass.                                 
                                                                                                            Father H