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Below you'll find the latest news relevant to the Diocese of Greensburg. You can also find more news in The Catholic Accent, the official bi-weekly newspaper of the diocese.

March 15, 2017
Popochock_James.jpgFather James L. Popochock, 75, dies

Father James L. Popochock, a retired priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, died Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at his home in Everson. He was 75.

Friends and family will be received from 3-7 p.m. March 17 in the chapel at the Robert B. Ferguson Funeral Home, 105 Spring St., Scottdale, (www.fergusonfunerals.com) with a parish wake service at 6:45 p.m.

An additional viewing will be held from 8:45-9:30 a.m. March 18 in St. John the Baptist Church, Scottdale. The funeral Mass will be concelebrated at 9:30 a.m. by Bishop Edward C. Malesic and Father Andrew M. Kawecki.

The graveside committal service and interment will follow in the parish cemetery.

Father Popochock credited the strong Catholic faith of his parents for his vocation, along with the invitation of the priest at his grade school, the former St. John the Baptist School, Scottdale.

In an article in The Catholic Accent on the occasion of his appointment as pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Farmington, Father Popochock said, "One of the most rewarding aspects of my priesthood has been the many friendships I have made over the years.

"People have been very supportive of me and my priesthood, and I am very grateful."

Father Popochock was born in Mount Pleasant July 30, 1941, to the late John Popochock and Josephine (Szymanski) Popochock McGivern. He attended the former St. John the Baptist School in Scottdale and graduated from the former Immaculate Conception High School, Connellsville, in 1959.

He attended the former St. Gregory Seminary, Cincinnati, then received a bachelor of arts degree from Saint Vincent College and a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1968.

Father Popochock was ordained to the priesthood May 18, 1968, by Bishop William G. Connare at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg.

He served as parochial vicar of Mount St. Peter Parish, New Kensington (1968-71); Holy Family Parish, Latrobe (1971-74); and the former St.  Leonard Parish, Monessen (1974-75).

Father Popochock served as pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Saltsburg (1975-78); the former Assumption Parish, Leechburg (1978-83); Immaculate Conception Parish, Connellsville, and its former mission in Dawson (1983-84); the former St. Procopius Parish, New Salem (1986-2007), and as administrator of its partner parish, the former St. Thomas Parish, Footedale (1994-2007); and St. Joan of Arc Parish, Farmington (2007-16) until his retirement to private residence in Everson June 30, 2016.

He also served diocesan appointments as moderator of the Charismatic Renewal groups, pro-life director and as a regional moderator for Region 18.

In addition to his parents, Father Popochock was preceded in death by his stepfather, Joseph McGivern, and his sister, Joann Wawrzyniak. He is survived by his brother, John Popochock, and sister-in-law Lorraine of Rochester, N.Y., and aunts, nieces and nephews.

March 14, 2017
An Evening of Repentance, rescheduled for April 4

Due to inclement weather, An Evening of Repentance, which was scheduled for March 14 at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, Munhall, has been rescheduled for April 4 at 7:00 p.m.

For information, please call 724-837-0901, ext. 1249.

March 9, 2017
Diocese of Greensburg celebrates excellence in Catholic education

The Diocese of Greensburg hosted its first Celebration of Catholic Schools Breakfast, an event that included the awarding of three Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence, March 9 at the Greensburg Country Club.

Three Student Spotlight honors were given and four Innovation Grants were awarded at the event.

The Donahue Family Foundation sponsored the Golden Apple Awards, a program the foundation supports in other archdioceses and dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the Pittsburgh and Harrisburg dioceses.

Michael Clark, evening anchor for WTAE-TV news, was the masters of ceremonies. The main addresses were by Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic and Dr. Maureen Marsteller, superintendent of Catholic schools.

The winners of the Golden Apple Award received a golden apple and a cash prize of $5,000.

The awards honor outstanding educators for their distinction in and out of the classroom, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching.

The honorees were: Bernadette Grace, a third-grade teacher at Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington, where she has served for four years; Christy Gilkey, a fifth-grade teacher at Queen of Angels Catholic School, North Huntingdon, where she has served for 10 years; and Joette Salandro, a performing arts teacher at Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School, where she has served for 27 years.

The Student Spotlight honorees were recognized for their academic merit, extracurricular success or community service, with an emphasis on their adherence to the values of the Catholic faith.

The honorees were: Parker Sterlitz, a sixth-grade student at The Cardinal Maida Academy, Vandergrift; Grace Fazio, an eighth-grade student at Mother of Sorrows School, Murrysville; and Caroline Perz, a senior at Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School.

The Innovation Grants were awarded based on a blind review that evaluated individual projects on their impact on the curriculum; impact on students, teachers and staff; formation of Christian disciples; planning quality; and financial soundness.

The grants were awarded to: Mother of Sorrows School, Murrysville, $10,000 for a SmartLab learning system; Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington, $10,000 for a Make Me a Maker project; Conn-Area Catholic School, Connellsville, $8,300 for a greenhouse; and Christ the Divine Teacher School, Latrobe, $7,000 for a greenhouse.

March 9, 2017
Lutherans and Catholics commemorate Reformation together; Evening service set for March 14 at Byzantine Cathedral in Munhall

As a sign that animosity can heal into friendship, Catholic and Lutheran leaders in Southwestern Pennsylvania are holding a shared commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The first event will be “An Evening of Repentance” for harm done by followers of each tradition to the other. A public prayer service will take place Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, Munhall. A Lenten meager meal and fellowship will follow the service.

Bus transportation is available from the Diocese of Greensburg. For information, call 724-837-0901, ext. 1249, or go to the “Christian Unity” information on the homepage of the diocesan website: www.dioceseofgreensburg.org.

Events and reflections related to the 500th anniversary can be found on the Facebook page “Lutherans and Roman Catholics on the Way in Southwestern Pennsylvania!” http://bit.ly/500yrsELCACath.  Additional materials are at www.dioceseofgreensburg.org.

The Reformation, which tore apart Western Christianity, began Oct. 31, 1517, when a monk named Martin Luther issued a public challenge to a list of Catholic doctrines and practices. Luther was excommunicated, sparking religious and political conflict that played out in wars and persecution.

The 20th century saw many efforts to heal those wounds and pursue Christian unity. In 1999 the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation signed the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” outlining a common understanding on the main doctrine that had sparked the Reformation. Last year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs signed the “Declaration on the Way” including 32 statements of agreement on issues that no longer divide the two traditions. Other differences remain, including over ordination and papal authority.

Last month local Catholic and Lutheran bishops formally announced the joint observances.

“[B]ecause we share a warm, forthright and collegial relationship with each other, we invite you to join us as we celebrate our unity in Jesus Christ,” said the letter from Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh; Bishop Edward C. Malesic of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg and Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“Five centuries ago an attempt to bring reform to the Church resulted in division and schism among followers of Jesus Christ. . . . During this year of commemoration, we invite you to join us in allowing the gospel of Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us for a more visible unity manifested in prayer, acts of mercy and common pursuit of peace with justice.”

March 7, 2017
Statement from Bishop Edward C. Malesic lifting obligation to abstain from meat on feast of St. Patrick

Throughout the season of Lent we focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to draw closer to Jesus and better appreciate the ultimate sacrifice he made for us on Good Friday.

This year, the feast of St. Patrick, March 17, falls on a Friday. Some have asked me to dispense from the obligation to abstain from eating meat on this particular Lenten Friday due to the traditional nature of its observance or for other related personal reasons. After prayerful consideration, I am granting this dispensation for those who desire to include the eating of meat in order to celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick.

However, I ask those who choose to eat meat on the Feast of St. Patrick to select another day to abstain from eating meat or to make some offering on behalf of the poor, whether by prayer, fasting or almsgiving at another time during the Lenten season.

In all things, we attempt to imitate the joy of the saints as well as observe the same seriousness with which they practiced their Catholic faith. My prayers remain with all those who faithfully follow the Way of the Cross to the glory of the Resurrection.

Your brother in Christ,
Bishop Edward C. Malesic

February 27, 2017
Diocese to honor people for service to others at 19th annual Salt and Light dinner

​Communities of Salt and Light Awards Dinner
April 20, 6:00 p.m.
Stratigos Banquet Centre, North Huntingdon
Tickets: $130/person
Visit www.ccharitiesgreensburg.org to learn more.


A county coroner who helps people at life’s most difficult time, a woman who supports her community and the works of the Catholic Church on multiple levels, and an organization that is on the front lines of the battle against substance abuse will be recognized for their good works at the 19th annual Catholic Charities’ Communities of Salt and Light Awards Dinner April 20 at Stratigos Banquet Centre, North Huntingdon.

That recognition will help add to the nearly $1.1 million that has been raised for Catholic Charities since the first dinner in 1999. These proceeds help the most vulnerable and at-risk people in the diocese’s four counties with temporary emergency assistance with food, light, water, sewage, all heating sources and other essentials.

Jerry Lee Overman Jr., the Indiana County coroner and a parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, central Indiana County, will be honored for humanitarianism. Patricia Smiy, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin, will be honored for philanthropy. SpiritLife Inc., a faith-based inpatient treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction and related disorders, will be honored as the Outstanding Human Services Organization.

“These parishioners and organizations have answered the call to serve their sisters and brothers in the spirit of the Salt and Light theology,” said Msgr. Raymond E. Riffle, managing director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg. “In very quiet and unassuming ways, they have assisted so many people, especially ‘the least of these, our brothers and sisters,’ with generosity, charity, justice and peace.”

Overman, a resident of Homer City, was cited in his nomination for service on the Indiana County Suicide Task Force, the Critical Incident Stress Management Team, the county’s Drug Free Coalition and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education. He also was lauded for his and his staff’s work with families when they face the death of a loved one, especially in the cases of suicide and drug overdose.

Smiy, a resident of Irwin, is being honored for giving her time, talent and resources to her parish and the diocese. She was a longtime volunteer at the Norwin Hills Health Care Center for the former Mercy-Jeannette Hospital, has served on multiple parish committees and projects and was an honorary co-chairwoman for the diocese’s “Today’s Challenge ~ Tomorrow’s Hope” capital and endowment campaign. She is a member of the parish’s Christian Mothers/Women’s Guild and the Comfort Blanket Ministry; a member of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; serves on the Bishop’s Commission for the Diocesan Heritage Center; and is a Lady Commander in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

SpiritLife, Inc., is a nondenominational organization that was founded in 2013 and addresses the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of individuals ravaged by chemical addiction and provides assistance to the families affected by addiction, according to the nomination.

SpiritLife collaborates with other service organizations to help provide assistance to people when they return to their homes, families, communities and jobs.

The nomination included praise for the faith that drives this organization’s work and its compassion and commitment to the recovery of the whole person.

February 23, 2017

Teaching trio all smiles to learn they are first Golden Apple award winners

GREENSBURG — Three teachers at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Greensburg received surprise Publisher Clearing House-type visits in their classrooms Feb. 13 when they learned they are winners of the diocese’s first Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence.

Dr. Maureen Marsteller, superintendent of Catholic schools, arrived unannounced with the good news and gold balloons in hand.

The award, which includes a cash prize, $5,000, which will be presented to the winners at the first Celebration of Catholic Schools Breakfast, March 9, from 8-10 a.m. at the Greensburg Country Club. This award is made possible by the Donahue Family Foundation.

The awards honor outstanding educators for their distinction in and out of the classroom, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching or administration in the Diocese of Greensburg’s Catholic schools, according to Mallory Reese, diocesan director of development for corporations and foundations, who helped make the award announcements.

The honorees are: Bernadette Grace, a third-grade teacher at Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington, where she has served for four years; Christy Gilkey, a fifth-grade teacher at Queen of Angels Catholic School, North Huntingdon, where she has served for 10 years; and Joette Salandro, a performing arts teacher at Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School, where she has served for 27 years.

“It was a thrill to see the teachers’ reactions and how their students were just as excited as their teachers. Marsteller said. “I hope the award program and breakfast are the beginning of a grand tradition of celebrating all that is great about Catholic education in our diocese.”

In addition to the Golden Apple Awards, the breakfast will feature the awarding of Innovation Grants to advance learning in the classroom and recognition of the businesses that support Catholic education by contributing to the Scholarship Partners Foundation through the state-sponsored EITC tax credit programs.

Bernadette Grace, Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington
Grace teaches at the Freeport Road site of Mary Queen of Apostles School. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Penn State and a master’s in elementary education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and became a teacher as a second career after working for many years at GNC as a manager, trainer and franchisee.

She had missed the previous week of school, spending it with her six siblings due to the death of her mother, and almost took off Monday.

“The Golden Apple Award was the last thing on my mind,” she said. “The kids’ reaction was priceless. They thought they had won.
“Their joy was infectious. God sends new blessings every day.”

A resident of Pittsburgh, Grace is a parishioner of North American Martyrs Parish, Monroeville, and frequently worships at Mount St. Peter Parish, which is adjacent to the school building in which she teaches.

“My decision to teach at MQA is affirmed daily,” she wrote in the award application essay. “I do believe my calling to teach is providence. I teach in a Catholic school because I want to, and I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Grace also teaches Spanish in first through third grade; is a youth basketball official; on the boards of the Sprout Fund’s Change Machine, which provides grants to youth-led initiative, and the Gals Scholarship Foundation; and is active in parish ministries that benefit local food pantries and pro-life groups.

Christy Gilkey, Queen of Angels Catholic School, North Huntingdon
Gilkey, who teaches fifth-grade math and language arts and science for grades 5-7, was all smiles when she received the good news during her seventh-grade class.

 “I was very surprised and excited. It took a little while to sink in,” she said. “The students were happy for me. We have a mutual appreciation since this is my third year with this group.”

She embraces the ministry of fostering the spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth of her students and loves watching their transformation as they progress through the school.

 “The first- and second-graders radiate the love of God to our school community. It is fulfilling to watch the upper elementary students coming into their own as they grow in skill and confidence,” she said in her application essay.

 “Watching the transformation in our middle schoolers over the years brings me a sense of pride and appreciation to be part of their journey.”
 Gilkey said that there are days when students help her see Jesus’ love, compassion and understanding.

“My awareness is brought back to my faith as they reflect the Christian message of hope in their words and actions,” said Gilkey, who lives in North Huntingdon and is a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin.

“I love what I do.”

In addition to her wide-ranging service to the school, Gilkey is active in her parish as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and a volunteer at fundraising events and the Kentucky Project, which helps people in need in Appalachia.

Gilkey began her educational career as a Montessori teacher at the Carlow College Campus School (1994-99). She was a preschool teacher at St. Bartholomew School, Pittsburgh, (2001-07) before joining the Queen of Angels faculty in 2007.


She has a bachelor’s from Pitt-Johnstown, a master’s of education from Carlow University, Pittsburgh, and an elementary principal certificate.
She and her husband, Brian, have two children who are high school students at Greensburg Central Catholic.

Her mother, Linda Pricer, was a teacher and principal at St. Bartholomew School, Pittsburgh, and received a Golden Apple award from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Joette Salandro, Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School
Salandro is in her second tour of duty at GCC. She taught there from 1980-86, then left to serve as director of music at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish. She returned to GCC in 1995 and has been there since.

“I was truly speechless when Dr. Marsteller and Ben Althof (GCC principal) walked into the band class,” she said. “I am truly humbled by my selection.”

Ironically, she never intended to teach. She was asked to direct a play at GCC and loved working with the students. That led to her first job at GCC in 1980.

“Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “I like what I do.”

She teaches vocal and instrumental music, drama, and music theory; directs the 7th- and 8th-grade chorus; directs the high school choir and band; and directs four plays every school year, a drama and musical for both the junior high and senior high students.

In her application, Salandro said she is “passionate about teaching and learning.”

“Most importantly, I have the freedom within the Catholic school system to assist students in their faith formation through daily prayer, liturgical celebrations and the study of religious music,” she said.

Salandro has a bachelor of music degree from Seton Hill University, Greensburg, a master of fine arts degree in opera theater from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and studied at Shenandoah University, Winchester, Va., earning a music certificate.

She serves in music ministry as a cantor at St. Bartholomew Parish, Crabtree, her home parish, and as choir director and cantor at St. Vincent Basilica Parish, Latrobe. She is active in other activities at St. Bartholomew Parish, including the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival.

February 3. 2017
Bishop Malesic's Letter on Welcoming the Stranger
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
 
Several actions have been taken and executive orders promulgated in the opening days of the new administration, some of which we applaud and some of which are cause for concern for us as Christian believers.
 
We are able to applaud those actions which are meant to protect the unborn, and we were delighted at the presence of the Vice President at this year’s March for Life.  These are positive developments and hopeful signs.
 
Yet, as a Pro-Life Church, we know that the demands of the Gospel of Life that we preach continue after the birth of our children and extend beyond our national borders. 
 
Let me be clear, the United States has every right to and should secure its borders as a way to protect us from harm.  This right is a basic teaching of our Church.  Yet, many of my brother bishops and I have serious concerns about those executive orders that would make it difficult, if not impossible in some instances, for us to carry out our call from Jesus to welcome strangers and fulfill the commandment of love: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).  This is critical for us, since the Lord says he will judge us at the end of time on the basis of how we treated our brothers and sisters during our time on earth.  As Jesus told us, “Whatever you did not do for one of these least brothers of mine, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:40). 
 
Indeed, there are people, our brothers and sisters, who are fleeing for their lives after experiencing life-threatening terrorism or extreme hardship in their home countries.  Some are young, some are old, some are Muslim, and many are Christian.  They are looking for a place of shelter, comfort and peace for themselves and their families. We would do the same in similar circumstances.  There are innocent people who are knocking at our door asking for safe shelter.  We should not reject their needs like the wealthy man who rejected poor Lazarus sitting just outside his door (Luke 16:19-31). America has been and must continue to be a place of refuge for people such as these.
 
I am gratified to know that Catholic Christians in America have been among the most welcoming people, knowing that nearly all of us have come from immigrant families ourselves.  At one time, our forebears fled the hardships of their homes from many countries around the world.  I think of this when I read the Scripture passage that gives God’s law to His people: “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one.  You shall treat the foreigner who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself; for you too were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
 
The issue of welcoming refugees while protecting our borders is a complicated one, as is indicated by the strong differences of opinion about it in our country today.  As followers of the teachings of Jesus, we must continually bring the light of his Gospel to our discussions surrounding this and other difficult, complex matters.  Balancing the reasonable and appropriate measures we need to take to ensure the safety of our citizens while at the same time fulfilling the Gospel mandate to extend our compassion to others may not always be easy or simple; but, it is both necessary and obtainable when people of good will work together.
 
Recently our Sunday Gospel was taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapter 5).  In it, Jesus reminded us that we will be blessed if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, show mercy and make peace.  If we pray — and we should — God will give us the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to live in justice and love with others who share our common world.  This is the only way to find true blessing.  This is the only way to true and lasting peace.
 
Finally, I pray to God that we will make good moral decisions on behalf of our citizens, as well as the many new refugees and immigrants who are seeking safety or a better way of life in our country.  As Christians who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have been given the freedom in the Spirit to discern what is right and do what is good.  As Jesus said to his disciples who were being tossed about during a storm: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). 
 
Peace to you and blessings upon those you love.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Edward C. Malesic, JCL
Bishop of Greensburg
 
Resources:
To help refugees, especially those from war-torn Syria, go to Catholic Relief Services or the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
September 16, 2016 

Diocese of Greensburg statement about statewide grand jury

"The Diocese of Greensburg has received a subpoena from the statewide investigative grand jury. The diocese is cooperating, and will continue to cooperate, with law enforcement officials in this matter. No additional comments can be made at this time due to the nature of a grand jury.

The Diocese of Greensburg takes the protection of all children and young people seriously. Names and facts of any allegation of misconduct will continue to be reported immediately to the proper civil authorities. A longstanding policy of zero tolerance has been and continues to remain in place in the diocese so that anyone who has a criminal history of child abuse or a credible allegation of child abuse has been removed from ministry, employment or their volunteer position. Every report of suspected abuse of a child or young person — sexual, physical and emotional — made to the diocese is immediately reported to ChildLine and the appropriate District Attorney.

We pray for all victims of abuse, and continue to educate the children and adults in the Diocese of Greensburg on how to spot and report abuse."