Family, friends mourn sudden death of young 'artist'
Funeral Mass held Aug. 4 at Holy Spirit Church in Millvale
That was the question contemplated by Father Dan Whalen, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish and administrator of St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale, at the Aug. 4 funeral Mass for 19-year-old Katie Marie Puwalowski.
The St. Vincent College sophomore and 2011 North Catholic High School graduate died July 31 after a tire came off a nearby vehicle on Interstate 376 (Parkway West), bounced and hit her car. She had earlier picked up her boyfriend at Pittsburgh International Airport and was driving him home.
Puwalowski, described by Father Whalen as a young woman of deep faith, had been excited about an upcoming mission trip to Brazil with her St. Vincent classmates. Her boyfriend, Dean Graner, was just returning from a service trip to China.
During his homily at Holy Spirit Church, Father Whalen recalled Puwalowski's love of art, which she was pursuing at the Latrobe college as a studio arts major. "She had that artistic bent, creative bent in her, and she let it come out," he said.
"God gave her those talents and she used them because God's a painter, too. He's an artist," creating something out of nothing, as we read in the Book of Genesis.
Then why did she die? he asked.
"Well, you have to remember: God paints with us, but his canvas is much bigger," Father Whalen said. "His canvas is all space and time. And we've got our noses right up against the canvas. It's hard for us to see the whole picture.
"Now Katie, in her death, which is sad and we mourn, but it just makes those beautiful colors that she was all the more brilliant. You knew what a good person Katie was. You knew what a good life she was living, but now that she has gone to God, those thoughts, those experiences, those are emblazoned in your hearts.
"That's a picture that I'm sure Katie is happy to be a part of. That's a picture that she was painting when she was on earth with us. It's a picture that she is enjoying in heaven.
"For those who have faith, her life isn't ended, it's just changed. She is still that beautiful artist. She's still creating. She's still being joyful. She's just doing it in a different way now," Father Whalen said.
(For more perspectives on why tragedies occur, see articles by Father Charles Bober and David Mills on Page 5.)
Benedictine Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey delivered the prayers of commendation and gave a brief reflection at the end of the Mass.
"Katie trusted in God's goodness," he said. "She experienced that love very dynamically in her life, and certainly reflected it with great generosity."
Many friends from St. Vincent, North Catholic and elsewhere attended the funeral Mass to mourn Puwalowski and support one another in their grief.
Katie, a resident of Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, was the daughter of Walter Puwalowski Jr. and Dawn Culp. She had a brother, Matthew Puwalowski.