-

-

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent Week #1 Reflection


As I sit here writing my thoughts, in the season of Advent, I can’t help but wonder if Advent is more of a season of waiting for Christ or more like a season of allowing the Spirit to form us to see Christ anew. In this academic year of seminary formation, I am assigned to the Catholic Community of South Baltimore, an urban community made up of three historic parishes. It is a community of young and old, but mostly young with three times as many baptisms as funerals. Every month I see more than a handful of babies baptized into the Body of the Church. It is truly a time of recognizing Christ anew in helpless infants. Just prior to the start of Advent, we celebrated the feast of Christ the King. I can’t help but recognize that "King" far more differently than any artistic rendering. The King, in my recent experience, cries a lot, spits up, and is held by parents with love. For me, this is a beautiful image of the Christ.

            In my assignment, I also teach 4th and 5th grade religious education, as well as sometimes leading conferences for adults participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA). On my way to the parish on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, I stopped at a red light. There, like every Sunday, I saw an older man walking the median back and forth while asking for spare change. I hoped, this particular day, that he would not reach my car before the light changed. Searching for change, pressing the button to roll down the window, and interacting with another human being this early in the morning seemed like too much work. In short, he was going to reach my car before the light changed. So I searched my cup holder full of change, moving the pennies and nickels out of the way in order to find a handful of quarters.

            As he approached my car, I pressed that button to roll down my window, stuck my hand filled with quarters out of the car, and waited for him to limp over to me. I gave him all I had and said, “Take care. Have a good day.” He looked at me and responded with something I could not understand. I gestured to show that I could not hear him. He said it again. Still, I could not hear him. Finally, he raised two fingers into the air in the shape of a V. “Peace,” he said. “Peace,” I said with the first smile of the day on my face. The light changed and I drove away.

            The man: older, limping, hands swollen and red, mumbling the same word from a mouth that could not be seen as it was covered from a long unkempt beard. As I drove away, I broke down into tears. It took me a moment to recognize what was happening inside me. I had an encounter with Christ—not just in an intellectual, theological way—a real encounter with Christ. My tears were not only in gratitude for the encounter or in awe of an experience to which I could not fully give word, but in sadness that Christ still has to reside in such conditions. The theme for my RCIA class changed that morning as we instead discussed how Jesus’ ministry shows us the Father in ways that we sometimes wish were not true—in ways unfit for God.


            To celebrate Christ the King after meeting Christ in the poorest of the poor baffles the mind. This is Christ: living in absolute poverty, in need of medication, unable to be understood (or even fully seen for that matter), shuffling from car to car at a random intersection wishing drivers “Peace”? How amazing! From that experience, I had to ask, is Advent a season of waiting for the coming Christ into our world, or is it a season of recognizing Christ already present and standing right in front of us?
_________________________________________________________________________________

Bill Beechko is a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton. 

He is from Mayfield, and is a member of SS. Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dumore. 

He is in Third Theology at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Bill is pictured (center) at his Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders Mass with his father (left) and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera (right). 

Monday, November 21, 2016

#leaveamark16: A Memorable Event

Hundreds gathered in the Cathedral of Saint Peter on November 6th to join Bishop Bambera for a special gathering of the ‘young church’ to kick off National Vocation Awareness Week in the Diocese of Scranton. #leaveamark16, the title of the event, brought together high school juniors and seniors, college students, and working young adults from the eleven counties of the Diocese.


The title of the event came from Pope Francis’ address at the Prayer Vigil in Krakow, Poland this summer at World Youth Day: “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark. Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well.”


Bishop Bambera echoed the same message to all those who attended in his homily. “The starting point is simple. It’s something we’ve all been given: baptism. Pope Francis, in reflecting upon the sacrament, urges us not to forget both the gift and the responsibility that is ours through its reception."



After the Celebration of the Eucharist, a reception was held in the Diocesan Pastoral Center. Those who attended had the opportunity to meet others from across the Diocese of Scranton, have a bite to eat, and even get their picture taken in a photo frame. 




Here is what some who attended had to say:
“The #leaveamark16 event was a great congregation of the young church of our Diocese. I was very encouraged to see a church packed with young people who had the fire of the Holy Spirit alive within them. This event was a great manifestation of the message Pope Francis wanted to instill on young Catholics, namely to go out and leave a mark in our communities. The world is a better place when people go out into their communities and live out the Gospel message through serving others. Even if we feel that what we do is on a small scale and insignificant, in each person we help we are in turn serving Jesus as he is a live in everyone we meet.”

          -Thomas Shaffern, University of Scranton
“I enjoyed the sense of community and solidarity the #leaveamark16 mass and reception created by bringing together young adults from all over the Diocese. God has definitely left a mark on our generation. Now it’s our turn to join Him in leaving a mark of our own.”

          -Bridget Barnic, Marywood University
“The Mass was a sign for me that although religion seems irrelevant to today’s youth, there are still people my age who are looking for the same thing, God and His meaning. I felt His presence and it was amazing.”

          -Brian Noble, Luzerne County Community College




The Vocation Office hopes to make this an annual event. For more information about upcoming events, please call 570-207-1452.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Q&A: #leaveamark16

In just under two weeks, the 'young church' in the Diocese of Scranton will gather in the Cathedral of Saint Peter with Bishop Bambera for a special Mass and then a reception in the Diocesan Pastoral Center. This new event, "Are you leaving a mark?" (#leaveamark16), hopefully will bring together hundreds from our eleven counties.

Here are some common questions that people have been asking since this event was announced a few weeks ago (we provided answers under each question):

1. As a Director of Religious Education in my parish, who should I be encouraging to attend this event?
High school juniors and seniors, college students, and young adults through age 35

2. Where did the title of this event come from?
Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland gave an incredible address at the Prayer Vigil.
"Dear young people, we didn't come into this world to 'vegetate', to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark. Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well." 
Bringing back this message to the Diocese of Scranton, the question to all of our young people: how are you leaving a mark? 

3. Why is this event kicking off National Vocation Awareness Week in the Diocese of Scranton?
This year, National Vocation Awareness Week will focus on everyone's baptismal call to holiness and intentional discipleship here in the Diocese of Scranton. World Day of Prayer for Vocations in May will focus on the vocations of priesthood and religious life. 

4. Who is helping plan this event?
The Diocesan Vocation Team is leading the planning efforts. In addition, there are campus ministers, chaplains, and student representatives from the following schools who are on the subcommittees: King's College, Marywood University, Misericordia University, University of Scranton, Holy Cross High School, and Holy Cross High School. 

5. I noticed on the posters there is a hashtag associated with this event. Why use a hashtag?
The promotions subcommittee came up with the hashtag to better reach the target 
demographic (16-35). 
We are currently using the hashtag to help us in our promotional efforts. 
On November 6th, we are encouraging everyone that attends to use the hashtag when posting photos and videos from the Mass and reception. 
After November 6th and hearing the inspirational words from Bishop Bambera, we would like the 'young church' to flood social media with posts using the hasthag showing how they are 'leaving a mark' in the world. Service projects, helping feed the hungry in our communities, participating in liturgical ministries are just some of the many ways the 'young church' can leave their mark in the world and be the face of Jesus for all to see. 

We hope to see you at this special new event in the Diocese!

Diocesan Vocation Team 


Friday, October 14, 2016

What is #leaveamark16?

"Dear young people, we didn't come into this world to 'vegetate', to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on," said Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland this summer. "No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark."

After journeying this summer with a group of young adults to World Youth Day and hearing the messages from Pope Francis, Bishop Bambera is calling the young church of the Diocese of Scranton to gather in the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Sunday, November 6 for a special Mass at 5 p.m. followed by a reception in the Diocesan Pastoral Center. As the young church gathers, the question continues: are you leaving a mark?

The Diocesan Vocation Office is sponsoring this gathering specifically for high school juniors and seniors, college students and young adults through age thirty-five.

In addition to campus ministers, chaplains, and directors of religious formation being involved in the planning of this event, there are also student representatives on the subcommittees. 

Student representatives at a recent meeting to plan #leaveamark16

Here is what some of the students have to say about being involved in this new initiative:
"I decided to help plan #leaveamark16 because I believe it is important to bring the young church together because we are not just the present church but also the future. I am looking forward to meeting and connecting with new people from throughout the Diocese and deepening my spiritual life. I am part of the promotions subcommittee which is tasked with spreading information about the event and inviting individuals to attend." 
-Mollie Burda is a junior at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore and a member of Mary, Mother of God Parish in Scranton. 

"I decided to volunteer and help with this event because it is important for our Diocese to make its mark on the universal Church. This will be an event in which Scranton can say it is bringing together its young people to make a difference for those within the Church and those outside of the Church. I am looking forward to seeing the high schools, colleges, and young adults of the area come together to initiate a new way to bring together the local Church. It should be interesting to interact with new groups of people, and hopefully the event will allow us to build relationships in which we can work together for the betterment of the Diocese. I am on the liturgy subcommittee where we will discuss the liturgical aspects of the event and how we can make #leaveamark16 a holy and inspirational experience for all those who attend. I hope to promote this on my campus by using the usual means of email and posters, but more importantly by encouraging participation through personal invitation."

          -Michael Boris is a junior at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, a member of Saint Andre                             Bessette Parish in Wilkes-Barre, and a young adult volunteer for the Quo Vadis program.

For more information, please checkout our Facebook event page or call 570-207-1452.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Discernment: What Do I Do?

Along with a million other “church words” everyone always hears and has a hard time understanding is the word “discernment”. Discernment is the process where a Catholic man or women recognizes their vocation in the church. I know that sounds a little too formal so I’ll put it into everyday terms. Discernment is figuring out what you’re going to do with your life. Scary, right? I know it was for me at first. Sometimes as humans we don’t particularly like to hear that we need to figure it all out. We don’t like to commit, and it’s hard to think about it.

Before I entered seminary formation for the Diocese of Scranton,  I was just a regular high school student. Something I always heard throughout my days of high school was, “What are you going to do with your life?” Those are scary words to hear, especially for a teenager. We were kind of told that our whole life needed to be figured out, and that we needed to know sooner than later. Now I know when my fellow classmates and I heard those words the first thing that came to our minds were the following questions: What college am I going to go to? How much money am I going to make? Who am I going to marry? Where am I going to live? These are all very big questions for kids who still have sixty, seventy, or maybe even eighty years of life ahead of them. But, did we every stop to think what we were going to do with our life in the church? Now I’ll be honest and say that a large majority of my classmates probably didn’t think about that at first because I know I didn’t. We thought about the more specific things. But, with those specific things comes a much larger picture and we can begin to determine what our vocation is!

Vocation is another “church word” we always hear and sometimes misunderstand. I know when we hear that particular word we always think of one thing and one thing only…priesthood. I know I’m guilty of that assumption too. However, the term vocation is applied to everyone. We all have a God-given plan in place for our lives. I know for me it’s really comforting to know that. But, that God-given plan isn’t where we are going to live or what kind of job we will have. That plan is easily broken up into four main categories: single life, married life, religious life, and priesthood. Four very large areas to cover for the entire Church of God, but we can always be considered under one of those large umbrellas.

Now before we look into discernment itself, we have to know what we are discerning!

Single Life:
Everyone lives this vocation at least at some point in their life time. None of us were born a priest, brother/sister, or married … at least I never heard of it. We are all at first single. Some may move on to another vocation, and others may remain there. Either way, a single person devotes their time and energy to the service of others.

Married Life:
Probably the most common of the four vocations. Husbands and wives share a self-giving, love-giving and life-giving relationship with their spouse, and are committed to helping their spouse grow as a human, a Christian, and to reach heaven.

Religious Life:
A religious priest, brother, or sister commits his or her life to sharing in the life and mission of their religious community. Religious priests, brothers and sisters embrace the call to poverty, chastity and obedience. They serve in areas of great need and importance to the continued growth of the church and her message.

Priesthood:
A priest lives a life dedicated to the church, and its people. He shepherds, teaches, and serves the people of God. He embraces the call to celibacy and is committed to a life of prayer.

Now that pretty much sums up each vocation, but there is much more to each vocation than what I just said. All four are extremely beautiful and are necessary for the church and its growth. But how do we know which of the four paths to start on? We use that fancy “church word” I had mentioned in the beginning…discernment. It is really confusing at first when you think about it. You want to know now! “What should I do!?” I know that’s how I felt when I was deciding to either enter college or seminary life. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret… you won’t know right away. It takes time to know these things. They aren’t just handed to us like presents at Christmas (although that would be nice). We have to pray. We have to live life. We have to ask questions. And most importantly, we have to love!

Pray!
How else will we know where the Lord is leading us unless we talk to him? That’s an essential key to life in general. Now, I’m no spiritual director so I really can’t give you good advice on how to pray. If you need to start there, talk to your pastor or a priest you feel comfortable with. But what I do know is that it all starts in prayer! I could never go through a single day without prayer. It would have been impossible for me to enter the seminary without prayer, and would be impossible for me to stay in seminary as well. That is applied with every step to any vocation. We all need to pray.

Eucharistic Adoration is great way to spend time in prayer before the blessed sacrament

Live life!
How else could you know what a certain vocation is like unless you experience a part of it? It is important to have an understanding of each vocation and what it entails and has to offer. If you feel marriage is for you, then you would date and experience a part of an intimate self-giving to another person. The same is applied to priesthood or religious life. If you feel interested in the slightest, then give yourself more to your parish community, talk to priests or religious, and just be involved in the life of the church!

I know personally in our diocese there are groups of guys who get together and discuss their interests in vocations and can learn more about each one. A key factor for me was a little group at my high school. We simply called it the “God Squad.” It was just a group of guys who got together, asked questions, and talked about where we felt God was calling us. This group is among countless numbers of other groups and activities the vocation office has made possible for your benefit! I highly recommend you making use of them.

Quo Vadis Days is one of the many opportunities for high school students to
learn more about all vocations. Andrew is pictured here serving at a Mass
during Quo Vadis Days 2015.

Ask questions!
I know that it is hard to admit that we don’t know it all…I know I do. But if you feel lost and confused, don’t be afraid to ask for a little help or guidance especially from someone who has been where you are now. Even if you feel like you know it all like me, still ask questions. Even if you feel they are stupid, ask them anyways because any little question can lead to a much larger one and we can be strengthened with others answers.

Love!
It all comes down to a simple fact that each vocation is rooted in love. Our vocations are just a mirrored reflection of God’s love in our lives. If you give yourself fully to the love of Christ, his church, and every individual even though it may be hard, you certainly won’t be disappointed.


All this advice is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discerning any vocation. But, if you pray, live life, ask questions, and love, you’re on your way to a great start!
________________________________________________________________________
Andrew McCarroll, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just began formation at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, New York. He is a member of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish in Wilkes-Barre.


Andrew journeyed to Krakow, Poland this past summer as part of the Diocesan delegation for World Youth Day.


He is pictured here with his cousin, Shannon Kowalski, at the International Student Leadership Institute (I.S.L.I.) retreat in June 2016. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Ton of Fun at Douglaston

I used to wonder if it would be better to enter seminary right after high school or wait a year so I would be able to get the 'normal' college experience. I was worried about missing out on activities like sports teams, music ensembles, or even the chance of getting extra sleep in the morning. Nevertheless, I still decided to enter the seminary right after graduating from Honesdale High School. However, I never would have guessed that apart from getting extra sleep in the morning, I wouldn’t be missing a thing. Although the seminary may have more on the schedule for someone than the average college student, there is still plenty of time for fun.


One of the best days of the year is when Douglaston (college seminary) plays Dunwoodie (major seminary) in soccer and softball in the fall and basketball in the winter. Many days go into training for these games so the winners can take home the coveted “Holy Wars” trophy. These sports days are such a great and fun way of building fraternity. Everyone comes together as a team in hopes of winning the game. Fortunately, through dedication and prayer, Douglaston won all three games this fall- soccer and the two softball games. Practice for basketball will begin for the winter. Hopefully this year can be a clean-sweep for Douglaston.

Douglaston verses Dunwoodie in soccer & softball

There are also other fun events that take place in house. This year we are having some tournaments including ping-pong, Fifa, billiards, and more. Some of these tournaments can be especially fun, like when you have to pick a theme song to walk into the room for ping pong. Pretty much anything you can think of you can make into a tournament for the house.

with some friends 

We also have time for other recreational activities. There is an indoor pool at the seminary which is open a few times a week for swimming. There is a common room on the first floor with a ping pong table, pool table, and foosball table. In that common room, there are also two televisions. One of those televisions has multiple gaming systems, controllers, and most importantly, a copious amount of games.  


One of my passions in life is music and I love to sing. I am so happy that I am able to continue with this passion. At the seminary, I am a cantor and a member of the choir. The seminary choir practices Monday nights with a local choir director, and we have two concerts. For these concerts, the director brings her parish choir with her to sing with us. Because of this, we are able to have four voice parts- soprano, alto, tenor, and bass compared to just tenor and bass if it was only guys from the seminary. We sing once at Christmastime, in early December for Lessons and Carols, and once in Lent on Laetare Sunday.

Lessons and Carols December 2015
Now, before I finish, since New York City is such a diverse place, I probably should mention the fun that has to do with the prime location. There is always something to do at any time of day. If we want to hop on the train into Manhattan, we are just a few minutes away from the train station. If we want to go to St. John’s University for a campus event, we are only five miles away from campus. If we want to go to a baseball game, we can just hop in the car and drive to Citi Field. If we are hungry for any type of food, all we have to do is hop in the car or walk and we can have whatever we desire within minutes. If we want to see a movie on a Friday night at midnight, we can because there are movie theaters that are still having showings at that time. Trust me, you can do anything at any time because those examples were all true. The list of things to do goes on and on!

Citi Field 

There are many fun things we are able to do in the seminary. If you think God may be calling you to enter the seminary, but you’re worried you will miss out on having fun, don’t let that be the reason you don’t enter. There is plenty of fun at the seminary, and a wide variety of things to do on a daily basis. The seminary is a lot of fun, and I’m glad I entered right out of high school because I don’t feel like I am missing a thing.
__________________________________________________________________________________________


Nicholas Jennings, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just started his second year at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston, New York. He is from Honesdale and is a member of Saint John the Evangelist Parish. He loves to sing and spend time with his family and friends.

Picture: Seminarians Nicholas (left) and Rob Dogal at a Christmas Sweater Party.

Monday, September 26, 2016

One of the Happiest Days

As Vocation Director for the Diocese of Scranton, one of my ‘happiest’ days in ministry was Wednesday, September 21. The local church of Scranton honored Bishop James C. Timlin, Bishop Emeritus for the Diocese, with a special Mass and reception. At 89 years old, he celebrated 65 years of Diocesan Priesthood and 40 years as Bishop. What a great example for all, especially young people struggling with the ability to commit to their vocation.  A dedicated servant of God, Bishop Timlin gave beautiful witness and testimony to a standing room only cathedral filled with priests, religious sisters, lay faithful and many students from Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese.


In his homily, Bishop Timlin focused on three points: Saint Matthew (whose feast day it was), his ordination to the priesthood, and his gratitude to everyone. Matthew was called by Jesus to follow him. Matthew, an ordinary man, a sinner and not well-liked because he was a tax collector ended up being a great apostle and evangelist. This reminds us that God calls many individuals from all different walks of life, loving us in our sinfulness and giftedness. We need to stay open to an encounter with Jesus that can be transformative. The Bishop reminded us that he is from an ordinary family in North Scranton and Holy Rosary Parish. God has blessed him in many wonderful ways.

Bishop Timlin went on to say his ordination to the priesthood was the transforming moment in his life. “One of the greatest days of my life was when I was ordained a Priest.” He thanks God everyday for calling him to be a priest.  How wonderful is this personal witness of service! He also went on to thank God for his parents, his family and everyone who has blessed him throughout these many years.


I couldn’t help but think that Bishop Timlin has as much energy today as he did thirty-two years ago when I lived with him at the Cathedral. The celebration was the best possible commercial for God and the People of God. "It doesn’t get better than this!" Congratulations Bishop Timlin and thank you on behalf of everyone in the Diocese of Scranton.

Ad multos annos!
_________________________________________________________________________________

Father Don Williams is the "recycled" Vocation Director for the Diocese of Scranton, serving in the role from 1997-2002 and 2013-present. 

He is in residence at Saint Paul Parish in the Green Ridge section of Scranton. 

In November, he will celebrate thirty-three years of Priesthood. 

He is the third oldest of eleven children. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life in a Parish

I am approaching the fourth month of my pastoral year assignment at St. Matthew’s Parish in East Stroudsburg.

For me, the gift of this pastoral year is being able to take a step away from the seminary setting in order to be immersed in the life of a parish faith community in the Diocese of Scranton.

At Quo Vadis Days 2016 with participants from St. Matthew's Parish
During my time at St. Matthew’s, it has become abundantly clear to me that no two weeks in a parish are the same – for that matter, no two days are completely the same, either! A sampling of a day in the life of a seminarian in the parish looks something like this:

Wake up. Go to Mass. Drink coffee (two cups). Pray Morning Prayer. Visit parishioners in the hospital. Update parish website. Train Altar Servers. Eat lunch. Meet with couple preparing for Marriage. Pray with daily Scripture readings. Plan Confirmation retreat. (Third cup of coffee!) Dinner. Hit the gym. Bake cake for college students. Pray Night Prayer. Go to bed tired, but fulfilled!

At times, I am tempted to become so immersed in the work of the parish that I don’t always maintain a strong spiritual foundation. It is easy for me to check many “tasks” off the list of parish duties. It is less easy, however, to sit in silence, to be before God in all honesty and openness. The results of prayer are not always immediate; the transformative movement of prayer is often slow. Prayer is our realization of the patient work of God within us. It is not so easy to check this off of a list!

Catching up with a student at Light the Fire

Yet, this is exactly the point of my pastoral year at St. Matthew’s Parish! My continuing steps towards Holy Orders must first and foremost include time in prayer with God. Only from this foundation in prayer can I move forward as one called to minister in the name of Jesus.

It’ll continue to be a busy year at St. Matthew’s! There will be much to do. The parish is bustling with activity. I know I will continue to learn much from Fr. Jerry Shantillo, Fr. Joe Mosley, and the People of God here in the Poconos. Along with the business of parish life, there will be many opportunities for silence and prayer. And I look forward to all of it.
________________________________________________________________________

Ryan Glenn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, completed Theology III at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. 

During the 2016-17 year, Ryan will reside and minister at St. Matthew’s Parish in East Stroudsburg, PA. 

There, he will continue to pray and discern his vocational calling. Ryan will also be involved in multiple parish ministries, including Catholic Campus Ministry at East Stroudsburg University. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Grace-Filled Summer


As we begin a new academic year of seminary, I can’t help but think back with great gratitude in my heart for the good Lord’s gift of a truly graced-filled summer. I approached each day the same way I try to do every day in the seminary—in humble gratitude for the gift of time, for with time we all get the opportunity to know God better in hopes of falling ever more deeply in love with Him. But as many of us all too well know, life in the “real” world, as opposed to that of the seminary, often demands that we move from one thing to the next without ever really pausing to think about and absorb the wonder of the moments we experience in the here and now. So I am deeply thankful that I was approached to write this brief reflection, as it gave me the opportunity to actually think and absorb how momentous this summer has been in my journey towards the priesthood.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:21). The words of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel are a fitting starting point for this reflection, for I found a treasure of immeasurable value in the parish of St John the Evangelist in Pittston, my parish of assignment for nine weeks.  The treasure of St John’s parish manifest itself to me in what I call “the three G’s”:  gospel, generosity and gratitude. 

Students from St. John's Youth Group at their Summer Bazaar 
The Gospel of Christ is alive at St John’s, living and breathing in the hands and hearts of all who so proudly and wonderfully call it their home. I found a place where the Gospel message rings true:  from the dynamic and dedicated pastor Monsignor Jack Bendik, to the committed and professional pastoral team and administrative staff, to the many welcoming and compassionate volunteers who give of their limited time to serve the needs of the poor and underprivileged in the Greater Pittston area, this parish believes in the transformative power of the Gospel. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:16).  These are not just words at St John the Evangelist parish; they reflect a genuine commitment to living the Christian way of life. I saw the Gospel living in the relieved look of young parents coming out of a visit with their sick child to the parish free pediatrics clinic. I saw the Gospel living in the warm and welcoming smiles of the many volunteers who carried sorely needed groceries for the many needy families who visited the food pantry weekly. I saw the Gospel living in the dignity of a funeral Mass made more personal in the words of a priest who put in the time and effort to get to know the deceased and their families just a little bit more.



Every expression of the Gospel abounds in a deep sense of generosity.  From the countless hours so many parishioners give to the operation of the Kid’s Clothes Closet, Food Pantry, parish bazaar, Vacation Bible School, Bereavement Support Group and Family Choir; to the seemingly endless stream of bags, boxes and cans of food that daily pour into the parish office for the food pantry; to the funds raised for missionary communities and outreach ministries, one could not help but be in awe of the boundless generosity of so many parishioners in the gifts of their time, talent and treasure.

Blessing before going to One Bread, One Cup at St. Meinrad's Abbey

All of this took place within a profound spirit of gratitude. Monsignor Bendik is a man who truly appreciates the power of the spoken word, and, in his own words, loved to make “a short story long!” In the many words I heard him spoke throughout the day, the two I heard him say most often are two of the most transformative in human language:  thank you.  I saw numerous expressions of humble gratitude from the many parishioners I visited on communion calls to area hospitals, nursing homes and shut-ins. I saw gratitude in a simple blessing bestowed on a faithful, lonely wandering man by one of the parish priests or deacons. I saw gratitude in the shared meals, warm fellowship and uplifting conversation of day-to-day rectory life. I saw gratitude in the eyes of the children and teenagers who sang from the depths of their hearts and souls of the love of Christ during Vacation Bible School, One Bread One Cup youth liturgical workshop we attended at St Meinrad’s Abbey in southern Indiana and Light the Fire diocesan youth rally at Misericordia University. I saw gratitude in the everyday simple and humble expressions of Christ’s love that I was so blessed to witness each and every day.

Light the Fire Youth Rally at Misericordia University 

All of us at One Bread, One Cup with Steve Angrisano

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  I will treasure always the inestimable gift of nine summer weeks at an amazing parish home in Pittston.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Kevin Miller is a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton. He is from Wilkes-Barre and is a member of Saint Nicholas Parish.

After retiring from serving thirty-two years in the military, he is now in Theology I at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. 

Miller (far right) is pictured at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland with seminarians Jonathan Kuhar and Andrew McCarroll. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Young Church Alive at World Youth Day

A few days ago, I was shown a video on YouTube from the Night of Mercy Festival at World Youth Day’s Mercy Center. I had the privilege to be at that event which included, among other things, Eucharistic Adoration presided by Bishop Robert Barron. I could go on at great length describing that evening, the very real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the gathered community who united more than 25,000 young members of the Church in praise and adoration. Every detail remains very real in my memory.

Night of Mercy at Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland 
After watching this video, what I recall above all else is that group of thousands who surrounded me. While I was having a profound experience of God’s presence, I could not help but watch the young adults around me. I could see conversion happening in real time. I could see surrendering and healing happening right before my eyes. I could see real thanksgiving being expressed through word and song. But I also experienced a peace-filled silence in what would later that night become the loudest place in Krakow.


After the event, I was walking back to the hotel and thought about the critics of young adults—those who say my generation is self-absorbed, out of touch with the values express by the Church, unable to quiet down, ungrateful, or unable to worship in a “fitting way.” These things, without a doubt in my mind, are also sometimes said with a pessimistic eye to the future of the Church. I thought to myself, “I wish those people were able to experience what I just experienced.” Well, thanks to technology, now they are. I would challenge those pessimists to watch what I saw that night in Krakow, Poland.  I would challenge them to find one person in that video who could not quiet down, who was not expressing in their own way deeply grateful hearts, who did not look like their worship was moving them closer to their God.

As I said that night, “The young church is doing just fine.” It’s time to give young adults a break and let them do what the Spirit of God is moving them to do for the Kingdom of God. They won’t disappoint.
___________________________________________________________________________


Bill Beechko is a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton. He is from Mayfield and a member of SS. Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore. He is in Third Theology at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.