From Our Pastor – Message from Jan. 7, 2018 Bulletin
Looking Back, Moving Forward
The Greek philosopher Socrates is credited with saying that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” There is certainly some validity to this statement.
During dinner with a group of priests a few years ago I recall a longtime priest commenting that it has taken him a full three years at each parish where he has been assigned to genuinely feel a part of that particular community. As I near my three-year anniversary as pastor of St. Alphonsus, I find this statement quite accurate, and I continue to grow more convinced that it indeed has been God’s will that Bishop Zubik assigned me here.
The year 2017 was filled with a lot of “good stuff”: Mass attendance is slightly up from last year, and our liturgies are vibrant and life-giving, from our greeters and ushers to our cantors and musicians; our financial position is healthy and revenues have slightly increased from last year; we continue to maintain and upgrade our campus (buildings and grounds); there has been a renewal or commencement of ministries such as our men’s fellowship group, young adult get-togethers, and our Gold Club (seniors’ group); and, of course, our award-winning Fish Fry, and continuation of our Harvest Home Weekend; a fantastic vacation Bible camp; and even a summer-time faith-based basketball camp!
We hosted wonderful speakers: Jim and Mary Towey spoke about their time with St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Jim’s time in the White House. Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert spoke about faith and football. Actor-playwright Casey Grove brought his one-man play about Father Francis X. Seelos to our parish and school. Father Robert Kimbaleba, a mission priest from Tanzania, told us what life is like in his diocese where he serves several parishes every Sunday in areas where there are no roads, electricity, or running water. And Sister Kathleen Weigand spoke of life at St. Vincent Mission in Appalachia, where our parish sends a vanload of Christmas presents every year.
We also experienced the merger of our school with St. Alexis to form Blessed Francis Seelos Academy. We are proud to continue the tradition and pursuit of academic excellence and nurturing of Catholic hearts and minds, which is so critical in our post-modern world. This has been, and continues to be, a huge endeavor that we were tasked with pulling together in an extremely short period of time. I cannot thank enough those of you who have participated at great lengths to preserve and grow Catholic education in our part of the diocese.
In March I was nominated and appointed president of the North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary School board. In this role I am tasked with organizing, communicating, and coordinating efforts amongst diocesan, education, and parish personnel throughout this region of the diocese in the hopes of rejuvenating Catholic education now, and into the future. While this is something I never aspired to or thought I would be doing as a priest, I am doing it to the best of my ability, and hopefully according to God’s will. It certainly has been — and continues to be — a tremendous learning experience.
I am sure that 2018 will be a memorable year! The uncertainties that accompany the On Mission for the Church Alive initiative certainly exist as we await Bishop Zubik’s clergy assignments and parish grouping announcements in April. It certainly looks like St. Alphonsus and St. Alexis parishes will be grouped together, beginning in October. This does not mean that these parishes will be merged into one parish right away, but rather will be overseen by one team of priests, at least initially, and given some time (probably up to 5 years) to determine how best to operate as, eventually, one parish.
The first noticeable changes – along with possibly new clergy to lead these parishes – will be the reduced number of Masses, and perhaps different Mass times, beginning in October. As I have previously mentioned, the exact details will be worked out amongst clergy and announced by the end of August.
As your pastor, it is my responsibility to position St. Al’s so that such a transition can occur as seamlessly as possible, regardless of whether I am appointed administrator of this “new” parish grouping.
Some needs that I still see for our parish community such as a youth group, a pro-life committee, perhaps support groups (i.e. for the divorced, grief stricken, etc.), and continued social outreach will certainly be addressed at some point after the St. Alphonsus/St. Alexis grouping is made official. The continued and perhaps increased participation of deacons and the laity in daily parish life is absolutely needed to strengthen our church and light our souls on fire with the love of Jesus Christ.
I cannot encourage you enough to spend time in reflective prayer and conversation regarding your own vocation, your own call to serve God and others, especially as this transformation of our local church commences this year.
To rephrase Socrates’ words: An examined life is worth living.
As always, I pray for all of you daily, and I thank you for all of your prayers, love, and support!
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Kevin C. Fazio