Monday, February 28, 2011

Father Bateman to Join Air National Guard

As was announced briefly at Mass this past weekend, I've been granted permission by Bishop McFadden to become a chaplain for the 193rd PA Air National Guard out of Harrisburg Airport - in addition to my serving as pastor here at At. Andrew's.  So, I'm not being transferred, but taking on an additional responsibility.  Here's the full story:
   Just prior to Christmas the Diocese sent an email to all the priests asking of anyone was interested in assisting our men & women in the Air Force by becoming a chaplain for the unit.  While in high school I had briefly pursued the possibility of joining the Air Force, but my "flat feet" kept me out.  Then, after ordination, I ask Bishop Dattilo if he might consider allowing me to serve our military men and women by being part of the Army National Guard, but he would not permit priests to join the military at that point.  Then came this email from the Diocese asking one of our priests to take over this needed pastoral ministry in our Diocese.  
   Just after Christmas, after talking to my spiritual director, I wrote expressing my interest, now knowing if the Bishop would agree to let me add this pastoral ministry to my parish duties.  In mid-January I received a call from the Diocese telling me that Bishop had chosen to allow me to enlist and become a chaplain for the Air National Guard.  He said that being a seasoned pastor in a parish that is running smoothly made the additional assignment something he felt I could do.
   So, in the past weeks I have been completing the paperwork and all the necessary physicals and other requirements to be commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force, eventually to be assigned to the PA Air National Guard (PA ANG) out of Harrisburg International Airport.  While my commissioning has not yet taken place, I have begun to provide weekend pastoral services and Mass to our military men and women while they are on their 1x month drill duty.
   Once I am commissioned, I will be required to attend drill duty once-a-month and 2-weeks in the summer.  This will mean some additional time out of the parish and priest help on some weekends.  I want to try to "work out a deal" with the military that will allow me to remain in the parish some weekends, while spending other with the PA ANG during drill weekends.  
   An additional requirement shortly after my commissioning will be my attendance at Officer Training School for 6-8 weeks.  As yet I do not know when this will take place, but most likely within 1-year of my commission.
   I am personally thrilled that Bishop has given me this opportunity to serve our brave men and women who protect us by being part of the Air Force.  With many active duty military and retired veterans in our parish, I'm sure many will understand the urgent need for Catholic priests in our military services.
   Will this be a sacrifice for our parish?  Yes, just as it is a sacrifice for every family who has a member serving our country in the military.  Yet to protect freedom and to support those who protect us, it is a sacrifice that many of the families in our parish and, I hope, our parish family are willing to make.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI Appoints Fr. William Waltersheid Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh

      Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg announced this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Very Reverend William J. Waltersheid as Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh. He will be introduced at a news conference at the Pastoral Center in Pittsburgh at 10:00 a.m. today. Currently Bishop Elect Waltersheid is serving as Secretary for Clergy and Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

     Bishop McFadden said in a statement on the appointment, “Father Waltersheid is an outstanding priest who has served this Diocese in an exemplary fashion.” He went on to say, “While we are sad that he will no longer be serving in the Church in Harrisburg we know he will be a great blessing for the Catholic Church in Pittsburgh and will be an asset to the work of proclaiming the Gospel in the Lord’s vineyard in the Western part of our state.”

     Bishop Elect Waltersheid will be ordained a Bishop on April 25, 2011 in Saint Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. In a prepared statement he stated that he was profoundly humbled by the appointment.  He credited his parents by saying, “I come from hard-working people who have lived their Catholic Faith generously and have loved the Church tremendously.” He also thanked the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg for their love, support and prayers through the years saying, “You have all taught me so much about the beauty of living our life in Christ.”

     An Auxiliary Bishop is a Bishop who is appointed to a Diocese when the pastoral needs of a Diocese suggest it and the Bishop of a Diocese requests it. The Auxiliary Bishop assists the Diocesan Bishop in carrying out his administrative responsibilities for that particular Diocese.

     Bishop Elect Waltersheid is the fourth priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg to be appointed Bishop.  The first was Bishop Lawrence F. Schott who served as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Harrisburg from 1956 until his death in 1963.  Cardinal William Keeler, retired of Baltimore, was named as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese in 1979. In 2004 then Father Kevin C. Rhoades became the third priest of the diocese to rise to Bishop when he was appointed to lead the Diocese of Harrisburg.  In 1990 a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh became the Bishop of Harrisburg.  He was Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo who served until his death in 2004.

     Bishop Elect Waltersheid, 54, was born in Ashland, Pennsylvania, the son of the late William F. and Margaret M. (Deane) Waltersheid.  He was baptized in St. Joseph Church in Locust Gap and spent his childhood and early adult years there.  An only child, he lived with his parents and maternal grandfather.  He was educated in the Mount Carmel Area School System and was given religious instruction by the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice (Felician Sisters) of Holy Spirit School in Mount Carmel.  After having graduated high school in 1974, he worked in the health care field.  He was graduated from the Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing in 1983.  Father Waltersheid was very active in his home parish of St. Joseph in Locust Gap and taught religious education classes in neighboring parishes as an adult.

     In 1985 he was accepted as a candidate for the seminary formation program of the Diocese of Harrisburg.  He studied at St. John Seminary College in Brighton, Massachusetts and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in philosophy and classical languages.  In 1988 Father Waltersheid was sent by Bishop William H. Keeler to the Pontifical North American College in Rome for continued formation for the priesthood.  He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology in 1991 from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from that same university.  He was ordained a deacon in Rome on April 30, 1992 by Pio Cardinal Laghi and a priest in Harrisburg on July 11, 1992 by Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo.  He remained in Rome for further studies until 1995 when he returned to the Diocese of Harrisburg and was assigned as parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Steelton.  In 1999 Father Waltersheid returned to Rome and served on the faculty of the Pontifical North American College until 2003.  He served for one year as Director of Apostolic Works and then for three years as Vice Rector of the seminary.  In June of 2003 he was appointed pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle.  In June of 2006 he was appointed Diocesan Secretary for Clergy and Consecrated Life by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Billboard in Manhattan describes abortion as ‘number one killer’ of blacks

.- A new billboard campaign has responded to the high abortion rate among black women in New York City by declaring “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”

The billboard, which depicts a young black girl, is located in the Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo about half a mile from a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The three Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City altogether reported nearly 17,000 abortions in 2010.

The pro-life group Life Always is sponsoring the billboard, its first in the state of New York, as part of a new national campaign which charges that Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods.

“During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion,” commented Life Always board member Pastor Stephen Broden. “We have seen the heartbreaking effects of opportunists who happen to be black abortionists perpetrating this atrocity; it’s not just babies who are in danger, it’s also their mothers, and our society at large.”

A New York City health department report released in January revealed a 41 percent abortion rate in the city, twice the national average. The abortion rate among black women was higher than average.

“This campaign highlights the tragedy that abortion is the number one killer since 1973 in the black community and the truth that we must confront in a city with a near 60 percent abortion rate for black women,” explained Rev. Derek McCoy, another Life Always board member.

The billboard advertises the web site, which offers pregnancy help information and facts about the effects of abortion on the black community.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  Seems odd to celebrate a "chair," but it's not really about a piece of furniture, but rather today's feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope.  We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined "ex cathedra" and to all the acts of the ordinary magisterium.

Most people will immediately think of the "Altar of the Chair" - in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.  This structure, seen below, is a brilliant creation by Bernini, designed to display the chair on which, according to ancient tradition, St. Peter sat and taught Roman Christians. Pope Alexander VII had the ivory-covered chair put into the gigantic bronze cathedra, with the statues of the Doctors of the Church, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine of the Roman Church and St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom of the Greek Church. The religious significance is extremely clear. The Doctors of the Church were always consistent with Peter's teachings as they expounded theological doctrine. 
The gospel does not change because the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a dove flies along the span of the centuries, assisting and accompanying its church. The chair or cathedra of Peter symbolizes the perpetual continuity of the doctrine and its promise of infallibility. It triumphed over all heresies throughout the centuries.

The fine alabaster window, surrounded by golden clouds and angels flying between rays of light, casts a mystical warmth through the basilica, especially in the afternoon. It is divided into twelve sections, in homage to the twelve Apostles who carried the words of the Gospel throughout the world. 

Today is also a day when we recall the ministry of the successor of St. Peter - the Pope.  We express our filial devotion to him and thank God for giving us the Holy Father as a sign and source of our unity in faith.  Pope Benedict, in 2006, reflected on today's feast during his audience:

Pope Benedict XVI's address on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Date: 2006-02-22 VATICAN CITY
"A Privileged Sign of the Love of God" (

Dear Brothers and Sisters! The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of Peter. It is a very ancient tradition, witnessed in Rome since the end of the fourth century, which renders thanksgiving to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors. 

"Cathedra" literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community.

When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd's crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.

Which was, then, the "cathedra" if St. Peter? He, chosen by Christ as "rock" on which to build the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18), began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The first "seat" of the Church was the Cenacle, and in all probability in that room, where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also prayed with the disciples, a special place was reserved for Simon Peter.

Subsequently, the see of Peter was Antioch, a city situated on the Oronte River in Syria, today Turkey, which at the time was the third metropolis of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. Of that city, evangelized by Barnabas and Paul, where "for the first time the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11:26), Peter was the first Bishop.

In fact, the Roman Martyrology, before the reform of the calendar, established also a specific celebration of the Chair of Peter at Antioch. From there, Providence led Peter to Rome, where he concluded with martyrdom his course of service to the Gospel. For this reason, the See of Rome, which had received the greatest honor, received also the task entrusted by Christ to Peter of being at the service of all the local Churches for the building and unity of the whole People of God.

In this way the See of Rome came to be known as that of the Successor of Peter, and the "cathedra" of its Bishop represented that of the apostle charged by Christ to feed all his flock. It is attested by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, as for example St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, who in his treatise "Against Heresies" describes the Church of Rome as "greatest and most ancient, known by all; … founded and constituted at Rome by the two glorious Apostles Peter and Paul"; and he adds: "With this Church, because of her outstanding superiority, the universal Church must be in agreement, that is, the faithful everywhere" (III, 3, 2-3).

Tertullian, for his part, affirms: "How blessed this Church of Rome is! The Apostles themselves shed on her, with their blood, the whole of the doctrine" ("La Prescrizione degli Eretici," 36). The Chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only his service to the Roman community, but also his mission of guide of the whole People of God.

To celebrate the "Chair" of Peter, as we do today, means, therefore, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize in it a privileged sign of the love of God, good and eternal Shepherd, who wants to gather the whole of his Church and guide her along the way of salvation.

Among so many testimonies of the Fathers, I would like to refer to that of St. Jerome, taken from a letter of his to the Bishop of Rome, particularly interesting because he makes explicit reference in fact to the "chair" of Peter, presenting it as the safe harbor of truth and peace. Jerome writes thus: "I decided to consult the chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once you received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the chair of Peter for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built! ("Le Lettere," I, 15,1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, is found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini, made in the shape of a great bronze throne, supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church, two from the West, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and two from the East, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius.

I invite you to pause before that evocative work, which today it is possible to admire decorated with so many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry that God has entrusted to me. Raising one's gaze to the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the chair, invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to the whole Church. For this, as for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart.

And here is a very interesting video of the discovery of St. Peter's tomb under the main altar of St. Peter's:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

Can you imagine seven prominent men of Boston or Denver banding together, leaving their homes and professions, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God?  That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the thirteenth century.  The city was torn with political strife as well as the heresy of the Cathari, who believed that physical reality was inherently evil.  Morals were low and religion seemed meaningless.  

In 1240 seven noblemen of Florence mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a solitary place for prayer and direct service of God. Their initial difficulty was providing for their dependents, since two were still married and two were widowers.

Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by constant visitors from Florence. They next withdrew to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario.

In 1244, under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the Rule of St. Augustine and adopting the name of the Servants of Mary. The new Order took a form more like that of the mendicant friars than that of the older monastic Orders.

Members of the community came to the United States from Austria in 1852 and settled in New York and later in Philadelphia. The two American provinces developed from the foundation made by Father Austin Morini in 1870 in Wisconsin.

Community members combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching and other ministerial activities.

The time in which the seven Servite founders lived is very easily comparable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. It is “the best of times and the worst of times,” as Dickens said.  Some, perhaps many, feel called to a countercultural life, even in religion. All of us are faced in a new and urgent way with the challenge to make our lives decisively centered in Christ.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't forget the Gala!

SAINT ANDREW SCHOOL WINTER GALA - February 26 at the Green Grove Gardens.  Don't forget to get your tickets for our biggest fundraiser of the year!  The evening begins at 5pm with registration, appetizers and preview of auction items. Dinner & silent auction from 6-8pm (including: ski & golf packages; Gettysburg Ghost Tour; Hagerstown Suns tickets). The fun begins at 8pm with the live auction (including a 1-hour sightseeing plane excursion; 9-course meal prepared by Chef-Father Bateman; KofC Keep Christ in Christmas display; and MUCH more). Tickets are only $30 per person. More information and tickets are available at the school ( or parish office, which you can email at: Or message me on the parish FB page. Join us! You'll have a blast and support quality Catholic Education.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Origins of St. Valentine's Day

A quick quiz: St. Valentine was:
  1. a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II, was thrown in jail and later beheaded on Feb. 14.
  2. a Catholic bishop of Terni who was beheaded, also during the reign of Claudius II.
  3. someone who secretly married couples when marriage was forbidden, or suffered in Africa, or wrote letters to his jailer's daughter, and was probably beheaded.
  4. all, some, or possibly none of the above.
If you guessed 4), give yourself a box of chocolates!  Although the mid-February holiday celebrating love and lovers remains wildly popular, the confusion over its origins led the Catholic Church, in 1969, to drop St. Valentine's Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts.  (Those highly sought-after days are reserved for saints with more clear historical record.  After all, the saints are real individuals for us to imitate.)  Some parishes, however, observe the feast of St. Valentine.

The roots of St. Valentine's Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15.  For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus.  On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.

Pope Gelasius I was, understandably, less than thrilled with this custom.  So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year (a change that no doubt disappointed a few young men).  Instead of Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine.  For Roman men, the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included Valentine's name.

There was also a conventional belief in Europe during the Middle Ages that birds chose their partners in the middle of February.  Thus the day was dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved.  Legend has it that Charles, duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  (He, however, was not beheaded, and died a half-century later of old age.) 

As we celebrate St. Valentine's Day today, may we show real love in our lives - all of it reflecting the Love of God for each of us.

Friday, February 11, 2011

There's and APP for That!

This article, written by Fr. Bateman, appeared in the Thursday edition of the Record Herald:

If you’ve taken that bold step into the technological age, you know what this phrase means.  It means that, on your iPhone or iPod or iPad or other Smart phone device, you can download (either free or a few dollars) an application – or program – to put on your mobile device.  These “apps” have many different purposes and uses – banking, social networking (like Facebook), movie reviews, games and more.  But did you know that there are MANY “apps” which could also help us know and live our faith?

For example: Did you know that you can have the entire Bible in the palm of your hand?  Check out the “Bible is” app or, if you want to memorize Bible verses, try “Bible Memory.”  There’s an app for women “Women’s Day Faith and Action” which provides daily inspirational messages specifically for women.  “Courageous Faith” is another app that provides a daily devotional.

As a Catholic priest I am fascinated by two apps in particular: iPieta contains a huge library of prayers, documents of the Church, famous authors, the entire Bible and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Another app is “Confession.”  Can you guess what this one is for?  You can “check off” your sins as you examine your conscience and then, after going to confession, “delete” them – all gone!  It’s awesome!

In addition to mobile devices, our congregations are finding new ways to use technology to reach out to existing and new members – and even to reach out across the world.  As we’ve seen in Egypt and other countries in recent weeks, social networking sites have rallied people to gather and stand up for truth and freedom.  Imagine how these sites could work for our communities of faith – speaking to us of issues of faith and maybe even calling us into action once in a while to stand up for what is True and Right in God’s Laws. 

I know in our parish community we have a website (, a blog ( and a facebook page (StAndrew Apostle Parish).  All of these sites help to connect us, bring us up-to-date information and educate us on issues and areas of faith.  Our bishop has been using You Tube recently to get video messages out to people for Thanksgiving and Christmas and to encourage people to prayer.

There are so many resources and opportunities for each of us to be connected, to learn and to grow in our faith.  We really should be doing all of these things through the use of our modern technologies.  Get out there!  Get your “apps” and get connected with your faith community!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saint Andrew School Winter Gala - February 26

SAINT ANDREW SCHOOL WINTER GALA - February 26 at the Green Grove Gardens. Support Saint Andrew School! The evening begins at 6pm with registration, appetizers and preview of auction items. Dinner & silent auction from 6-8pm (including: ski & golf packages; Gettysburg Ghost Tour; Hagerstown Suns tickets). The fun begins at 8pm with the live auction (including a 1-hour sightseeing plane excursion; 9-course meal prepared by Chef-Father Bateman; KofC Keep Christ in Christmas display; and MUCH more). Tickets are only $30 per person. More information and tickets are available at the school ( or parish office, which you can email at: Or message me on the parish FB page. Join us! You'll have a blast and support quality Catholic Education.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saint Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869.  This African flower, who knew the anguish of kidnapping and slavery, bloomed marvelously in Italy, in response to God's grace, with the Daughters of Charity, where everyone still calls her "Mother Moretta" (our Black Mother"). 

Bakhita was not the name she received from her parents at birth.  The fright and the terrible experience she went through made her forget the name her parents gave her.  Bakhita, which means "fortunate", was the name given to her by her kidnappers. 

Sold in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum, she experienced the physical and moral humiliations and sufferings of slavery.  In the Sudanese capital, Bakhita was bought by an Italian consul, Callisto Legnani.  For the first time since the day she was kidnapped, she realized with pleasant surprise that no one used the lash when giving her orders; instead, she was treated with love and cordiality.  In the consul's residence Bakhita experienced peace, warmth and moments of joy, eventhough veiled with nostalgia for her own family whom, perhaps, she had lost forever. 

The political situation forced the consul to leave for Italy.  Bakhita asked and obtained permission to go with him and a friend of his, a certain Mr. Augusto Michieli.  On their arrival in Genoa, Mr. Legnani, at the request of Mr. Michieli's wife, agreed to leave Bakhita with them.  She followed the new "family", which settled in Zianigo, near Mirano Veneto.

When their daughter Mimmina was born, Bakhita became her babysitter and friend.  The acquisition and management of a large hotel in Suakin on the Red Sea forced Mrs. Michieli to move to Suakin to help her husband.  Meanwhile, on the advice of their administrator, Mimmina and Bhakita were entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of Catechumens in Venice.

It was there that that Bakhita came to know about God, whom "she had experienced in her heart without knowing who he was" since she was a child.  "Seeing the sun, the moon and the stras, I said to myself: who could be the Master of these beautiful things?  And I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage...".

After several months in the catechumenate, Bakhita received the sacraments of Christian initiation and was given a new name, Josephine.  It was 9 January 1890.  She did not know how to express her joy that day.  Her big and expressive eyes sparkled, revealing deep emotions.  From then on, she was often seen kissing the baptismal font and saying: "Here, I became a daughter of God!".

When Mrs. Michieli returned from Africa to take her daughter and Bakhita, the latter, with unusual firmness and courage, expressed her desire to remain with the Canosian Sisters and to serve that God who had shown her so many proofs of his love.  The young African, who by then had come of age, enjoyed the freedom of choice which Italian law garanteed.

Bakhita remained in the catechumenate where she experienced the call to be a religious and to give herself to the Lord in the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa.  On 8 December 1896 Josephine Bakhita was consecrated forever to God, whom she called by the sweet name of "the Master!".  For the next 50 years this humble Daughter of Charity, a true witness to the love of God, lived in the Schio community, involved in various services: cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. 

When she was on duty at the door, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the children who daily attended the Canossian schools and caress them.  Her amicable voice, which had the infection and rhythm of music of her country, was pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering and encouraging to those who knocked at the institute's door.

Her humility, simplicity and constant smile won the hearts of all the citizens.  Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her constant sweet nature, exquisite goodness and deep desire to make the Lord known.  "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who not know him. What a great grace it is to know God!", she said.

As she grew older she expereinced long, painful years of sicjkness.  Mother Bakhita continued to witness to faith, goodness and Christian hope.  To those who visited her and asked how she was, she would respond with a smile: "As the Master desires".  During her agony, she relived the terrible days of her slavery and more than once begged the nurse who assisted her: "Please, loosen the chains...they are heavy!".

It was Blessed Mary who freed her from pain.  Her last words were: Our lady! Our Lady!", and her final smile testified to her encounter with the Lord's Mother.

Mother Bakhita breathed her last on 8 February 1947 at the Canossian convent in Schio, surrounded by the sisters.  A crowd quickly gathered at the convent to have a last look at their "Mother Moretta" and ask for her protection from heaven.  The fame of her sanctity has spread to all the continents and many receive graces through her intercession.

Josephine Bakhita was beatified on 17 May 1992, and Canonized on 1 October 2000.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Parish Celebrates Father Bateman's Baptismal Day

John Doster (my godfather) and his wife Lorraine, Fr. Bateman, Barbara Bateman Scheuren (my mom) and Jim Scheuren.
Tonight in what was supposed to be a pot-luck supper to celebrate all those in parish ministry, the parish celebrated, in grand fashion, Father Bateman's Baptismal Anniversary.  It was 44 years ago today that I was baptized in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, Maryland.  Immediately following the baptism, may parents took me to the Blessed Sacrament chapel and placed me on the altar - consecrating me to God from my first moments of Christian life (doomed to be a priest from the very start, I always say).

To remember my baptism each parishioner had a small cup of water and a sponge on a stick - and as I walked amongst the tables, they "sprinkled" me with water - I guess payback for those sprinkling rites!  What a great celebration!

I LOVE our parish family!  Thank you all!  God bless you!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Top Reasons to Choose Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic School

In challenging economic times, why should parents choose a Catholic education for their children?  NCEA President Karen Ristau asked the sixty members of NCEA’s various department executive committees to give us answers. 

Catholic elementary and high schools offer:
  • Catholic tradition and academic excellence in a community grounded in a common faith
  • A balanced curriculum including art and music
  • Learning with a moral purpose – educating students to serve others and develop leadership
  • A high graduation rate (99%)
  • Strong preparation for further education
  • A safe and disciplined environment
  • Exceptional faculty who help students reach their highest potential
  • Good stewardship of resources

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saint Blaise - the Blessing of Throats

Some older Catholics might remember Saint Blaise's feast day because of the Blessing of the Throats takes took place on this day (which happened after morning Mass and then Father went to the school to bless the throats of our school children).  Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said.  Saint Blaise's protection of those with throat troubles apparently comes from a legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fishbone stuck in his throat.  The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him. 

Very few historical facts are known about Saint Blaise.  We believe he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.

The legends of his life that sprang up in the eighth century tell us that he was born in to a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian.  After becoming a bishop, a new persecution of Christians began.  He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution.  Men hunting in the mountains discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick.  Among them Blaise walked unafraid, curing them of their illnesses.  Recognizing Blaise as a bishop, they captured him to take him back for trial.  On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman.  When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles.  Finally Blaise was killed by the governor.

Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Presentation of the Lord (and Groundhogs)

Today is an important Feast in the life of the Church - the Presentation of the Lord (sometimes called "Candlemas Day").  We commemorates today the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after his birth as Jewish law required.  According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days.  Also, she was to remain 33 days "in the blood of her purification."  Luke tells us, quoting Exodus 13:2,12, that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord.  They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor.  Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess. Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own e
yes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to
reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
Simeon told Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."  Simeon thus foreshadowed the crucifixion and the sorrows of Mary at seeing the death of her Son.  And so today is the "official" closing of the Christmas Season - as we now turn our minds toward Lent and the Cross.

The name Candlemas comes from the activities associated with the feast.  It came to be known as the Candle Mass.  In the Western Church, a procession with lighted candles is the distinctive rite.  According to post Vatican-II discipline, (if possible) the beeswax candles are to be blessed somewhere other than where the Mass is held (something we did at our evening vespers last night).  After an antiphon, during which the candles held by the people are lighted, there is a procession into the church.  During the procession to the church, the Nunc Dimittis is sung, with the antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem" (Luke 2:32).  This procession into the church for Mass commemorates Christ's entrance into the temple.  Since Vatican II, the feast is reckoned a feast of the Lord (as opposed to a feast of Mary), and officially designated "The presentation of the Lord."

Egeria, writing around AD 380, attests to a feast of the Presentation in the Jerusalem Church.  It was kept on February 14th.  The day was kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily on Luke 2:22-39.  However, the feast had no proper name at this point; it was simply called the 40th day after Epiphany.  This shows that the Jerusalem church celebrated Jesus' birth on the Epiphany Feast (as is common in some Eastern Churches today).

In regions where Christ's birth was celebrated on December 25th, the feast began to be celebrated on February 2nd, where it is kept in the West today.  In 542, the Emperor Justinian introduced the feast to the entire Eastern Roman empire in thanksgiving for the end to a great pestilence afflicting the city of Constantinople.  Perhaps this is when Pope Gregory I brought the feast to Rome.  Pope Sergius (687-701) introduced the procession to the Candlemas service.  The blessing of candles did not come into common use until the 11th century.

While some scholars have asserted that the Candlemas feast was developed in the Middle Ages to counteract the pagan feasts of Imbolc and Lupercalia, many scholars reject this, based on Medieval documents.  While the feast does coincide with these two pagan holidays, the origins of the feast are based in Scriptural chronology.  Some superstitions developed about Candlemas, including the belief that if one does not take down Christmas decorations by Candlemas, traces of the holly and berries will bring about the death of the person involved. In past times, Candlemas was seen as the end of the Christmas season.

Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns.  Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day.  An old English song goes:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,

Go winter, and come not again.
Thus if the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon.  This practice led to the folklore behind "Groundhog's Day," which falls on Candlemas Day - and so today in Punxsutawney, PA, Phil did not see his shadow - foretelling an early spring.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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