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Complimentary Issue from Your Catholic Community Newspaper




Christmas Traditions

A journey of expectation| Angels in many forms w w w. p i








Inside this issue: 6 | Radically idealistic behavior:

Can we possibly add this theme to our contemporary Christmas celebration?

8 | Christmas bells are ringing:

16 | Journey of expectation:

Christians are urged to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ.

20 | Away from home:

Observing the birth of Jesus in Afghanistan.

The sound of bells wake us up to a heightened spiritual awareness.

10 | The ‘Day After:’

An extended family always reserves Dec. 26 as a day to come together.

12 | Windows for God:

Conveying the Good News through sacred art.

14 | The frozen north:

A bishop writes about his first Christmas in Alaska or what has been called the Last Frontier.

22-23 | Pierogies and fish:

Local families warm up their ovens with traditional favorites that will please everyone.

24 | Stunning work of art:

Artist Erulo Eroli’s massive work “Behold the Lamb of God” has an interesting local history.

26 | Rome on display:

During the most sacred of Christian holidays, the Eternal City delights its many visitors.

Adoption and Foster Care Basic Needs Assistance and Disaster Relief Healthcare for the Uninsured Family Support Pregnancy and Parenting Support Refugee Resettlement

100 Years of Saying “Yes” and Serving All 2010 Christmas Traditions



Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 3

29 | Grand Nativity:


The presepio, a Carnegie museum tradition, opens the day after Thanksgiving.


30 | Angels in many forms:

People are doing good things for others all around us.

32 | Global awareness:

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The concept of fair trade is one way Catholics can manifest their faith.

34 | A Christmas tale:

The faith is always taught in little moments.

Vol. 2, No. 4

36 | Hope for the holidays:

During this holy season, reach out to someone who is dealing with a loss.

Publisher | Bishop David A. Zubik General Manager | Robert P. Lockwood

42 | Rejoicing with the poor:

Advent awakens our faith through people who have been marginalized.

Editor | William Cone Operations Manager | Carmella Weismantle Associate Editors Phil Taylor (Special Projects) Chuck Moody (News)


Senior Staff Writer | Patricia Bartos (Christmas Traditions Project Editor)


Staff Writer | John W. Franko Graphic Designers David Pagesh | Debbie Skatell-Wehner












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“Awake, mankind! “For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again, for your sake, God became man! “You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. ... “Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.” — St. Augustine of Hippo Cover design by Debbie Skatell-Wehner

Director of Advertising | John Connolly Account Executives Michael A. Check | Paul Crowe Michael Wire Circulation Mgr./Parish News Coord. Peggy Zezza Administrative Assistant | Amanda Wahlen Office Assistant | Caitlin Arendash

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Christmas: A season for radical idealism By FATHER GENE LAUER The season of Advent, from its origins in the fourth century through the present day, was developed with two themes: preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. In the present readings for the Sundays of Advent, the Second Coming seems more prominent. For about the first 150 years, many Christians believed that the Second Coming might indeed happen in their lifetimes. Consequently they lived out the commands of Jesus with a sense of urgency that led to a radical idealism. They shared their material possessions so that no believer would go hungry or be homeless. They took special care of widows who had no means of self-support in that patriarchal society. They faced martyrdom fearlessly, challenging

their oppressors to recognize that their faith was stronger than any threat of death. They passionately believed that “all things are possible with God.” In one Advent reading, the prophet Isaiah paints an incredibly idealistic picture of the peace that is to come with the Second Coming. A wolf and a lamb share the same sheepfold. A cow and a bear wander happily together on the same pasture. A little child plays with a cobra and pats the snake on the head. Isaiah is not creating a fantasy. Isaiah is challenging us to believe that with God anything is possible, that a radical idealism can be realized. Although the belief that the Second Coming was imminent gradually faded by the third century, Christians tried to retain the idealistic behavior that was motivated by that belief. They hoped that the first coming of Christ might continue to remind Christians of these

courageous acts of faith of the first- and secondcentury Christians, and inspire them to imitate them. Could we possibly add this dimension of faith to our Christmas celebrations today? Is such idealistic behavior still possible in our complicated, fast-paced and workaholic culture of the 21st century? Some recent events give evidence that such deeply divine activity does break through on many occasions. The New York Times published a dramatic example of such extraordinary behavior. A young Jewish army reservist was seriously wounded by Palestinian militia while on a patrol and died shortly thereafter. He had grown up in the Bronx, N.Y., but moved to Israel with his wife and four children. As he approached death in a hospital in Jerusalem, his wife learned that a 54-year-old

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6 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine


2010 Christmas Traditions

patient was in dire need of a heart transplant. The doctors very carefully worded their request and seemed a bit hesitant as they informed her that the man was a Palestinian. Her response was immediate and touching. She said that she would be willing to donate her husband's heart to him because it was her religious duty to save a life and to make no judgment about the man because he was a Palestinian. The impact on her family, friends and local community was dramatic. Many of them came to a new consciousness of the possibility of community between Jews and Palestinians. Another story reminded me again of the idealistic spirit of the ancient church. A religious brother in Chicago who worked with inner-city gangs received word that two gangs were going to have a major confrontation. He knew personally many of them. As they arrived, the brother stood in the street between them and calmly entreated them to put their guns away. A few raised their guns and he quickly stood

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in front of them and continued to speak. They pleaded with him to get out of the way. Soon, an extraordinary thing happened. Both gangs carefully backed away and left — a more remarkable event than a wolf rubbing noses with a lamb in a sheepfold. Both the Jewish and Christian people involved in these stories had a deep and realistic understanding of the meaning of the messianic age and Second Coming of Christ. They knew that nothing impeded people more from living out that meaning than biased judgments or violent actions against others. Could we possibly add this theme to our contemporary celebration of Christmas? Radically idealistic behavior is indeed one of the real goals of the first and second comings of Christ. Nothing is impossible for God! In the midst of our jubilant feelings, a reflection on the wolf and the lamb or on the marvelously idealistic decision of a young Jewish widow might lead us to decisions and actions that we had never before considered.

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2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 7

Ring Ring Ring

RingChristmas bells!


“Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring tell all the world Jesus is King!” — From the Ukrainian “Carol of the Bells” If you listen very closely — right now — you may hear bells ringing! With all the traffic and noise of our frantic culture — cell phones, iPods, beepers and Bluetooth devices — church bells, real or imagined, can jar us out of our hectic pace and wake us up to a heightened spiritual awareness. In every age and culture bells soar with spiritual announcements, aural reminders of God’s presence and gift of time. Bells tell us not only what time it is but whose time it is. From ancient eras bells rang out the truth and beauty of God’s existence. Worn on the rabbi’s liturgical vestments or used to adorn horse harnesses, bells were intended to raise consciousness of the Creator. In Exodus and the prophet Zechariah, bells are mentioned, some of which were engraved with “Holiness belongs to Jehovah,” so that each time they rang they gave glory to God.

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Bells called monks to prayer as early as 400 A.D., and churches still use harmonious pealing to call the faithful to prayer. Whether real or recorded, bells can insistently remind us that Mass is about to start, joyfully announce a newly wedded couple or solemnly toll as the body of a loved one is on its way to a final resting place. Bells break through our linear notion of time (chronos) to inspire a realization of the fullness of God’s presence (kairos). Like angels breaking through the clouds to announce to shepherds “Glory to God in the highest,” bells break through our cloudy confusion and burgeoning schedules to announce: Remember who made you and why you were born. Secular culture enjoys and employs bell imagery. Can we imagine a Christmas holiday without “Jingle Bells” or “Silver Bells?” Or ever forget the heartfelt conclusion of the Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” as Jimmy Stewart’s little daughter remarks: “Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings?” Bells ring round the world in memory of great tragedies such as Hiroshima or 9/11 and with great hope and joy for wars ended. Bells sound through every race, religion and

culture, showing how attuned people of good will are and how grace builds upon nature. The Ukrainian carol cited above originally had secular lyrics, but then adapted to the ancient Ukrainian peasant tale of bells ringing out all over the world the night that Jesus was born. This Christmas may each doorbell, church and jingle bell make us more mindful of Christ’s unfailing light and love ringing out for us all. Steinbeiser is director of liturgy for Spiritan Campus Ministry at Duquesne University.

Longfellow’s ‘Christmas bells’ reaffirm faith Perhaps the most compelling faith story of Christmas bells was written by the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men. I thought how as the day had come The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along th’ unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men. The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, and just months later, on July 10, Longfellow’s beloved wife Fanny was fatally burned in an accident. A year later Henry’s oldest son Charles, an Army lieutenant, was severely wounded in the war, disabled with a bullet to his spine.

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song, Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Each time we are at our lowest ebb, each season when we are most in need, God’s grace reaches through all space and time to us so that the hope of heaven can ring true. The greatest suffering in the world can never extinguish the peace and promise that was born on that first Christmas night. Longfellow literally came through fire and sword only to proclaim his undying faith in the promise of our Savior’s birth:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”

2010 Christmas Traditions

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 9

‘Day After’ is Christmas tradition for 47 years



lot of families have Christmas traditions, but in my family the tradition comes on Dec. 26!

For the past 47 years, my extended family, on Mom’s side, has gathered for a party on the day after Christmas. We don’t really have a name for the party, so everyone simply calls it the “Day After.” I was just a baby when the Day After started. It was always held at Gram and Pap’s house. I don’t remember too much about those

early years. But, as the family grew, so did my memories … the girls holding secret meetings in the basement bathroom, the boys always trying to get in. The night would always end with the question, “Mom, can so-and-so sleep over?” Pap made us Hollie Hobbie lamps one year. Mine is still in the attic! And then there was the time we all got handmade puppets with pajamas stuffed inside. The older kids always got money. Some things never change. Everyone always looked forward to the Day After. And still, the family grew.


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2010 Christmas Traditions

When Gram and Pap passed on, Mom and her three sisters, Audrey, Joanne and Midge, took the helm of the Day After. The party rotated from house to house; from

year to year. There were games and grab bags. One year, Aunt Midge wrapped up a collapsible shovel for Cousin Jim. When he pulled it from the box, he thought it was broken. We laughed for hours over that. For the next 20 years or so, someone secretly wrapped up the shovel and gave it as a gag gift. A n d still, the fa m i l y grew. I n fact,

Cousins still come from near and far — Atlanta, Syracuse, Denver, New Orleans and the D.C. area; everyone knows the Day After is a party not to be missed! We light a candle each year for those who are gone. Gram and Pap, aunts and uncles and two young cousins. We know they’re watching the fun from above. The family is still growing. A baby girl arrives in early 2011 and another little one is on the way. Soon, they will join the Day After clan and celebrate a tradition that is nearing a half-century. I’m sure Gram and Pap would be pleased to know that the tradition they started back in 1962 is still going strong. This year, it’s Mom’s turn to host the Day A f t e r. A n d p re p arations are well under way. I had to laugh. I don’t know why we bother to put the date on the invitations. It’s always Dec. 26. Always, the Day After.



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GRAPES for friendship. the family had grown so much by then that our houses were bursting at the seams. So we packed up our Pictionary and piñatas and moved the Day After to a social hall. Aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, children, even boyfriends and girlfriends knew to “save the date.” The games and grab bags followed. So too did Santa, the food and the fun.

2010 Christmas Traditions

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Artists illuminate Christmas themes in glass and paint By NICHOLAS PARRENDO “Star of wonder, star so bright, first star I see tonight.” Stars have always shone light on the subject of the spiritual journey and on the one who is to come – ad venio – again and again. The “star” could be the Star of David, with six points of two espoused triangles, or the Star of Bethlehem, with the eightpointed start of regeneration, or the stars of independence on our flag. The morning star is in Mary’s litany. She is the most beautiful of God’s creation and her soul magnifies the Lord. We are made in God’s image, bearing his likeness as stars of the seed of Abraham, reflecting the “sun of righteousness.” In every theme for every denomination, art puts us in touch with divinity. Since I’ve been allowed to savor these themes for 60 years, it brings me full circle “to the altar of God who gives joy to youth.” We have made windows for God’s house in color with symbols and figures, from the pictorial to the abstract and back to the traditional. Through such windows, sculptures and murals you are praying before and with

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glass, illuminating the lives of the saints, the prophets and — most beautifully — the Holy Family. Hopefully, through such works of art the people will be more enlightened, and inspired to overcome illiteracy — and the choice to be illiterate. I hope it is not a time of quick fixes, but a time that encourages us to search deeper for that everlasting relationship. While we are all traveling on this spiritual journey, we follow road maps to get us to our special destinations. Expressions of art help us find the way. Stained-glass windows bring glorious light to the subject, exemplifying the Scriptural quotation, “how beautiful is your dwelling,” and reminding you to look again and again to the heart.

God’s handiworks, sharing with others the Divine Artist practicing the art of holiness. The greatest writers — the evangelists — tell the story, and it is up to the artist to continue to convey “the good news.” “Go out and tell the good news” from Scripture is done visually through stained

You are like a stained-glass window; you sparkle and shine in sunlight, but when darkness sets in your true beauty can only be seen if there is a light within. Parrendo is owner/artist and designer of Hunt Stained Glass Studios in Pittsburgh’s West End. In his career of more than 60 years he has designed thousands of stained-glass windows for area churches, homes and buildings.

2010 Christmas Traditions

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Before beginning this article, I want to offer my greetings and blessings to all the good people and friends in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Catholic asked me if I could write a short article about my first Christmas in Alaska. It is a privilege for me to offer you this brief glimpse of my ministry in the Diocese of Juneau and the joy I experience being with the people of southeast Alaska. Last Christmas, I quickly found out that my predecessor, Bishop Michael Warfel, was not one for elaborate Christmas decorations. I discovered an already decorated 2 1/2 -foot artificial Christmas tree stashed away in the closet at the bishop’s residence. It simply stayed decorated all year long — in the closet. When it came time for Bishop Warfel to entertain guests at Christmastime, he would simply pull out that tiny Christmas tree, place it on the table in the living room, and his Christmas decorating was completed for another year. For me, coming from St. Paul Seminary in Crafton, where I served as rector, I was accustomed to the wonderful tradition each year of setting up a huge freshly-cut Christmas tree at Boyle Hall in the first-floor common room. So, my predecessor’s 2 1/2-foot tree was quickly history. After setting up an 8-foot tree in my living room, I needed to find lights and decorations to put on it. So I made the trip to the mall and went into Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, which I had been told had a great assortment of Christmas decorations. While I was standing in front of the rack of orna-

ments and decorations, I heard a woman’s voice behind me say: “Well, it’s not every day you see a guy in Jo-Ann Fabrics.” As I turned around she saw my Roman collar, and without missing a beat, commented, “Well, by the looks of ya, I can tell you’re not a rabbi.” Drawn into conversation by her outgoing and light-hearted spirit, I introduced myself as the new Catholic bishop of Juneau. She replied that she had been raised in the Jewish faith. As we began to converse, she described the wonderful relationship she had enjoyed with Bishop Michael Kenny, who died suddenly in 1995 and was succeeded by Bishop Warfel. Bishop Kenny had been a very outgoing man and he was beloved in Juneau and throughout southeast Alaska. While we were talking I shared with her that while I was in high school I had once worked at our neighborhood synagogue in Ellwood City. We parted ways to continue our shopping, but just before she left the store she sought me out to give me a Christmas decoration. She had purchased for me a silver-colored, metal Christmas ornament in the shape of a star with the word “faith” stamped on it. She told me that she wanted to give it to me as a sign that during the holidays each of us has our own unique ways of sharing the faith. I went home and decorated my tree with red and gold ornaments, and with the silver star. The weeks before Christmas were busy with holiday gatherings at the cathedral and at the bishop’s house. On Christmas I celebrated midnight and the morning Masses at the cathedral and then in the

afternoon went out to the prison to celebrate Mass with the inmates. My first Christmas in Alaska was wonderful! After the Christmas season was over, I was given a photograph that had been at the bishop’s residence. It included the ladies who volunteer to mail out our diocesan newspaper, The Inside Passage, and me. The occasion of the photo was a special lunch for them during the Christmas season as a way of showing my appreciation for their dedicated work for the diocese. As I looked at the photo I noticed the silver star on the Christmas tree. It had caught the light of the flash. Knowing what was written on the star reminded me of the woman who gave it to me and of the reason that we celebrate Christmas — our faith. Faith in the God who first revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who brought his chosen people out of slavery and to the Promised Land and who out of love sent us his Son, Jesus — the Lord of Lords and the Prince of Peace. Bishop Burns, a former Pittsburgh priest, is the bishop of Juneau, Alaska.

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Bishop Edward Burns poses for a Christmas photo with women volunteers who each week mail out the Juneau, Alaska, diocesan newspaper, The Inside Passage. At the center of the Christmas tree shines the silver star, given to him on his first Christmas in Alaska.

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2010 Christmas Traditions

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 15

Fasting prepares ‘enlarged place for Christ to come and dwell’ By Sister BARBARA JEAN MIHALCHICK

CNS photo/Debbie Hill Mary and Joseph kneel at the crib of the infant Christ in this icon from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The icon of the Nativity is of great importance in Byzantine Catholic tradition.


The time of preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Christ in the Eastern Christian churches is called the pre-Nativity fast. It is one of four fasts during the Eastern Christian liturgical year. It lasts 40 days, as does the great fast of Lent and is also penitential in nature. It is sometimes called St. Phillip’s fast, since it begins on the day after the apostle’s feast on Nov. 15. In the West, Advent is anticipation of the coming of Christ. Over time this came to be a dual anticipation: the Christ Child in Bethlehem and the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. The focus, therefore, is on the appearance of Christ in the world, in both the past and future forms. The Nativity fast is not Advent. The focus is on the theological reality of the incarnation of Christ and also on the role of Mary as the representative of the human race and the means of the Incarnation. A prayer from Nativity Morning Prayer illustrates this:


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2010 Christmas Traditions

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2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 19


hristmas in a faraway

Islamic land

By ARMY LT. COL. AMY BAJUS As a child, I always loved the Christmas season, from the excitement of picking out a tree in early December, to spending Christmas Eve with my cousins at my Granny’s house, to celebrating morning Mass and Christmas Day with my other Granny and Grandpap. I have fond memories of my brothers and sister and I watching Christmas specials and helping my mom bake cookies and of helping my dad set up our Nativity scene on our front lawn — not to mention him taking all five of us little kids shopping or to see Santa so my mom could create her magic. I loved our annual trips into Downtown Pittsburgh to see the Christmas windows, to do some shopping and then into Bloomfield to get our favorite pizza. Even as an adult, I continue to love everything about the season. I have been on active duty with the U.S. Army for 16 years and have lived in six states and five countries and I try to make fond Christmas memories in every location. I enjoy walking into church the first Sunday in Advent to see how my current parish displays its Advent wreath and how they choose to light it. I love walking into my church after returning home from Christmas leave to see it decorated and to see that parish’s Nativity scene. It is amazing that in the numerous different churches I have gone to over the years, no two Nativity scenes have ever been the same. Each is unique and distinct, yet

20 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

beautifully tells the Nativity story. While home on leave, I now take my nieces to see the life-size Pittsburgh Creche, the gingerbread displays, the Christmas windows and to eat at our favorite place. And I watch Christmas specials with my other niece and nephew. I now spend Christmas Eve at either my parents, or my sister’s house and, instead of my brothers and sister running around in anticipation and enjoying the occasion, it is my awesome nieces and nephews. It is a wonderful celebration spent with the entire family. I have always made an effort to attend despite my military service around the world. I have only missed it once before, and that was when I was deployed to Iraq a few years

ago. This year will be my second Christmas away from home. I am currently serving in Afghanistan along with thousands of other soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen and women. While I, of course, will miss being home, as does every service member deployed, I take great comfort in the fact that despite being in a land where Islamic calls to prayer are heard several times a day, I will still be able to celebrate the true reason for the season: The birth of Jesus Christ. I will still be able to walk into the church on camp the first Sunday in Advent and see how the wreath looks and how the parish decides to light it. I will still be able to walk into Mass on Christmas morning and know that my family and friends are celebrating Mass as well literally half a world away. I will get to see yet another Nativity scene and add it my memories. I will miss my family and friends during this special time, yet I take great comfort in that I serve a God who is not restricted to any given location. I can celebrate the birth of Jesus here in Afghanistan as well as I can in Pittsburgh, Pa. I pray that you all have a blessed Christmas. I ask you to keep all those who are serving our country away from home this season in your prayers, as you will be in my thoughts and prayers as I celebrate Christmas in this faraway Islamic land. Bajus is the daughter of Paul and Joann Bajus of St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Wildwood. She is a lieutenant colonel serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

2010 Christmas Traditions







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Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 21

, l l i w d o o g , Joy pierogies and fish

Families carry on Christmas Eve traditions For Lucia Facco’s family, it’s not Christmas unless they have the traditional Italian seven-fish dinner. That was her father’s belief, and she is a fellow believer. The Upper St. Clair woman loves Christmas traditions — and she also loves adapting them. She has enjoyed cooking since childhood. Born in a small village in the Calabria region in southern Italy, where fresh pastas and vegetables, seafood and fish were staples, she soon moved north to Genoa with her family for her father’s job. There she discovered heartier dishes. When she married in 1974 and moved with her husband Giuseppe, an engineer, to New York, she adapted her dishes for her new country. The couple has lived in Pittsburgh since 1982. “I try to combine traditions,” she said, noting that, in those early days, “it was very hard to find real Italian cooking” in this country. So, in her hands, the traditional seven-fish Christmas Eve meal has evolved. “It was very important in my family in Italy,” she said, noting that every village, and every family in every village, had its own variations. For some reason, she’s not sure why, in her parents’ house, shellfish were never included. She keeps some early traditions. “In my house, I still buy and cook the fish with the head on. The taste is richer, it has more flavor,” she said. She also uses fish that are more readily available in this country, such as red snapper, swordfish, mahi mahi, salmon and white fish. She’ll incorporate them into appetizers, soups and into the pasta as well as main dishes for the Christmas Eve meal. Rounding out the feast are vegetables of the season, such as artichokes and cardi, which is similar to celery, plus cheeses, nuts and dried figs, home-made biscotti and sometimes nuts baked into figs, with cinnamon. “Something different every single time,” she said of the annual dinner. And she never forgets what the dinner and celebration are all about. “The Christmas tree is nice, but it’s not Christ-

22 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

to make pasta for those Christmas gatherings. The women have cooked their ravioli dishes as part of QED Cooks, for Chris Fennimore, and also on KDKA’s morning show. Cooking is central to Facco’s life. Several years ago, when her youngest left for college, at loose ends, she volunteered to cook for the priests at St. Thomas More. “This is a savior for me,” she said of the several days a week she spends at the rectory. “Cooking and talking is my therapy.” Her pasta dishes were so popular that the parish soon added them to the menu for its Lenten fish fries, adding a new tradition.

mas until the Nativity is set up,” she said. At the stroke of midnight, the family darkens the lights and begins a procession to the creche, where the youngest member places the Christ child into the manger. Family members carry lighted candles, singing the Italian Christmas hymn, “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (You come down from the stars), as they process. This Christmas, the Faccos’ first grandchild, 3-month-old Elena Teresa, will carry the little figurine. The Faccos belong to St. Thomas More in Bethel Park. Their children are Francesca, a gynecologist — and Photos by Chuck Austin new mother of Elena, Annachiara, a lawyer, and Giovanni, At home, Giuseppe often helps in the kitchen. who is studying for a They get along fine, she said, working through doctorate in material occasional “discussions” on which approach is science at the University best. of Pittsburgh. Some traditions hold. It’s still green salad “I was blessed by God,” Facco and steamed vegetables served “every single said of her family. day,” often from Giuseppe’s garden. It’s also no On Christmas Day, the tradition is Mass, ketchup in the house, no TV during meal time followed by a meal of ravioli, created from the and no one beginning to eat until Lucia sits recipe of her mother-in-law. down. Within days now, as she does each December, And, with a new generation now on hand, she’ll join her friend Phyllis Loffreda Mancinelli new traditions will also evolve.

Pesce spada alla ghiotta (Swordfish “Ghiotta” style) Ingredients for four people: 1 and 3/4 lb. swordfish slices (1/2 to 3/4” thick) 7 oz. green olives 1 and 3/4 oz. capers 10 cherry tomatoes 1 and 1/2 stick of celery 1 medium-size onion 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil salt and pepper Preparazione: Take out strings from celery sticks. Cut the celery in small cubes. Cut tomatoes in half. Take out pits from olives and cut them in 4 pieces. Drain capers (if capers are salted type wash the salt out). Clean onion and chop it. In a large pan with high border put olive oil, heat it up; add onion and let it “blond” (do not brown it). Add celery. After few minutes add capers and olives. Add pepper and salt (make sure you do not oversalt since capers and olives are already salted). Cook the mix for a minute or two. Lay down the swordfish slices in a single layer over the mix; cook for 7 minutes. Add tomatoes; turn over fish slices carefully so they do not break. Cook at low fire for other 7-9 minutes, make sure tomatoes are wilted and soft. Take out from fire. Serve the swordfish on the plates and top it with a couple of tablespoons of the mix and cooking sauce.

B Paccheri alla pescatrice (with monk fish sauce) Paccheri is a thick maccheroni type of noodle. If you do not find it, you can also use thick “pappardelle or fettuccine. Ingredients: 1 lb. of paccheri 3/4 lbs. of monk fish filets 10 cherry tomatoes parsley 1 garlic clove 1/2 glass dry white wine 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil hot red pepper, to the like salt, to the like In a frying pan put oil and garlic — cut in 4 pieces, heat medium high until garlic is “blond.” Add cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped. Cook for about 10 minutes with lid on. Add salt, hot pepper and the monk fish precut in small cubes of 1/2 to 3/4” Cook at live heat for a minute; add white wine. Keep cooking for few minutes letting wine evaporate and stirring very gently so not to break the fish. When finished cooking, sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Cook the pasta slightly “al dente.” Drain. Mix with the sauce and serve. You can add more fresh parsley on top of the dish as you serve it.

2010 Christmas Traditions

2010 Christmas Traditions

From Eastern Europe, Wigilia inspires family of faith By FATHER NICHOLAS VASKOV As Catholics it is not uncommon for us to speak about tradition. The capital “T” Tradition of our faith ensures that what we believe today has remained unchanged throughout the 2,000-year history of the church. On the other hand, small “t” traditions like eucharistic days, seven-church visits on Holy Thursday and praying the rosary continue to celebrate that consistent faith. These traditions, however, do not exist solely in our parishes nor are they always celebrated as part of a liturgical rite. Instead, many traditions rooted in our faith are given life by families as they are celebrated year after year. Even more, these traditions often are linked with the privileged seasons of the church year, such as the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas. Born into the Vaskov family, and of a mother whose maiden name is Brucker, you could probably imagine that we weren’t enjoying the seven fishes typical of Christmas Eve dinner in an Italian household. Instead our family, including our extended relatives, would gather for wigilia, a traditional Christmas Eve supper enjoyed by families of Eastern European descent, particularly those from Poland. In my own life wigilia was such a grand celebration that it is one of my earliest memories. The name “wigilia” derives from the latin vigilare, which means “to await” and, as the name suggests, it is a true vigil in preparation for the birth of our Savior. The evening begins with prayer and the sharing of the oplatek, a wafer similar to the host received in holy Communion. Each person present would share a piece of their oplatek with everyone else, greeting them as Christ and offering them Christmas blessings. Resembling the eucharistic host, the oplatek is also a foreshadowing of the unity made real in the holy Communion received at Christmas Mass. Of course, like any good Catholic family celebration, wigilia also incorporates a delicious meal. Traditionally in the church, Christmas Eve was a day of abstinence from meat, and so the wieczerza wigilijna, or wigilia meal consists entirely of meatless dishes. Even more, when the church required one fast from midnight before receiving holy Communion you could enjoy the wigilia meal and still receive our Lord at midnight Mass, which began the “next day.” Each family prepares their favorite dishes, although many would be common among different families. Our family celebration includes mushroom soup, baked and fried fish, homemade pierogies (potato, cheese, cabbage and prune), peas and

Photo by Chuck Austin

cabbage, barley and prunes, fried potatoes, bobalky (dense dough balls cooked either with butter and sauerkraut or honey and poppy seeds) and haluski (noodles and cabbage), among others. All the starch-based foods make for a perfect meal on a cold winter’s night. While the abstinence from meat for wigilia is a reminder that Christmas is not quite here yet, our celebration, as do many families’, includes a few hints of the joys that Christ brings. Desserts like nut roll, poppy seed roll, apricot roll, chrusciki and scores of Christmas cookies and homemade candies are always enjoyed by all as we catch up with those we haven’t seen for a while, maybe even since last Christmas. And, as is only proper, everyone would open just one present, a visible sign of the gifts and blessings received by each of us throughout the year and shared with others. As a kid, this was my favorite part of wigilia. Added to all of these wonderful aspects of wigilia might be the singing of Christmas carols, just another manifestation of the joy and glory typical of this holy season. Also typical, although something I do not remember my family doing, is leaving a seat at the table vacant, meant for a stranger or unexpected guest as a reminder that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were looking for shelter on this very night. As an ancient Polish adage states, “A guest in the home is God in the home.” In essence this is the spirit of wigilia. On this evening when we celebrate the coming of the Word Incarnate into the world, we do so as a family, inspired by our faith, and as a family of faith. While our Lord and Savior was born in a stable, we open our hearts and homes to him as we welcome our family as Christ. One of many small “t” traditions, wigilia allows us to celebrate aspects of our rich faith in our daily lives. Father Vaskov s parochial vicar at St. Paul Cathedral Parish in Oakland and part-time chaplain at area universities and Catholic high schools. He is the son of Constance and Eugene Vaskov of St. Bernadette in Monroeville.

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 23

From Vatican museum to New Kensington church

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Visitors to the “Vatican Splendors” exhibit at the Sen. John Heinz History Center this Christmas season will get a special treat when they reach the local art works included in the display. There, hanging on the wall, is the massive, 11 x 7 foot, oil on canvas painting, “Behold the Lamb of God,” by Erulo Eroli, a noted 19th century Italian painter. The piece is on loan from Mount St. Peter in New Kensington, in the Greensburg Diocese, for the run of the exhibit, which extends through Jan. 9. Mount St. Peter has owned the painting for some 60 years and most recently displayed it suspended some 30 feet above the ground, near the church’s high pulpit. “There’s not really a space for it in the church,” said Msgr. Michael Begolly, pastor. “We created a space.” The art work originally was on view in the parish’s convent chapel, which is now undergoing renovation. When the painting comes home, it will be returned there. The chapel is used for small groups, for the children’s liturgy and youth ministry gatherings. The dramatic painting depicts the Holy Family, with Mary and Joseph kneeling before the Infant Jesus, who is held by an angel. “Behold the Lamb of God” appears in Latin in the angel’s halo. When Msgr. Begolly saw the painting at the “Vatican Splendors” exhibit, subtly lighted and displayed at eye level, he was struck by all of the details visible in the piece. Seen at a distance in the church, he said, “you can’t really appreciate all the details.” A former pastor, Msgr. Nicola Fusco, wrote a history of how the painting came to the parish. Pope Pius IX purchased it for the Vatican Museum, where H.J. Heinz “saw it, admired it and expressed the desire to acquire it.” Msgr. Fusco wrote that Heinz “paid a very large sum of money for it and enshrined it in a sort of chapel at his original ‘57’ plant on Progress Street on the North Side of Pittsburgh.” In 1948, that building was torn down and Mount St. Peter “salvaged and inherited the 12 very precious alabaster wall lamps, which now give light to the worshippers and at the same time illuminate the artistic Stations of the Cross” within the church. “The Erulo painting found no asylum in the monumental Heinz Chapel built later on the University of Pittsburgh campus,” he wrote. Haugh & Keenan Galleries acquired it and immediately their manager called Msgr. Fusco and

Photo by Chuck Austin

asked, “Are you interested?” “Of course, I am interested. But what is the price?” the monsignor asked. “Don’t worry. It’s a church price,” replied the gallery manager. Some time later, the Carnegie Steel Co. offered $5,000 for the Erulo painting but it had already become the property of Mount St Peter. “Can we at least have it exhibited in our lobby for a few days?” Andrew Carnegie asked. Msgr. Fusco agreed and the canvas was put on display for almost a month in the Carnegie Steel Building on Fifth Avenue. Thousands of people came to view it. Among them was the vice president of the Carnegie Steel Co. Msgr. Fusco writes that the man offered $10,000 for the painting, “but since his wishes could not be met, he asked and was gratefully granted the privilege to enthrone it over the altar of our convent chapel and to illuminate it with a specially built system of light. The vice president then visited the painting periodically. “We learned later that the ravishing Infant Jesus reminded him of a dear son whom he lost in his infancy,” the monsignor wrote. The parish had the painting refurbished and cleaned in 1991. Mount St. Peter itself was designated a national historic landmark in 1998.

2010 Christmas Traditions


from page 16

“When the Creator saw the one whom he had created with his own hands perishing, he lowered the heavens and came down; he took upon himself human nature from the most holy and pure virgin, truly becoming flesh; for this reason, we glorify him.” (Nativity matins canon Ode 1). This concentration on Christ’s coming in the flesh makes fasting during this preparation period even more appropriate. Eastern Christians generally fast in preparation for major liturgical events. Fasting is a physical metaphor for the spiritual life. When we fast from food, we subject our body to physical hunger. This should remind us of the spiritual hunger our soul experiences for God. For the brief time of our fast, our physical reality matches our spiritual one. Both our body

and soul hunger for the Lord. For the fast to be fruitful we must use the physical hunger as a call to prayer. During the moments of the day when we feel the strong hunger pangs we should direct our thoughts to God. The Nativity fast is a perfect opportunity for us to see the counter-cultural aspect of living the Christian life. We live in this world and are necessarily a part of it. Yet we also have citizenship in heaven, for our human nature has been taken into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father when Jesus ascended into heaven. We do not turn our backs on the world, but we also realize that there is more to our lives than this world has to offer. We have been baptized into Christ and have been clothed with Christ. Therefore, our lives are never fulfilled


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unless we are living this Christ-like dimension, unless we are seeking to live in his kingdom. The discipline of fasting reminds us of all this. Fasting always involves a self-emptying so that we may prepare an enlarged place for Christ to come and dwell within us. This is especially true at this time of the year. One of the best ways of doing this is to create our personal way of fasting in this season, including discipline in speaking, listening, entertainments and use of our time to include quiet time with the Lord and the sacrament of reconciliation. The cave of Bethlehem is a predominant image in the Byzantine tradition. We hear the liturgical hymns that announce: “O Bethlehem, make ready; O cave, prepare yourself.” We are each invited to prepare the cave of our own hearts to welcome Christ more deeply into our lives and to shine his light into our world. A good source of information is “Christ Is Born: A Journey of Expectation, Preparation and Fulfillment,” available from the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh’s religious education office at 412-322-8307 or 412322-8773. Sister Barbara Jean is on the staff at Mount St. Macrina House of Prayer in Uniontown.

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Christmas pilgrims are ‘living testimony’ CNS photo/Paul Haring Dan Gallagher, a diocesan seminarian studying in Rome, spent his first Christmas at the Vatican last December. He joined in Pope Benedict’s midnight Mass and later in the procession outside St. Peter’s where the Nativity scene, at left, was unveiled.

By DAN GALLAGHER As the center of the Christian world, the streets of Rome are constantly filled with pilgrims from all across the world who come to walk in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, visit her ancient basilicas, pray before the tombs of the apostles and listen to the words of the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. In Rome, the universality of the Catholic Church is on full display day in and day out, and this is all the more true of the Eternal City during the most sacred of Christian holidays. As a seminarian in my first year of theology studies at the North American College, it was my great privilege to experience this at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in 2009. While it is never easy to be away from home during Christmastime, it is also true that Rome is a


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2010 Christmas Traditions

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2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 27


from page 26

great second option! As Catholics we are always very much at home during the Mass as it is the same eucharistic celebration all over the world; and while I was away from my mother, father and siblings I had the opportunity to worship in St. Peter’s Basilica, the center of Holy Mother Church, with the Holy Father Pope Benedict as the celebrant, and thousands of brothers and sisters in the faith gathered together. The papal liturgy on Christmas Eve that year will be remembered as the one in which a woman jumped the barrier and brought the pope to the ground before the security guards were able to stop her. Aware of all the commotion but too far away from where the incident took place to know what happened, I held my breath and said a prayer for the safety of the Holy Father.

I was relieved to see him process down the aisle and proceed as normal with the Mass. The

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28 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

beautiful liturgical music filled St. Peter’s Basilica, which was packed with Catholics gathered from all continents to worship the Risen Lord. In his homily, the pope encouraged Christians to imitate the vigilant, simple shepherds who made God the priority of their lives. At the conclusion of the Mass the faithful received Pope Benedict’s apostolic blessing and filed out of the basilica into St. Peter’s Square, where the beautiful Christmas crèche scene, which had been covered for some days, was finally revealed. The next morning on Christmas Day in this same square, Pope Benedict issued his bi-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (For the City, for the World) address, directed not only to the city of Rome but the entire Christian world. In this address the pope extended his greeting to those gathered in the square in many of the world’s languages. With each greeting, a roar from somewhere in the crowd could be heard as the visiting pilgrims expressed their approval of the pope speaking to them in their native tongue. In this address, Pope Benedict stated that wherever in the world there are people who welcome God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. This address was certainly inspirational for me, as my faith was strengthened by witnessing the thousands of people who rejoiced together that God would humble himself to such an extent that he would enter into humanity, that he would give his life for us on the cross and after his Resurrection would remain with us in the Eucharist and in the hearts of those who welcome him into their lives. All of those pilgrims who came from so many various countries were a living testimony that the church is alive, and that God’s light shines forth all throughout the world. Gallagher is a diocesan seminarian studying in Rome.

2010 Christmas Traditions

Carnegie Museum tradition

Naples villagers welcome Christ Child

Pittsburgh is home to two widely admired and distinctive Nativity displays, which draw thousands of visitors each Christmas season. The Pittsburgh Creche, an exact duplicate of the creche on view in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, is set up each winter outdoors in the US Steel Plaza on Grant Street, Downtown, accessible to visitors throughout the day and night. The second major display has been a popular destination for 53 years — the presepio at Carnegie Museum in Oakland, which opens the day after Thanksgiving and extends through the feast of the Epiphany. The presepio (Latin for manger or crib) is regarded as one of the finest such Nativity scenes of its kind, set in an Italian village and featuring more than 100 hand-crafted human figures, animals and accessories in a setting that extends over 250 square feet. The traditional presepio, originating in 18thcentury Naples, is defined by three elements: the Nativity scene itself, the Magi and a scene of village life representing the era. The thriving city’s skilled artisans, sculptors and painters, many of whom worked for the aristocracy or for the Royal Porcelain Factory at Capodimonte, hand-crafted each figure. “The figures are miniature sculptures,” said Rachel Delphia, assistant curator of decorative arts at Carnegie Museum, who oversees and helps to set up the presepio each year. “Each is a wonderful study of the human figure, with glass eyes, terra-cotta heads, incredibly realistic.” They are “little portraits” of actual Neapolitan residents of the era, she said, seemingly life-like with expressive faces and gestures. The layout of the display is rich in meaning. The Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph are placed beneath the ruins of a Roman temple to signify the passing

Delphia said. “It’s a very layered story, with humor and whimsy, such as a little dog wagging his tail near the butcher’s meat.” Children enjoy finding such scenes. “It’s wonderful to see families come,” she said. “They often tell us they saw it as a child, and now are bringing their grandkids.” The presepio will be on view from Friday, Nov. 26, to Wednesday, Jan. 6, during museum hours, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and on major holidays.

Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors age 65 and older; $11 for children age 3-18 with student ID; and free to members and children under 3.

Expressive faces and gestures, paused in moments of inspiration, unite the two halves of the display into a single panorama. of one era and the beginning of a new one. Below them, a sleeping shepherd represents mankind, unaware that Christ has come into the world. The presepio is based on the traditional elements of the Holy Family, angels and shepherds, but they are set in the midst of a bustling Naples, with its everyday life, busy market, its livestock, an innkeeper and city dwellers. “Some figures are clearly caught up in the day’s events, while others have looks of awe, as if they have ‘discovered’ that Christ has been born,”

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 29

‘Simple heart’ is generous, compassionate By SISTERS SUE FAZZINI and AUDREY QUINN The Rule of St. Benedict is filled with words that encourage living a spirituality of simplicity, ranging from seeing the presence of God in all people to living each day to its fullest. St. Benedict teaches that a simple heart is one that is filled with tolerance, generosity and compassion, one that does not judge by external trappings, but by listening, learning and choosing to share as one can. Through our work with families in rural Greene County, we regularly witness to this — watching families working tirelessly on a daily basis to do the best they can with the minimal resources they possess. Sometimes making the choice between a needed prescription and placing food on the table is a Solomon-like decision that is never easy. Our phone begins to ring, and the calls are families who need help and families who want to help — we are the conduit connecting the two. Both those in need and those wanting to help ask with a deep humility that is inspiring and a blessing to the world. Some families and workplaces choose to pool their resources and purchase gift cards to local

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30 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

supermarkets, rather than exchange gifts. Some want to purchase gifts for children. All wish to help anonymously and quietly, so as not to impose on those in need and their privacy. It is with a deep spirituality of simplicity that they choose to share their blessings. At our mission here in Greene County, we have a number of projects throughout the year and we try to work to alleviate some of the difficult choices our families have to make by helping with their temporal needs. Children are thrilled to receive a pair of shoes to begin the school

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*5% Early Booking Discount is available on the above motorcoach tours only! Caitlan Carney decided to help the Benedictine sisters in Greene County by conducting a coat drive among her fellow students at Quigley Catholic High School in Baden, neighboring parishes and the Knights of Columbus. The effort gathered more than 800 coats, which she and her family sorted and bagged and transported to the sisters for delivery to needy families.

of Catholic schools and parishes throughout the diocese are quick to help collect donations and new shoes for our Heart and Sole project. In return for a “dress-down day,” the wonderful children of St. Louise de Marillac and St. Teresa of Avila schools collect donations and shoes for our families.


here are blessings and wonderful people all around us. If you have trouble finding them, feel free to call us. We'll be happy to share incredible stories of strength and sharing that happen daily. St. Alphonsus in McDonald pitches in every year with a tower of shoes collected by parishioners. St. Ann in Waynesburg also collects funds each Lent and helps us in numerous ways throughout the year. Gently used coats, hats and gloves are collected

2010 Christmas Traditions

and distributed each winter. A few weeks ago, Caitlan Carney of Quigley Catholic High School organized a coat drive that involved her school, neighboring parishes and the Knights of Columbus. This young woman collected over 800 coats for our families! Not only did she collect them, but she and her family sorted, labeled and placed every coat in bags. Her parents rented a U-haul truck to deliver the coats to Greene County — all of this work simply to make sure that everyone who needed a warm coat would have a warm coat. What a blessing! Andrea Wheeler, youth minister for St. Ferdinand in Cranberry, is busy personified. And yet, each year she takes on one more project as she and Deb Combes organize our Christmas backpack project. They tag and distribute to parishioners more than 100 backpacks that are filled and returned to Greene County as Christmas gifts to area children. There are blessings and wonderful people all around us. If you have trouble finding them, feel free to call us. We'll be happy to share incredible stories of strength and sharing that happen daily. Benedictine Sisters Sue and Audrey staff a mission in Greene County. They can be reached at 274 Whites Road, Wayneburg, PA 15370 or by phone at 724-852-4323.

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Through fair trade, parish aids school, artisans By SCOTT STICKNEY In light of current economic conditions in the United States, it is often difficult for Americans to see beyond the boundaries of their own municipality, county or state, let alone their own country. However, it is imperative that Catholics recognize a humility that comes with faith — a modesty that allows them to grasp that they are part of a bigger picture, part of a global culture and economy, and part of a universal Catholic Church. This humility calls everyone to live out their faith in a Christ-like fashion for the betterment of the world community. Two valuable ways for parishioners to embrace this ideal is to educate themselves on Catholic social teaching and support the concept of fair trade. Catholic social teaching and fair trade are inextricably linked. When coupled with mission endeavors, the three make a powerful witness to what it means to be a Catholic in the global body of Christ. Catholic social teaching, as stated by the U.S. Catholic bishops and woven into fair trade principles by Catholic Relief Services, believes in the “sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person” and that Catholic tradition calls for the support of family and community for the common good. It instructs us “to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first” in an effort to create solidarity with our brothers and sisters wherever they might live while maintaining a stewardship for God’s creation. Products designated as fair trade ensure that fair wages have been paid to the artisan, that the item was created using sustainable practices and that income is reinvested in community development. At its heart, fair trade is about building respectful, enduring relationships that promote human dignity and economic justice throughout the world. At Holy Sepulcher Parish in Glade Mills, Butler County, the arrival of Father Al Semler as pastor in October 2008 began the union of these three areas. Father Semler, director of the diocesan office for mission from 1972-1975, brought with him a missionary spirit from experiences in Chimbote

32 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

Travelers from Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills visit the school their parish supports in Patzun, Guatemala. From left are, Bob Cararie, Phil Miller, Gretchen Cararie, Michelle Lesniak and Bob Waruszewski.

and Lima, Peru. In the spring of 2009, parishioner Phil Miller, who had mission experience in Patzun, Guatemala, with St. Ann Parish in Waynesburg and St. Richard in Gibsonia, approached Father Semler about Holy Sepulcher making a commitment to San Bernardino School in Patzun. The parish’s response was overwhelming. By summer, about 15 dedicated parishioners formed the Holy Sepulcher Mission Group to organize a trip to Patzun. Several members immediately saw the fair trade t i e - in as a fund-raising opportunity to help meet the parish’s financial obligation to the children of the school and as a way to educate the parish. Just before Christmas last year, Holy Sepulcher held its first fair trade market, selling products from vendor Ten Thousand Villages. All $1,700 in proceeds went to the school in Guatemala. The parish also just hosted its second annual sale. In June, a team of five parishioners spent a week at San Bernardino School, bringing muchneeded clothing, school supplies, water filtration systems and money for repairs and upgrades. One goal of the trip was to make contacts with local artisans in the region in an effort to foster a fair trade friendship. The group is scheduling a second trip for next July and continues to plan year-long events, pro-

grams, and activities to build bridges. “We all came back touched by what we saw and even more sure that everything we are doing to support the school is greatly needed and is truly appreciated,” said trip participant Michelle Lesniak. “Their needs are so basic compared to the luxuries we enjoy,” she said. “It is not difficult to extend our generous hand to them in hopes of them getting a good education, having access to clean water and adequate food, and giving them the tools to make a decent wage.” Even if local parishes are not able to host fair trade markets, or plan mission trips, individuals can still shop fair trade (see list below). To learn more about Holy Sepulcher’s trip to Patzun, visit Stickney has been a member of Holy Sepulcher Parish since 2003 and is part of his church’s Patzun Mission Group.

Buying fair trade goods and gifts At least three area stores sell fair trade items. They are: • Ten Thousand Villages, 5824 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill, 412-4212160. Marilyn Bender is the contact for groups that would like to host a fair trade sale. • Simply Divine at 5306 Library Road in Bethel Park, 412-833-0170 or www. • Equita, 3609 Butler St. in Lawrenceville. The Humility of Mary sisters also feature fair trade items in their Heartbeats catalog, available at www. And the Franciscan sisters in Whitehall sell their own Franciscan Blend coffee, using fair trade beans imported from farmers in Honduras. Visit their website at or call 412-885-7223. For information on fair trade, visit the Catholic Relief Services website at For information on SERRV International, visit

2010 Christmas Traditions

An American Knight by Norman J. Fulkerson, is a true life story of the Catholic Marine who destroyed the Dong Ha bridge during the Vietnam Easter Offensive and halted a column of 30,000 enemy troops and 200 Soviet tanks dead in their tracks. This book is timely, ideal and comprehensive.

“ “ “

Nothing in my life has moved me more than Colonel John Ripley’s story as narrated in An American Knight. — Rocky B. El Paso, Tx.

Comprehensive Most people who only know Colonel Ripley the warrior will now know John Ripley the husband, father, mentor and friend. Follow him from his “Huckleberry Finn” days in Radford, Va., to the Naval Academy where strength of will was developed, which later was applied to the battlefield where he earned the status of legend during his first tour in Vietnam as a 28-year-old captain.

“ “

Colonel John Ripley truly deserves to be held up as a role model for all to follow. Norman Fulkerson’s book will help ensure this. —Colonel Gerald Turley, USMC (Ret.) Author of The Easter Offensive

His story should be required reading for all Marines and anyone who appreciates the values that our Country and Corps has been founded on; honor, courage and commitment. Col Ripley exemplified the essence of these values and lived them every day. — Louise M., 2010 Christmas Traditions

Ideal This book has all the right ingredients to inspire and instill a sense of purpose in a generation seeking honor and meaning. Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Wesley Fox calls it a “must read” for anyone desiring to be a leader, especially those who want to lead Marines. General Carl E. Mundy, the thirtieth Commandant of the Marine Corps, says An American Knight is a “fine book that provides well-deserved tribute to a great man.”

I enjoyed reading it from start to finish and was so enthusiastic that I bought several copies to give as Christmas gifts. Heaven knows that today, more than ever, we need exemplary role models for ourselves and our children, and NOT of the Hollywood type. — Jean H. Solon, Oh.

“ “

Timely With political and public attention once again focused on the sacrifices made by our military, it’s more important than ever to remember the American heroes who set an example for all of us. In this first cradle-to-grave biography of Colonel John W. Ripley, Norman Fulkerson tells the extraordinary life story of a Marine Corps hero of legendary stature; the selfless leader of combat troops and embodiment of “Semper Fi.” “If a young officer or Marine ever asks what is the meaning of ‘Semper Fidelis,’” Colonel Ripley once told a friend, “tell them my story.” This is his story!

This book should be recommended, no, required reading, for all young men. The life of Colonel Ripley will show them that strong Faith is required for true manliness and true patriotism. — Maj. Rodney P. USMC Ret. Fullerton, Ca.

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I picked it up and couldn't put it down! I read it cover to cover amid piles of laundry! Colonel John Ripley is a wonderful role model for today's youth. —Bernadette M. Weatherly, Pa.

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 33

Despite the orgy of consumerism and the trend toward winter solstice celebrations, nobody can get around the fact all the hoopla is rooted in the birth of Christ.

Faith is always taught in the little moments By ROBERT LOCKWOOD It was one of those little moments. But the faith is always taught in the little moments. My daughter, Theresa, was visiting just after Thanksgiving. Nearing the sixth month of her pregnancy, my little girl planned on making us the grandparents of twins before opening day of the baseball season. As I looked at her at the beginning of Advent — those days of holy anticipation for Christmas — I decided that she might not make it by the time pitchers and catchers report. She was helping us decorate the house for Christmas. No heavy lifting, just unwrapping this and that of the Christmas gewgaws I had hauled down in boxes from the attic. I am not one who fights the “commercialization of Christmas.” Most of the symbols of Christmas are rooted in the spiritual nature of the feast. Despite the orgy of consumerism and the trend toward winter solstice celebrations, nobody can get around the fact all the hoopla is rooted in the birth of Christ. And it is not just in Nativity scenes, crowded churches and faith-based carols sung over the radio. It’s also Elvis Presley warbling through a blue Christmas, outdoor lights covering houses from head to toe, evergreens tied to the top of cars, kids crying on Santa Claus’s lap at the mall. Christmas is a thousand images blessed by time and memory. It’s a time of year when every story celebrates conversion, and faith rewarded, and that

34 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

miracles can happen. There is always a lingering secular need for SOMETHING to happen in the Christmas season that will change lives and continue the brightness anticipated with colored lights and angels on top of trees. The unspoken miracle that everyone hopes for at Christmas is really very simple: a conversion, or reversion, to a life centered in the faith celebrated in the season. If that’s recognized and pursued, the light and joy remain after the tree is hauled away. And they remain for an eternity. Grace builds on nature, we tell ourselves. There is no better proof of that than Christmas time in America. I was raised a Christmas Eve guy. With an Irish sense of the liturgical cycle, my mother wouldn’t allow more than a hint of Christmas around the house until Christmas Eve. That night, after the Old Man came home from work, we’d have a three-hour marathon that turned the house into a Christmas paradise. The tree would be dragged in from the porch and decorated. Gifts wrapped in secret, stockings hung in anticipation, the final touch would be putting up the crèche on the mantelpiece over the fireplace. As with so many Christmas customs, tradition ruled how it was to be arranged. Every figure had its set place, from Mary and Joseph in the stable, to the Wise Men placed at the far side of the mantelpiece, to be moved ever so slowly each day after Christmas. They arrived in front of the Christ Child on the

feast of the Epiphany, just in time to be packed away until next year. The Christ Child figure would appear in the stable on Christmas morning. It was one way — a very simple way — for my parents to help keep the true meaning of Christmas clear in our house. When my son and daughter were growing up, my daughter, the traditional arranger of the crèche, would put the Christ Child aside each year. And every Christmas morning, an unshaven, disheveled dad would not call out to the kids that Christmas had come until the Christ Child had been placed in its sacred spot. To help keep the meaning of Christmas clear in our house. We decorated the house this year right after Thanksgiving weekend only because my daughter was there to help. I noticed that she was putting the finishing touches on our family crèche. When she unwrapped the figurine of the Christ Child — from the same crèche of her childhood — she carried it over and placed it inside the china hutch. Where it would rest until Christmas morning. Smiling at my daughter so alive with her children to be, I knew that the meaning of Christmas would be clear in her house for a new generation. Because the faith is always taught in the little moments. This article is excerpted from Lockwood’s book, “A Guy's Guide to the Good Life: Virtues for Men,” published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Lockwood is director of the diocesan Communications Department.

2010 Christmas Traditions

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Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 35

Blue Christmas service can help bereaved By DOROTHY MAYERNIK As we approach the Christmas season, the world around us is busy planning festivities to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. But for some people, this is not “the most wonderful time of the year.” Those who have lost a loved one, been diagnosed with a serious illness, lost their job or experienced personal loss have set in motion the cycle of grief. The holidays can become long days of deep sadness. We’ve all been there at one time or another. Parish nurses and health ministers are reaching out to the bereaved in a special way to bring God’s light and healing presence. Scripture tells us, “Jesus wept.” He wanted and needed to express the feelings within him. Acknowledging grief at this traditionally joyful time can help many to experience the words of the Lord, “I am with you always” and “grieve — not as those who have no hope.” A worship service that specifically invites the grieving and at the same time focuses on the meaning of Christmas is indeed a service of hope. It allows people to confront their grief head-on and cry among people who understand where they’re coming from. There is something very healing about having your grief acknowledged by others. This gives an opportunity for people to come and bring their despair and loneliness and give it to God. Popularly known as the Blue Christmas service, the title clearly conveys who we are ministering to. Some churches use the titles “Longest Night” or “Hope for the Holidays.” Depending on the time and talent available, it can be a simple gathering for a brief prayer service or a longer service that

36 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

includes a memorial for loved ones and a meal afterward to encourage fellowship and mutual support. The Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry Program, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, offers consultation on how to plan the service as well as printed examples of worship bulletins that can be adapted to one’s own parish. Early December is an ideal time to bring people together. Committee members are needed for planning the service, publicity, reservations, set up and hospitality. Esther Gass from Mercy’s staff coordinated a Blue Christmas service last year for her own congregation at Beulah Presbyterian Church in Churchill. The sanctuary was decorated for Christmas in the traditional way, with the addition of one artificial tree with only blue lights and no ornaments. A large lighted candle, surrounded by small votive candles, was placed on a central table. During the service, people were invited to come forward and light a candle representing their prayer for others, themselves, the church or the world. Esther relates, “After the worship, two women sat quietly weeping after most of the others had left the sanctuary. “I stood silently and prayed for them to know God’s comfort. They asked for prayer and anointing for one of the women who, through great sobs, told me of her 36-year-old son’s death from a heart attack. “After a time of prayer, as the woman wrapped her arms around herself, I felt she’d appreciate

Diane Battaglia, parish nurse at St. Albert the Great in Baldwin, visits with a parishioner as part of her service. The Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry program is promoting Blue Christmas services as a way for parishes to help members deal with bereavement issues during the holiday season.

ta prayer shawl. “I retrieved a lovely blue shawl, later finding out it was her favorite color. She pulled it tight and wrapped it around her shoulders.” During this holy season, may you feel inspired to reach out to someone who is dealing with a loss. For more information about planning a Blue Christmas service, contact the Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry Program at 412-2325815 or If your parish holds a service as a result of this story, let us know how it went. E-mail Mayernik is manager of the Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry Program.

2010 Christmas Traditions

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38 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

2010 Christmas Traditions

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 39


200 creches to go on view in Dayton ativity scenes from Africa and the African-American tradition will soon be spotlighted in the annual Christmas exhibits in the University of Dayton’s Marian Library. “At the Manger – World Nativity Traditions,” featuring more than 200 Nativity scenes, will be on display Nov. 27 through Jan. 31 in the library on the campus in Dayton, Ohio. In a special display of more than 25 Nativities, “At the Manger” will highlight the artistry and faith of African artists and the African-American tradition in materials ranging from beading to ceramics to hand-carved ebony. Father Johann Roten, library director of research and special projects, said the Nativity scene tradition is fairly new in Africa, but is growing as the influence of the Catholic Church grows in areas such as Burkina Faso, South Africa and Zimbabwe. “The African crèche culture is a fairly rich one,” Father Roten said, pointing out a hand-carved set from Togo, which features a large number of people playing musical instruments to greet the birth of Jesus. “When something important happens in this community, traditionally there is always a musical welcome,” he said. Animals gathered around an African manger reflect the wildlife of Africa and might include a tiger, hippo, giraffe or even warthog. “Each set tells the same story of the Nativity and shows how human culture has helped God's message to be better,” said Father Roten, a recognized authority on the Nativity. The library also includes the Stable Store, a gift shop with a selection of Nativity-related items. The University of Dayton’s Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute holds the largest collection in the world of printed materials on Mary. The collection includes more than 3,600 Nativity scenes and other Marian art from around the world. Dayton is 260 miles, or a four-hour drive along I-70, from Pittsburgh. For information visit or call 937-229-4234. Guided group tours are available by calling 937-229-4214.

Courtesy of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton Creches on view at the University of Dayton this Christmas season come from South Africa, carved in hardwood, with webbed beading. Image of the Holy Family at work, dating to France in the 1920s. Nativity by artist in Ghana, made of local fabrics, cardboard and wood.

40 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

2010 Christmas Traditions

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 41

Advent Father Ronald Raab, a noted author and radio commentator, works with the poor in Portland, Ore. In his new book, “The Unsheltered Heart — An At-Home Advent Retreat,” he reflects on how society’s marginalized population can teach valuable lessons of faith. This reflection refers to the readings for the Third Sunday of Advent.

By FATHER RONALD RAAB I wait with people living in poverty who long for good news. I wait for the middle-aged man — beaten up during the night as he slept in a doorway — to find a shower today and health care and employment tomorrow. I wait for sobriety for a pregnant teenager. I long for affordable housing for the elderly woman who just lost her husband to a fastgrowing cancer. I wait with many people who suffer poverty to find in our communities our call to serve other people. These are also the stories that teach me not to despair. I discover on most days that I am the one who wants to flee from God and find other answers to life. I grow more impatient toward injustice, the way we treat the elderly and our lack of care for people suffering mental illness. I shake my fists, lash out with violent words and

42 Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine

Rejoicing with the poor on the way to Christ’s coming

weep amid people’s pain. If I have the patience to actually listen to people, to hear their soft-spoken stories, I usually find a profound love of God and their sincere trust in Christ. Advent awakens our faith through people who have been marginalized. This week’s Gospel reading teaches us that the witnesses to Jesus are people whom society has already cast aside. Jesus tells us to listen to the person who we thought was deaf because now she will teach us how to really listen. Jesus says go to the person who you assumed could not walk and he will show you the more honest path to the Father. Learn to see the blind man whom you ignored before and he will open your eyes to faith and the reality of the Gospel itself. Jesus says that we should take a lesson from the leper who was isolated from everyone she loved: she will teach us how to care for people living on the margins of our culture. One of the lessons I learn from this passage of Matthew is that there is rejoicing on the way to Christ’s coming again. Christ did not promise

to take away our suffering, but he did promise to remain with us forever ... Advent hope runs deep within the human condition. The ache for a better life begins with a new gratitude for even our weakest moments. People without power in our culture bear witness to this new life and I witness this miracle in ministry among our culture’s marginalized. With nearly every encounter, individuals tell me that they need only one pair of socks or one shirt or just one small tube of toothpaste. Hope swells in me when my pretense, my sense of entitlement, my false authority and my assumption that I know what is best for other people begin to fade away. Advent hope corrects my false claim that I am in charge of life and changes my errant belief that God is an intellectual pursuit. Advent hope runs underneath the anger, the rage and the frustrations that surface in my attempts to fix other people’s problems. The ill, the marginalized and the suffering all bear witness to the claim that Jesus is the one for whom everyone is searching.

Excerpted from “The Unsheltered Heart” by Ronald Raab, CSC, copyright ©2010 Priests of Holy Cross, Indiana Province. Used by permission of Ave Maria Press, Inc., P.O. Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556,

2010 Christmas Traditions

Share in the

Care This Christmas, please give to those who have given a lifetime. As you recall the people who have most shaped your life, you may remember the sister who prepared you for First Holy Communion or the brother who coached your high school basketball team. Never counting the cost, these religious shared with you love, faith, and a belief in all

that you could be–choosing to invest in your future rather than their own. Today, these sisters and brothers may be elderly or infirm. Today, they likely receive an average Social Security benefit of just over $4,500 annually.* Today, they need you. Please be generous.

Please visit our website for additional information, If you wish to make a contribution, please remit coupon and donation to address on form. Retirement Fund for Religious Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh/Department for Consecrated Life 111 Boulevard of the Allies • Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1618 For information call 412-456-3067 I am enclosing a contribution to say thank you to the retired sisters, religious priests and brothers.

$500 Name






Address ___________________________________________________________________________________ City _____________________________ State _____________________ Zip ____________________________ *All statistics cited above are based on data submitted to the National Religious Retirement Office, ©2010 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Photographer (foreground photo): Jim Judkis. Photos: (foreground, from left) Sister Mary Frances Angemaier, SSND, 82; Sister Maria Felipe Lopex, SSND, 82; (background) School Sisters of Notre Dame, summer 1966.

2010 Christmas Traditions

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine 43

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Christmas Traditions 2010  

Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine featuring Christmas Traditions - published November 2010

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