October 21, 2018 – Thoughts from Rev Kev

How can we make these changes easy? PRAY!!
CONFESSION offers grace to under-stand
HEAR, listen and be open to one an-other
ATTITUDE of gratitude for what we have
NEVER doubt the power of God
GIVE everything a chance before judging
EXERCISE with one another our prayer and faith in God
Recently, as I sat in the confessional, I reflected on the opportunity we are given like the disciples. By chance, we are offered choices. By change, we can make adjustments as needed. By caring for one another, we are then accepting that chalice which Jesus is offering to His Disciples.
I pray that we all can face these changes with openness and try to work together, with grace, peace and hope to build a stronger unity as a community here in the Mid Mon Valley.
Confessions are available:
By appointment with Father Kevin and Father Pat
Monday evenings at Mary, Mother of the Church during Holy Hour
Wednesday nights at Saint Damien’s during Holy Hour, prior to Mass
and
On First Fridays at Our Lady of Valley

October 14, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

On April 28, 2018, we announced the new groupings of all of the parishes in the Diocese, saying that the implementation date would be October 15, 2018, six months away! That time has passed so quickly and here we are today facing implementation of ON MISSION FOR THE CHURCH ALIVE!. That means that in many cases priests around the Diocese will be moving on to shepherd new flocks. I am one of them (unfortunately!) Over the forty-nine years of my priesthood, there have been a number of times to experience this phenomenon. Never has it been easy and never has it been something I looked forward to. It is always a time when I have to change my routine, make efforts to meet new parishioners and make new beginnings, and say goodbye to old routines and people.
It is also a time to leave a part of oneself behind and to put distance between new friendships gained and the comfort of working with wonderful people. Though I am only going to about twenty minutes away, the daily contact and working with people who know your likes and dislikes, your idiosyncrasies and foibles is interrupted and you have to let new people begin to learn these things as I have to get to know them in others. But change should always help us grow and to be better persons.
As I will not get to speak personally with every parishioner, I take this opportunity to thank the entire parish for the joy that you have been to me over the years. We have not been able to accomplish all the projects and hopes that I had for St. Damien’s, but circumstances and time have not allowed for this to happen. Hopefully many of these things will be accomplished by the new pastoral team and the new Parish grouping. I can only offer my thanks to all who have contributed there time, energy, treasures and talents for this parish of St Damien. I will not single out individuals or groups because the page does not allow that to occur and I would definitely forget someone. Just know that I have appreciated and been blessed by so many wonderful people. I hope that you will continue to give of yourselves to the new team and the new grouping so that you can grow this mid-Mon Valley parish and grow the church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! And GOD BLESS YOU ALL! Please keep me in your prayers as I will all of you!

October 7, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

“Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God l like a child will not enter it” Jesus says some strange things, doesn’t he? I’m sure some of his followers were puzzled by this statement from him. And while the words “kingdom of God” would have gotten them wondering to some ex-tent, the part about a child entering the kingdom would probably have made little sense to them. As you know, Jesus talked about the “kingdom” a lot. Whatever this “kingdom” was, it clearly was pretty important to Jesus—and clearly important that his followers understand what it was all about. And there is NOT one simple, short answer as to what the “kingdom” really means. In one sense, we, the Christian community two thousand years later (especially in the light of Jesus death and resurrection), have sort of “titled” the focus of the “kingdom” toward the afterlife—that after our earthly lives have ended, we hope to live forever with God in the eternal kingdom—heaven.
And while that is certainly NOT a “wrong” way to look at it Jesus seems to use the word “kingdom” to describe something NOT in the future, but in the present. In other words, God’s kingdom is NOT something we have to wait for, it is right here in our midst. And so , Jesus seems to be telling his followers that there is this beautiful thing called the “kingdom” that he wants them to embrace and share in, a kingdom which can only be experienced when our hearts become like that of a little child.
Children have an ability to trust. Do we trust God? Do we trust in the inherent goodness of others? Children have the ability to be hopeful;. Do we do the same? Do we truly believe that tomorrow can be better, that the world can be better—that we can be better?
Children have the ability to live in the present. Do we spend our time absolutely dreading the future? Or do we try to make today the best day it can be?
Children have few boundaries. Do we keep people at a distance? Do we put up walls rather than tear them down? It just takes the heart of a child. May each of us strive to reclaim the very best of our-selves that might have gotten lost along the way!

September 30, 2018 – Pastoral Inpressions by Fr. Bill

Today’s readings provide us with some challenging truths, for they bring us directly into the reality of our life in Christ, namely that we are all one body, one family, living together in one community. As children of God we are forever connected. Although we may think we are doing things our own way, we are nevertheless continually being influenced and effected by others.
Numbers speaks of prophecy. Prophecy is a gift from God given to those called to speak for God. It is given in order to guide the people of God in living lives of faith and good works. The letter of St. James serves as a warning to those who forget about community, making their own personal wealth and prosperity the center of their lives. When in positions of power, such individuals will often use other people, treating them unfairly with both disrespect and callous selfishness. James’ letter warns of the punishment that is to come to these violators of community.
The reality of community and the responsibility each person has for the welfare of the group comes through clearly in the gospel of Mark. The gift of the spirit is what’s important here, not the person through whom that gift is revealed. Jesus emphasizes the responsibility we all have for one another and uses strong language to make the point.
The combination of the readings we have today gives us profound truths. First, we learn that all people are part of the human family, that we are all connected as sisters and brothers in Christ. Secondly, we are, in fact, responsible for our participation in the human family. We must help each other live lives that reflect and reveal God’s love. And, finally, we learn that following Christ, that is, living by Jesus’ words and example, we fulfill the purpose for which we are created. May we be mindful of our God-given role in building up community, that is, building up one another in truth and love.

September 23, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Last week the question was put to the twelve “who do people say that I am”? We tend to think that Christ was testing the Apostles to see if the twelve were actually paying attention to what was going on and make sure they were observing His works, the works they would continue after he was no longer with them. He was not only testing them, but the test continues with and through us today.
This week, after reviewing the first reading I became agitated as any Christian follower should and I questioned myself why? Could it be these words were describing me? Me/Us in our times of sinfulness and shame that we bring upon ourselves? Me/Us in the times we turn our backs to God and choose sin over him; Our own personal wants over His wants, living our lives in our own ways versus living and being the people He created and needs us to be.
The teaching continues with James in the second reading as he describe these sinful inclinations along with the results of what happens if we make the choice of living life here and fulfilling our earthly desires, verses living a life that will lead us to eternal peace with God.
Jesus does the same and continues teaching the twelve about living humbly, being first versus last, placing yourself as a servant no matter what your role, your place of authority/honor or the title that follows your name. To drive His point home, he places a child in their midst as an example of the inner child that’s tucked away and lives deep within each of us. The children of God as he purely created us to be and states: “Whoever receives a child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me”.
As I have come to understand what Jesus was saying, not only to the Apostles, but to each of us, is: No mat-ter what our sinful lives, desires, personal wants, selfish ambitions, we are all created as children of God, and remain so even in the men and woman we have come to be.
As a man who most of my life has studied, researched and contemplated what the meaning of “Grace and Mercy” truly means, I think in this past week I’ve come closer to understanding what it is. No matter what the sin, Gods Mercy is a love that forgives all. His Grace is the undeserved favor of being witnesses of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. A visible love of a parent giving one life to save the lives of many though the +Cross+ and having a “Mind and that of Living. Loving like Christ”

September 16, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Today’s readings challenge us to demonstrate our faith. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a servant who will suffer at the hands of persecutors and yet will not rebel nor turn back. This “Suffering Servant” will experience full abuse of the world, and yet he will not fail in his mission. Why? Because God is present and will not allow the servant to be disgraced nor put to shame. God is the help and refuge of those who seek him.
In the gospel, we hear St. Peter confess his faith in Jesus, saying, “You are the Messiah!” Immediately thereafter Jesus reveals to him what the future will hold, not only for the Messiah, but for all who follow in his footsteps. The Christ, the anointed One of Israel, the Messiah will suffer and be put to death.
We who follow Jesus will suffer if we live our common vocation to holiness well. Life throws us all sorts of twists and turns that may not always be favorable. But we must not lose heart. Jesus walked a road which brought him much pain, including the emotional trauma of being rejected by his own people and the physical torture of Roman crucifixion. How can we transform the Christian vocation to the cross into something that is fulfilling? What will be our response to God’s call to a life that, at times, brings us suffering? St. James tells that our response must be to live a life of active faith. Our actions and works demonstrate the faith we possess. As the apostle says, faith that is not practiced is thoroughly lifeless.
So, how might we manifest our Christian vocation to follow Jesus and to suffer? We do so principally by living for others. Parents live for their chil-dren; teachers, physicians, and other professionals live for their students, patients, or other clients.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta became an international celebrity, not because she was rich or powerful, but because of her quiet, unassuming dedication. She took up the cross of Jesus by helping the poor carry their crosses. She lived an active faith and challenged the world to follow her lead. Let us take our cross and follow our Master, knowing that he does not promise us a rose garden today, but rather the promise of eternal life tomorrow.

September 9, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, lived in Chicago where she earned a four-year scholarship to the University of Chicago to study English. She stayed for only two years. Bored with the structure and convention of education, she returned to New York and began to work as a reporter for the radical newspapers THE CALL and THE MASSES.
Frustrated with her life, Dorothy began to search for God, and in the process, she discovered Catholicism. Still, she needed a way to exercise her faith in some way that would assist the social order in society. In 1932, Dorothy met Peter Maurin, a French peasant and social activist. Working together they scraped up fifty-seven dollars to pay for the first issue of THE CATHOLIC WORKER. Dorothy serves as an excellent illustration of a Christian in American society who refused to take the easy way out, but rather chose to be an advocate for the poor.
Our readings today describe how God opens our senses, challenging us to use them wisely while never failing to act to correct social ills. In today’s gospel Jesus shows himself to be God, for he too opens the ears and loosens the tongue of one coming to him for help.
Most of us are quite fortunate. We possess power over all five of our senses. When we have opened our senses, then we must respond to the challenge of St. James and avoid the temptation to discriminate. Few people intentionally discriminate against others, but we use varied criteria. Sometimes it is education; sometimes it is appearance; and sometimes it is one’s skin color, ethnicity, or national origin. We must do our best to see the whole picture, hear the entire story, and speak the complete truth, no matter how difficult, challenging, or disconcerting it may be. God has opened our eyes, ears, and lips; God has given us the opportunity to sense the plight of the poor. Let us not be indifferent, but rather let us use the gifts God has given us to give food to the hungry and to those who have a hunger for justice.

September 2, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

In the West, we tend to be somewhat obsessed with germs. Hand sanitizer was invented in 1998 for use in healthcare settings. And, during a bad flu season several years back, even churches had hand sanitizer stations setup everywhere. In some churches this practice continues still. We might even say it has become a ritual.

So when we hear that Jesus and some of his disciples did not wash their hands before eating, like the Pharisees, we might also react negatively. But the Pharisees are not complaining about dirty hands. They are talking about pure hands. The handwashing they are talking about is a purifying ritual. It has nothing to do with killing germs. There is no passage in the extensive Law of Moses that prescribes a practice for washing hands. At Jesus’ time, some people imitated the way Moses washed his hands at the altar as a pietistic practice. As we are told there were traditions for purification of cups and kettles and beds. But Jesus calls into question whether all these practices were, in fact, making them better people.

In the Catholic Church, we have strong faith traditions, and the purpose of any faith tradition is to help us become more like Christ. If those traditions
don’t serve that purpose, they rightly fall out of practice. For example, even sixty years ago, all women wore veils or hats in church. There was no
biblical command that they do so. Moses described it as a tradition, and Paul praised the Corinthians for remembering and practicing it as  such. The Code of 1983, however, did not renew this practice, for by then it was not being observed in most churches. Wearing a veil or hat in church was tradition, not a doctrine of faith. And if the woman herself is not living a life that reflects God’s love, then wearing a veil isn’t going to make much difference.

And so, for us as Christians, what makes a difference is just that, namely, how we reflect God’s love. What matters is what Jesus calls the great
commandment, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

August 26, 2018 – Reflections by Deacon Al

Deacon-Al-Poroda-Headshot

Deacon Al

Paul’s words, and the Gospel today give great meaning to a peaceful and faith filled life.

Paul speaks of husbands and wives having and living with respect for one another, using a married couple as the example for all. His words may be taken to be offensive in this day and age with thoughts that men are superior to woman “Wives be subordinate to your husbands, for the husband is the head of his wife, just as Christ is head of the church”.

As such, Paul goes on to husbands: “Love your wives as Christ loved the church handing himself over to sanctify her, cleansing her that she might be holy and without blemish. Love your wives as you do your own bodies, for he who loves his wife loves himself for no one hates his own flesh.”

The first line of this Scripture captures the whole meaning of Paul speaking to the Ephesians: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ”

Paul wasn’t asking wives to be slaves or think of themselves lower than their spouse, and he wasn’t telling men to love their wives, only after thinking of themselves first. What Paul was trying to emulate to the Ephesians was –”Grow together in Peace”.

A man leaves his father and mother and joins his wife and the two of them become one, growing together in Peace.

The same applies to the Gospel. Jesus knew his words would not be accepted in a good way from his followers on the partaking of his body and blood. Many had a hard time dealing with this, and ended up turning away, returning to their former ways of life.

When the twelve were questioned, “Do you also want to leave?”, Peter, his betrayer replies: “To whom shall we go? You are the Holy one of God”.

The lessons this week are formed into three ways of living and growing in peace:
Time: The time it takes to learn about one another and to accept/apply new ways of living. Becoming accustomed to being a husband or wife. A family or a community of believers. With time, all things come together through God.

Patience: Patience to accept that life and others are different. Things are different in all aspects of life. Knowing and having patience and trust, all things come together in time.

And Trust: Trust in the Lord, is all about time and patience. Knowing and understanding our time and demands may not be the same as Gods, but trusting he hears our prayers, knows our hearts, and will provide only His best for us, is the patience we must come to know and believe.

Blessings, D/A

August 19, 2018 – Pastoral Impressions by Fr. Bill

Today we continue to contemplate the “Bread of Life” discourse in John’s Gospel. This series of readings began with the feeding of the five thousand, that is, the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Ever since, Jesus has been trying to explain to the people that he is “the bread of life” and what exactly he means by that. They were happy when he provided them real bread and fish. They even wanted to lift him over their heads and make him their king. They obviously missed the point. So, Jesus had to flee in a boat in order to regroup. Now he has returned and goes even deeper into his message, saying ”Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
When they grumble about what Jesus says, they not only miss the point, but they miss the invitation Jesus now offers to true communion with God. They are missing what it means to live with and in God.
Pope Francis addresses this in a homily. The crowd two thousand years ago had hope that Jesus would overthrow Rome and become their king. Catholic Christians today, however, often wonder and ask, “Is the consecrated bread and wine really the body and blood of Jesus? Or is Jesus simply speaking here in metaphor?”
Pope Francis said that in order to understand this mystery, “one must divine what is happening in Jesus’ heart as he breaks the bread for the hungry crowd.” Pope Francis continues, “Knowing that he will have to die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies himself with that bread broken and shared, and it becomes for him the sign of the sacrifice that awaits him.”
So what is this body and blood? What is this Eucharist? Pope Francis continues, ”The Eucharist is Jesus himself who gives himself entirely to us. Nourishing ourselves of Him and abiding in Him through Eucharistic Communion.” Jesus gifts himself entirely to us with his sacrifice on the cross. And he also invites us to share, to partake of that sacrifice, through the “Bread of Life,” joining ourselves with the very heart of Christ.
Let us receive the body and blood of Christ today with joy and confidence. And, nourished by this holy sacrifice, let us continue to conform ourselves to be more like Christ in our choices, thoughts, and behavior.