The Conway Communiqué, May 25

“But above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or earth or with any other oath, but let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No,’ that you may not incur condemnation.” – Jas 5:12

Saint James is, perhaps, setting a high standard here, but he’s justified in doing so for two reasons.  The first is that this command is not new.  Jesus also commands that our yes mean yes and no mean no, because anything more is from the evil one (Mt. 5:37).  The other reason is that we can achieve this.  We don’t have to be people that are afraid to take a stand or worried about what others will think.  We can be people that are bold in their proclamation of the truth because of how we are made.  Remember that we were all created in the image and likeness of God.  Our intellect, then, has a natural inclination towards the Truth, and if we seek it, then we can preach it.

What are you preaching this week?  What do your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ mean?

Some news and notes…

PRAYERS:  Your prayers are requested for Avery and Olivia Bishop, who will be baptized tomorrow, and for Lincoln McDade, who will be baptized on Sunday.  And, as it is Memorial Day weekend, please pray also for all those who have died in service of our country.

MEMORIAL DAY:  Speaking of Memorial Day, the parish offices will be closed on Monday.  There will be Mass at 9 AM.

RUMMAGE SALE:  Maybe you’ll be using the long weekend to do some spring cleaning.  Maybe you’ve already done it.  Either way, you probably have some stuff around the house that you know you don’t need or want anymore.  Why not donate it to the Rummage Sale?  The drop-off period continues all next week (starting Tuesday) from 10 AM until 4 PM.  May 30 and 31, drop-off will be open until 9 PM.  The sale itself is June 8 and 9.

APPALACHIA:  Our Appalachia Mission team will be collecting donations in the narthex after all Masses this weekend.  Please be generous.

MARRIAGE PREP:  Engaged and soon-to-be engaged couples, join us for ‘Joy-filled Marriage’, a lively, insightful, and resourceful weekend experience.  For more information, visit

K OF C FLAG COLLECTION & RETIREMENT:  The Knights of Columbus are collecting unserviceable and discarded flags between May 26th  through the July 8th Look for an appropriately marked (red, white, & blue) Drop Box (for Flags only) in the Narthex.  Please dispose of your flagstaff or pole separately.

SAVE THE DATE:  On June 23, Seminarian Ming will be ordained a deacon at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.  The parish will be arranging for a bus, so that we can all be part of the celebration.  More details to follow.

THANK YOU:  As you’ll read in the bulletin this week, Diane Rudolph, our director of music ministry, has decided to retire.  Diane submitted her request prior to Thanksgiving, and has very generously stayed on until now.  A search committee has been formed and has interviewed several candidates, but we haven’t found the right fit yet.  I will keep you posted as the search progresses.  In the meantime, please be sure to thank Diane for everything she’s done to build up the music program at Saint Richard, and wish her well as she begins her very well-deserved retirement.

And I think that’s all.  Enjoy the holiday weekend, be safe, and know that you are loved.  See you at Mass!


Fr. Mike


The Shepherd’s Voice, May 20

I’m going to indulge my inner Church nerd this week and write about a part of the liturgy today.  That part is, of course, the sequence that preceded the singing of the Alleluia.  I’ve written about sequences before, both in this column and in my weekly email, but the sequence for Pentecost – the Veni, Sancte Spiritus – is too good not to write about.  In fact, in medieval times, this sequence was known as the “Golden Sequence” because of it’s beauty.

The authorship of the hymn is disputed.  Many ascribe it to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), but other scholars say it was composed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton (d. 1228).  Perhaps most likely is that it was ghostwritten for one of these two.  Whomever wrote it was quite skilled in the Latin language.  In each of the six-line stanzas, lines 1 and2, 3 and 6, and 4 and 5 rhyme.  Every third line ends in -ium.  The repeated use of the word veni (come) in the opening stanza aptly expresses the deep desire of the soul for the coming of the Consoler.  Similarly, the repeated use of the verb da (to give or to grant) in the final stanza expresses the deep confidence the author has in the Holy Spirit.  Arguably, the most noticeable thing about this hymn is its brevity – that the author can do so much in 30 short lines.

With enough practice (and a little talent), anyone can write beautiful Latin poetry.  What sets the Veni, Sancte Spiritus apart and gives it such longevity is the sanctity standing behind the work.  In his 1902 work, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Dogmatically, Liturgically, and Ascetically Explained, Fr. Nicholas Gihr writes, “The sequence for [Pentecost] can have come but from a heart wholly inflamed with the fire of the Holy Ghost.  It is an incomparable hymn, breathing the sweetness of Paradise, and regaling us with heaven’s sweetest fragrance.”

Think what we could accomplish if our hearts were inflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Think of the art we could create that would give glory to God.  Think of the things we could write that would edify others.  Think of the things we could say that would boldly proclaim the Gospel.  Think of the things we could do to build up the Kingdom of God.  Spend time this Pentecost asking the Holy Spirit to set you on fire and drive out your fear, as He did for the Apostles on the first Pentecost.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!


The Conway Communiqué, May 18

Sorry for the late post…yesterday was a pretty busy day.

“The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you.” – John 14:26

This past week, I wrapped up teaching a short course at the seminary.  I was teaching the candidates for the permanent deacon program a course called Introduction to Fundamental Theology, and no, it’s not as easy – or boring – as it sounds.  Hopefully the guys learned something – they’ve started sending their exams back in, so I’ll find out shortly – but I know that at the very least, I learned something.  What I learned is something that those of you who are teachers already know: You can be the world’s best teacher, but if the student doesn’t want to learn, it won’t matter.

Now, to be clear, I’m not throwing my class under the bus.  But it’s hard to do graduate level theology after working all day, and there were plenty of times I could tell they were just checking out on me.  (Theology’s not exactly easy to begin with.)  It was a challenge to keep things dynamic and keep them interested – and this was a generally motivated class.

The challenge for us, then, is to be good students of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit wants to – and is commanded to – remind us of what Christ taught us and to continue to teach us how to walk in the truth.  But are we willing to listen?  Are we willing to admit that we might be wrong in some of our behaviors or beliefs?  Can we be good students?

Summer vacation’s almost here, but school isn’t out.

Some news and notes:

ADORATION:  Pretty modified schedule today.  Adoration will begin shortly after the 11 AM funeral, and then will take a slight pause at 5 PM for a wedding rehearsal.

PRAYERS:  Please pray for Bob Rivers, whose funeral was Monday; Dot Schuchert, whose funeral is today; Brandon Heide and Nichole Kavala, who will be married tomorrow; and Benjamin Wentz, who will be baptized on Sunday.

CAKE:  This Sunday is Pentecost, which is often referred to as the birthday of the Church.  (This is a fun argument to have with theologians.)  And since it’s a birthday, we have to have cake!  Birthday cake will be served in the narthex after all Masses this weekend.  Stay, have a piece, and make new friends.

FAITH FORMATION:  Also in the narthex this weekend are registrations for returning families for the coming Faith Formation year.  Be sure to pick yours up; if you have any questions, please call the Faith Formation Office.

RUMMAGE SALE:  Just a reminder that drop-offs for the Rummage Sale will be accepted beginning this coming Wednesday, from 10-3 in the social hall.

And that’s it, I think.  A pretty light week ahead.  (Famous last words, I know.)  Enjoy the weekend – hopefully the rains stop.  Know that you’re loved, and I’ll see you at Mass!

Fr. Mike

The Shepherd’s Voice, May 13th

Mother’s Day isn’t really a thing in Rome.  They are aware of it – American culture is pervasive, after all – but they aren’t ready to adopt it.  Not because they don’t love their mothers – seriously, look at the respect an Italian grandmother gets form her clan – but because to them, the day seems superfluous.  Isn’t every day a day in which you should give particular honor and respect to the mothers in your life?  (I again refer you to an Italian grandmother.)  This probably says more about the Italian notion of family life than it does the American ideal.

That being said, in the seminary on Mother’s Day, the staff would post signs reminding us that it was, in fact, Mother’s Day…and that Rome was 6 hours ahead of the east coast, 5 ahead of central, and so on; and that to avoid overloading the network, we should plan our Skype calls accordingly.  Just because we were in Rome did not mean we were exempt from this American holiday.

I don’t need to remind you that today is Mother’s Day.  But do I need to remind you that this entire month belongs to your Blessed Mother?  The ancients often had recourse to various goddesses during the month of May, praying for a fruitful growing season.  As paganism came to an end in Europe, the need for prayers for a good growing season and an end of winter remained.  At the same time, as Christianity became more entrenched in the culture, devotion to Mary spread.  A common practice was to devote 30 days of prayer to her.  Eventually, the two practices merged – who better than Mary, after all, to intercede on behalf of those looking for a fruitful harvest?  All she did was give life to the Savior of mankind.  In many places, these practices became very formalized – May Crowning; Marian processions; public recitation of the Rosary, and so on.

In his 1965 encyclical Mense Maio, the prophetic Pope Paul VI included this plea for Mary’s help:

“May she who experienced the cares and hardships of earthly life, the weariness of daily toil, the hardships and trials of poverty, and the sorrows of Calvary, come to aid the needs of the Church and the human race. May she graciously lend an ear to the devout pleas of those all over the world who beg her for peace. May she enlighten the minds of those who rule nations. And finally, may she prevail on God, who rules the winds and storms, to calm the tempests in men’s warring hearts and grant us peace in our day. What we seek is true peace grounded on the sturdy foundations of justice and love—on a justice which recognizes the legitimate rights of the weak as well as those of the strong; on a love which keeps men from falling into error through excessive concern for their own interests. Thus each person’s rights may be safeguarded without the rights of others being forgotten or violated.”

This May, find a way to make Pope Paul’s prayer yours.  And find a way to honor the Blessed Mother each day.  She’s not just our Mother – she’s your Mother.  And she deserves it.

Happy Mother’s Day!


The Conway Communiqué, 5.11.2018

One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid.  Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.  No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”   – Acts 18:9-10

There’s no wonder Paul was nervous about preaching in Corinth.  It was a very important, wealthy, port city in the Roman Empire, and had earned for itself a reputation for sinfulness.  Would it even be worth it for Paul to preach the Gospel?  Would he be in danger?  Why bother?

It’s funny how, almost 2,000 years later, we act the same way.  We think that our times, our situation, are so contrary to the Gospel that it’s just better for us to keep our faith to ourselves.  Let’s just keep our heads down and maybe everyone will leave us alone.  They won’t judge us, or make fun of us, or hate us.  But they also won’t be called to conversion, and worse, we won’t be putting our trust in God.  Our response to God needs to be the same as Saint Paul’s was, because God’s message to all of us is the same thing he said to Paul:

Do not be afraid.  Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.

Some news and notes:

PRAYERS:  Please pray for the repose of the souls of Betty Tate and Bob Rivers, both of whom died this week.

GUATEMALA:  Don’t forget to join us in the social hall after the 8:00 and 10:00 Masses this weekend for the Guatemala Mission Breakfast.  You can take Mom to brunch and support the orphans in Patzun, all without leaving church.  What a deal!

GENESIS:  The Pro-Life committee will be in the narthex this weekend for the annual collection for Genesis of Pittsburgh.  Genesis provides services and education to pregnant women so that they won’t be afraid to choose life.  Please be as generous as possible.

MAY ALTAR:  All are welcome to honor our Blessed Mother by leaving flowers at the temporary May Altar in the sanctuary.  Don’t worry if you can’t leave flowers; your prayers will honor her more.  Special thanks to A.T. Merhaut, Inc., for loaning us the beautiful statue.

FAITH FORMATION AND YOUTH MINISTRY:  Formation doesn’t stop just because it’s summer.  Check the bulletin for important upcoming dates in both programs.

VOLUNTEERS:  Without exaggeration, volunteers are what keep a parish moving.  We’re looking for more recruits in two specific areas.  First, we need more assistance with liturgical ministries: lectors, Eucharistic ministers, sacristans, etc.  Please contact Mary Jordan if interested.  Secondly, we need people with green thumbs to help maintain the various gardens and flower beds around campus.  Please contact Ben at the parish office if interested.

RUMMAGE SALE:  Our annual rummage sale will be June 8 & 9.  Drop off begins May 23, from 10 AM – 3 PM.  See the bulletin for complete details.

DIAPER DERBY:  The Pittsburgh Diaper Derby is about babies racing to help other babies.  Children 5 and under will walk, toddle, or crawl their way to the finish line to raise money for single moms and needy families in Pittsburgh.  The event happens at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium on May 19.  For more info, visit or call Jen Schellhaas at 724-816-0849.

And that is, I believe, all the news that’s fit to print this lovely Friday.  I’m going to go back to praying for an end to allergy season.  Have a great weekend and know that you are loved.  See you at Mass!


Fr. Mike

The Shepherd’s Voice, May 6th

Now that the dust is mostly settled from last weekend’s announcements, I want to try to unpack them a little bit.  First, just in case there are any rumors out there to the contrary: I did not ask to leave Saint Richard.  All the priests and deacons were asked to rank their top three preferences, and this place was definitely my number one.  However – and this says a lot about this parish – the grouping of Saint Richard and Saint Catherine was the most requested grouping in the entire diocese by a wide margin.  Returning to my previous assignment was my second choice; and I had picked a random parish in the South Hills as my third (just to be closer to my parents).  I had also expressed an interest in doing educational ministry – I didn’t think that would get me three colleges, but I like a good challenge.  But enough about me.

Some folks noticed a line in the Bishop’s letter that caused some unrest: “At this time, no buildings will close.”  They read that to indicate that in the future, one of the two church buildings in this grouping might close.  Frankly, that’s pessimistic and unreasonable.  Given the population of the two parishes, the demographics of the area, the average weekly Mass attendance, and the seating capacities of both buildings, I can’t see a situation where buildings close.  Now, there are groupings within the diocese that will be closing buildings, and in some cases, soon.  I think the Bishop was speaking more to those parishes than to others.

Some have asked what we mean by “interim” Mass schedules.  Father Steve and I will be meeting with Father Bob and Father Chris to try to figure that out.  Remember, this group can only have 6 Sunday Masses, including any Saturday vigils.  We’ve been ignoring canon law for too long in this matter.  The four of us are going to look at what makes the most sense for everyone and try to schedule accordingly.  We like to think we’re smart guys, and we have a lot of empirical data and personal observations to work with, but we are human and do make mistakes.  So the schedules will be interim – if they don’t work, they’ll be changed.

Finally, someone asked me, “Why does the bishop hate our parish?”  The question was obviously in jest, but nevertheless, let me make it clear: he absolutely does not.  He thinks very highly of this parish and how vibrant and dynamic it is.  Yes, he’s asking us to face another transition after just having to go through one last summer, but everyone’s facing transition at this point.  Furthermore, I think it says something about the confidence he has in the Saint Richard family and the resiliency you’ve shown him that he would ask us to do it again.

I think those were the three biggest things I’ve heard so far, so I hope that helped answer some questions and put you at ease.  There’ll be plenty more updates, I’m sure.


The Conway Communique, 05.04.2018

“This I command you: love one another.” – John 15:17

Sometimes it really is that simple.  If you want to be a good disciple, then be loving to others.  This theme comes up often in John’s Gospel and in his letters, so it’s highly likely that Jesus returned to it often; perhaps we should, too.

There’s a theological profoundness to this statement, too.  If you go all the way back to the days of Abraham, we know that God entered into a covenant with him: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.”  For His part, God made promises to Abraham; Abraham and his descendents, in order to fulfill their half of the covenant, are expected to keep God’s commandments.  Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises in the covenant, and He renews it by His commandment to love one another.  Thus, in loving one another, we demonstrate in a real way that we are keeping God’s commandments and are true members of His flock.

Love one another!

Some news and notes:

PRAYERS:  So many people to pray for this weekend.  Pray for all of our young people who will receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time at the 5:00 and 12:00 Masses this weekend.  Please also pray for Isabel Jean McKenna and Luca James Casavale, who will be baptized this weekend.

ADORATION:  We need coverage for Eucharistic Adoration tonight from 11 PM-midnight.

MAY:  May is Mary’s month.  You’ll notice that we’ve added a temporary Mary altar in the front of the church, which will remain in place for the entire month of May.  Feel free to bring flowers from your garden or from the store to help decorate and honor our Blessed Mother.  Pray to Mary often and ask her intercession.  Pray the Rosary together as a family.  As St. Bernard of Clairvaux famously said, “De Maria numquam satis!”

BELOVED SERIES:  The Beloved series kicks off this Wednesday, May 9th, at 7 PM in the social hall.  Beloved is a marriage enrichment program that all couples can benefit from, by being spiritually nourished and having a chance to connect with other couples.  See the bulletin for more details.

ASCENSION THURSDAY:  Next Thursday, May 10, is the Feast of the Ascension and is a Holy Day of Obligation.  There will be a vigil Mass Wednesday at 7 PM, and Masses on Thursday will be at 9 AM and 5 PM.  The parish office will be closed that day.

RUMMAGE SALE:  Back by popular demand!  The St. Richard Rummage Sale will be held June 8th and 9th; items can be dropped off beginning May 23rd.  Many volunteers are needed to make this sale another great success.  See the bulletin for more info or call the parish office.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print.  Or at least, that I can remember to print.  As always, check the bulletin for more information.  This week’s bulletin also contains the letter from Bishop Zubik I read at all Masses last weekend, and more information relative to the On Mission for the Church Alive planning process.  Have a great weekend and know that you are loved!  See you at Mass!


Fr. Mike


New assignment announcement

Today’s a big day in the Diocese as we announce the new parish groupings and clergy assignments.  I’m not going to get into too much of it here, because it will all be addressed in future posts, but I will say this much:

Effective Monday, October 15th, I am being appointed as Part-Time Senior Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Conception and Saint Hilary parishes, as well as chaplain to the students and staff at Washington & Jefferson College, Waynesburg University, and California University of Pennsylvania.

More details will follow.

The Conway Communiqué, 4.27.2018

“Let every one of us be subject to his neighbor, according to the special gift bestowed upon him.  Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect to the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because he has given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by mere words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence.” – Pope St. Clement I

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus presents to us the beautiful image of the vine and the branches; that is, that He is the vine, and we are the branches.  We are to bear fruit in the world because we are grafted to this vine, a vine that can never die, and is tended not by an earthly vine-grower, but by his Father.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Pope Saint Clement gives us some practical applications of what that image means.  Clement refers to the unity of the Church – that we are all in this together, and that we must show due honor, concern, and respect for one another.

How well have we been Church?  How well have we loved one another?  Let us consider those questions today, and ask God to enlighten our minds and hearts as to how we can better serve Him, and one another, in the days ahead.

Some news and notes…

PRAYERS: Please pray for Mike Griffin and Sandy Lee, who will be married tomorrow.  Please also pray for the repose of the soul of Michael Barnes, who was buried this week.  Finally, please pray for our second graders, especially those receiving their first holy communion this weekend.

ON MISSION:  Some big announcements to be made this weekend.  For those of you accustomed to leaving right after Communion – don’t think I don’t see you – you might not want to do that.  Especially this week.

ROSARY:  Speaking of prayer, the Knights of Columbus will be leading the rosary this Sunday at 9:30.  Please stick around after the 8 AM or come early for the 10 and implore our Blessed Mother’s intercession for our parish, our country, and our world.

FIRST COMMUNION:  This weekend and next, at the 5 PM and Noon Masses, our second graders will receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist for the first time.

LIFE IN THE SPIRIT:  The Life in the Spirit Seminar continues this week with Baptism in the Spirit.  See the bulletin for more information.  The seminar is held on Tuesday night at 7 PM in the church.

FAITH FORMATION:  Although classes have ended, there are still a lot of important faith formation activities going on.  Please check the bulletin for information regarding 8th grade confirmation classes, the 7th grade retreat, and Vacation Bible School.

RUMMAGE SALE:  The annual Rummage Sale is the single largest fundraiser the parish has; so its success is critical.  Want to help make it a success?  Come to an informational meeting Wednesday, May 2 at 6:30 PM in Room 1 for more details.

BELOVED: LIVING MARRIAGE:  See the flier in the bulletin regarding the upcoming Beloved series in the church hall.  This series examines the day-to-day challenges of being united as husband and wife while maintaining a healthy individuality.  No matter if you’ve been married 1 year or 41 years, this is for you.

And that’s just about all.  That’s a lot, to be honest.  Read the bulletin, have a great weekend, know that you’re loved, and I’ll see you at Mass!


Fr. Mike


Holy Thursday Homily

Was going to post this last night, but the 7 church tour went long, and I was exhausted when I finally got home.  The ending here is not the ending I gave, but that’s because I did it spontaneously, and I can’t remember what I said.  For the most part, I followed the text, with only a few variances.  The readings, by the way, can be found here.

I have an issue with the missalette we use.  Not so much about the music; musically, it’s fine, which is why we bought them in the first place.  (I still think it needs more Gregorian chant, though.  The 6th century demographic is woefully under-served.)  But my issue with it is when it tries to provide notes on the liturgy.  For example, tonight, it gave you literally two words from the Collect Prayer.  Two words!  Thanks for nothing!

When it got to the point we’re at now – the homily – it says, “The priest or deacon describes how the good news of Christ’s saving mystery applies to this particular community on this particular day.”  Now, that’s a direct quote from the GIRM – a document called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.  What the title lacks in imagination it makes up for in functionality: it really is a collection of general instructions on how to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  It governs a lot of different things – from decoration, to music, to vestments, to silence, to how the priest holds his hands and when.

Unlike the USGA rules of golf, this is one rulebook I tend to follow.

On certain liturgical feasts, however, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal gets superceded by specific instructions within the Roman Missal.  Tonight is one of those nights.  Tonight I am given strict orders on what I am to preach on, and I quote:

The Priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.

That’s no small task, and frankly not sure one I’m fully equipped for.  And so tonight I’m going to share with you the stories of three priests that none of us have ever met as a means to shed light on all those mysteries.

I begin with fraternal charity.  In tonight’s Gospel, Jesus washes the feet of the 12, but it might be a bit impractical for us to do that.  (Although I am going to do that in a few minutes.)  More to the point, stay away from my feet.  But what is fraternal charity?  It’s way more than greeting one another with a kind word; it’s way more than not gossiping about someone; it’s way more than yielding to someone at a 4-way stop.  And in fact, if that’s all you think fraternal charity is, then you have no idea.

Fraternal charity involves putting the other so far above yourself that you’re not even in the picture.  It involves emptying yourself of pride and status and honor and serving.  It involves dying to yourself so that you might build the other up.  And sometimes, fraternal charity just means dying.

Father Aloysius Schmitt was a priest of the archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.  He was also a chaplain in the United States Navy.  He was immensely popular with the sailors under his care on board of the USS Oklahoma – he was fair, he was kind, he was smart, he was interested in their lives…he was a good priest.  On Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, as he was preparing to celebrate Sunday Mass below decks, the Oklahoma was struck by multiple torpedoes.  The ship almost immediately began to list severely to one side, and because they were already below the waterline, chances of escape were bleak.  Fr. Schmitt organized the survivors and got them to a porthole, which was their only means of escape.  The only problem was that he was the only one who didn’t fit through it.  He remained in that cabin, helping others escape and ordering them to abandon him, until he breathed his last.

Sometimes fraternal charity requires a lot more than we think we can give.

We’re all called to exercise fraternal charity towards another, but priests are especially.  What sets them apart?  What is about the priestly order that is so significant?  What is it that they do, exactly?  In technical terms, priests are to assistants their bishop in the exercise of his ministry, and bishops are the successors to the apostles.  Priests, then, are to help the bishop in bringing the people of their diocese closer to God and calling them to a new, deeper level of holiness.  They do this through the celebration of the sacraments, the preaching of the word, how they teach, and their very way of life.  And they do it all the time.  Everywhere they are.  Even if it’s a dire situation.

Consider the case of Father Thomas Conway.  No relation.  Fr. Conway was a priest of the diocese of Buffalo, New York.  He was chaplain aboard the USS Indianapolis, which was torpedeod and sunk the night of July 29, 1945.  The first torpedo that hit the Indy destroyed its radio room, and so they were unable to send out a distress call, and the cruiser sank quickly.  Still, many men were able to abandon ship – only to drift helplessly in the Pacific Ocean for the next several days.  In July.  Near the Equator.  Fr. Conway was one of the people.  He swam from one group of survivors to the next, hearing confessions, administering last rites, praying with the men, and just trying to keep their spirits up.  But 70 hours of no food, no water, no rest, and extreme heat can be too much for a man, and Fr. Conway eventually died in service to his men.  His body was never recovered.

The priestly order is one of service to our fellow men.  And it always working for the sanctification of others, in all corners of the world, at all times, and in every circumstance.

Finally we must reflect on the Holy Eucharist, what the second Vatican Council rightly called the source and summit of the Christian life.  No mere symbol, the Eucharist truly is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and is given to us again and again and again so that we might be made more like Him and eventually, one day be happy with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven.  The night before he was to suffer and die he handed this gift over to his apostles that he might remain with them always, and more importantly, that they would have the strength, the courage, the grace to perservere in service to the Gospel.  It would be the greatest gift any of them would ever receive – as it is for us.  The Eucharist is the greatest gift we will ever receive this side of heaven, and our lives must reflect that reality.

The story of Father Anthony Conway – again, no relation – may help illustrate this.  Fr. Tony was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  He was considered quiet and bookish, and he also looked like he was barely old enough to shave, but he was wildly popular among both the officers and the enlisted Marines he served.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote home:

            Dear Mom and Dad, this is a pre-invasion letter.  We go into Guam tomorrow.  I am not so much afraid now, but tomorrow morning I will be plenty scared.  If the worst should happen to me, know that it is God’s will, and I gave my life for the Church and the God who rules it.  I took the vow at ordination to obey.  My work here is obedience at its best.  All the good I am going to do in there makes me courageous, for courage is fear that has said its prayers.  And there’s no greater prayer than squaring away souls for God.

This afternoon, in sight of Guam, I will be offering the Holy Sacrifice topside for all our men entering this combat, in the presence of all on board, that we might come through successfully whether dead or alive.  And if I am a victim, I know God will give me enough time to give myself Holy communion so that I will go into Eternity as I went into Guam.

Father Tony’s landing craft was hit by a Japanese shell as it made landfall on Guam.  All of the occupants were killed.

When they recovered his body later that day, he was still clutching his Mass kit tightly to his chest.

The Eucharist is more precious than anything else on this earth.

This Holy Thursday, pray for Fathers Aloysius Schmitt, Thomas Conway, and Anthony Conway.  And pray for Fathers Michael Conway, Tom Sparacino, Ken Oldenski, Steve Neff.  Pray for all priests.  And forgive us, too, for all the times we have failed to serve you as we should.  For the times we have not been what you needed.  Our Lord gives us an example tonight to follow, but in the end, we don’t always live up to the standards that we should.

But we’re going to keep trying.  This morning as we gathered with our bishop at the cathedral, we recommitted ourselves to our priestly promises.  We recommitted ourselves to you, to your service.  We’ve tied our salvation to yours.  Our goal is to get you into heaven one day, and that might mean we miss out on it ourselves.  We’re willing to pay that price, because it’s what Jesus commanded us to do.

So pray for your priests this evening, that we might always be about the work of building up the Kingdom of God.