Gifts that keep on giving
June 10, 2011
This month of June brings with it a great deal of excitement for the Church of Pittsburgh. This weekend, we rejoice in the ordination of 44 new deacons — 43 permanent deacons, who are profiled this week in the Pittsburgh Catholic, and one transitional deacon, Kevin Fazio, who, God willing, will be ordained to the priesthood next year.
In two weeks, we again rejoice in the ordination of four new priests, the culmination of many years of discernment and formation by those men and the Church of Pittsburgh.
One of the sidebars to these ordinations is the anticipation and speculation about their assignments, where they will exercise their ministry. And that is important not only for the newly ordained, but for all the ordained, myself included.
While the Holy Father determines where I will serve as bishop, it is my delicate responsibility to assign the priests and deacons of our diocese. I must also share with you that this is not a responsibility I take lightly. I depend heavily on the input of others, especially those involved in the life of the diaconate and the presbyterate.
Whenever giving consideration to a deacon or priest’s assignment, I must also take into account his particular talents and the needs of the people in the parish or institution in which he will be placed. But I most especially depend heavily on God in prayer and on the Holy Spirit particularly.
Over the course of the year, you note in the “Official” column on this page those assignments. There are several of those notices in this week’s Pittsburgh Catholic and more in the following weeks.
This week’s “Official” outlines some recent changes that have taken place in diocesan administration. I thought I would use my regular corner here with you to review what all this is about.
First, though, a little history. On April 22, 2009, I announced a number of significant changes in the diocesan senior staff. Following the announcement of the appointment of Bishop Paul Bradley as the diocesan bishop of Kalamazoo, I appointed Dr. William G. Batz as the new general secretary of the diocese.
Since Dr. Batz was a lay person and Bishop Bradley held canonical responsibilities in addition to his duties as general secretary, it was necessary to appoint a priest to serve in the capacity of vicar general. I, therefore, appointed Father Robert F. Guay and Father Joseph M. Mele as vicars general.
When Dr. Batz retired from his position as general secretary, I appointed Father Ronald P. Lengwin as interim general secretary. Then, following the appointment of our new auxiliary bishop, Bishop William Waltersheid, I confirmed Father Lengwin’s appointment both as general secretary and as vicar general. With Bishop Waltersheid’s ordination, I not only appointed him episcopal vicar for clergy but as vicar general as well.
Given the size of our diocese, there is no need for four vicars general. As a result, effective Tuesday, May 24, 2011, I relieved both Father Guay and Father Mele of their responsibilities as vicars general.
There are some people already who quite erroneously view this decision on my part as a demotion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have, and have always had, a profound respect for both Father Guay and Father Mele. Both of these outstanding priests have my absolute trust.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, Father Guay has acted as regional vicar of Vicariate One, which comprises 49 parishes in the geographic confines of the city of Pittsburgh and the nearest surrounding neighborhoods. He, as vicar, serves as my “right hand” in that vicariate and really represents me in so many ways. He serves as well as moderator of the regional vicars. He also has enjoyed my trust ever since we worked together in the Clergy Office in the 1990s.
Father Mele has my full trust as well, since he and I have worked together since the mid-1980s. In addition to his newest responsibilities as rector of the seminary, he also serves as director of pre-ordination formation and post-ordination formation. As director of the former, Father Mele oversees the entire formation of the increasing numbers of our candidates for priesthood. As director of the latter, Father Mele (and in a creative manner, I might add) provides many opportunities for the ongoing education and spiritual formation of our priests.
I am ever so grateful to Father Guay and Father Mele for their willingness to take on any responsibilities associated with the office of vicar general when that need arose. I have full admiration for the work that they do for this local church in all of their respective assignments through the years. They are gifts to the local church that keep on giving.
I am also making a change in the “front office” — my office in central administration with Father Gary W. Oehmler, who serves as my priest secretary and as episcopal master of ceremonies. With the recent announcement of the retirement of Father Walter A. Sobon as pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish, McDonald, and as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, North Fayette/Oakdale, I wish to announce that Father Oehmler will become pastor of these two parishes on Monday, July 25, 2011.
Before assuming his assignment with me, Father Oehmler and I had a number of conversations both about the nature of the assignments associated with my office and some of his hopes for future ministry. He always expressed the hope that he could return one day to parish ministry.
Clearly, and as you well might imagine and as I know from both vantage points (as a one-time bishop’s secretary and now as bishop), the responsibilities of being in the Bishop’s Office is quite demanding for a whole host of reasons, especially on the public scene. Over the course of these months, Father Oehmler has performed his responsibilities in stellar fashion. For all he has done, I am most grateful.
Having been a successful pastor in two parishes previously, I want to honor Father Oehmler’s request to go back into parish ministry. He hoped to go to a “country” parish. Now he is blessed with two! I know that the people of both St. Alphonsus and St. Patrick parishes will be most blessed with their terrific new pastor. He is a gift that keeps on giving.
With the appointment of Father Oehmler as pastor, I am very happy to announce that Father Nicholas S. Vaskov, currently parochial vicar at St. Paul Cathedral Parish, chaplain to the students at Point Park University and the Art Institute, and assistant chaplain to the students of Central Catholic High School and Oakland Catholic High School, will assume responsibilities for being my priest secretary and episcopal master of ceremonies, effective Monday, July 25, 2011.
As so many of you have come to know him, Father Vaskov has many talents, including a background and a degree in worship that promises to be immensely helpful in his new role as episcopal master of ceremonies.
Moreover, since he has done a fine job as chaplain to the students at Point Park University and the Art Institute, Downtown Pittsburgh, he has agreed to maintain those responsibilities for the time being. He is a gift that keeps on giving.
Summer arrived with a surprising string of brilliant sunny days after that cold and rainy spring. Please try in your busy lives to find time for a little rest and relaxation.
And please remember in your summer prayers all our priests who do so much to make the Diocese of Pittsburgh the Church Alive!
Our priests truly are gifts that keep on giving.