“Okay Father, I’ll Take It From Here!”
A Reflection by the Pastor – Father Patrick L. Connor
Pictured above: Baby HARRISON ANDREW DOMBROWSKI, baptized August 15, 2020, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, KY.
Way Back When
Pictured above is a child at his baptism. I especially love it because he looks like he is praying!
It isn’t me but imagine for a moment it is.
This article’s title could well apply to me, now ordained 37 years (April 8, 1983). I was baptized September 30, 1951, at St. Pius V Church in Cohocton, NY, by Father William Frank, who died nine days later on October 9, 1951.
When I entered the seminary in 1976, I had to produce my Baptismal Certificate. When I went to St. Pius V’s rectory in Cohocton, the priest there, after filling it out, smiled as he handed it to me. He explained I was Farther Frank’s last baptism on earth.
“So Patrick, I guess this means God is calling you to be Father Frank’s replacement in the Priesthood!” He chuckled at first but then became serious. “Rest assured, he’s praying for you from Heaven to help you through these coming years in the seminary, and I’ll be praying for you, too!”
Food For Thought
I share this with you because every time I baptize a baby boy, at the end of the sacrament, I say to the parents and those gathered: “Now, if anything happens to me, and this is the last baptism I do, chances are God intends for this boy to replace me in the Priesthood!”
Then I look at the parents’ faces.
Sometimes they smile, as if to say, “Yes! We would be so happy and proud!”
Sometimes they frown or have a look of fear, as if to say, “Oh dear! Please no! We were hoping he would get married, have a family, and give us grandchildren!”
I then say I’m just kidding but quickly add, “On a serious note, let me say to all that you are the very ones that God uses to plant the seeds in someone’s heart for a vocation to the Priesthood. So, if you know a young man who you think would make a good priest, tell him so! Maybe explain why. Just plant that seed. It might have more effect coming from you than someone like me. God will use your words to stir up something in the mind and heart and soul of that person. You never know. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer for vocations, not just to the Priesthood, but to the Religious, which includes men and women. Pray also for Women Religious and Brothers, Permanent Deacons, and Lay Ministers to come forward in service to the People of God.”
A Young Boy’s Dream
My desire to become a priest may not have begun when I was baptized—at least I don’t remember wanting to be priest then! (Chuckle) I probably was more interested in Mom giving me my bottle and changing my diaper!
But at my First Holy Communion, I do remember watching the priest say Mass and thinking, “I’d like to do that someday.” Later, when I was an altar boy, frequently serving Mass and getting to know the priests, I wanted to be more and more like them. That was in grammar school. That desire to become a priest remained through Catholic High School, where I was taught by Franciscan priests and brothers and continued to when I worked on my uncle’s dairy farm and later the railroad.
I felt it whenever I prayed.
It all happened because of people like you, believing in me and planting those seeds of a vocation, by saying they thought I would make a good priest!
You people believed in your priests and respected them. In spite of the current Clergy Abuse Scandal that we’re facing as a Church with the help of God, we must remember there are still many priests in good standing, models of holiness, and the Priesthood is still a noble calling.
You Plant God’s Seed
So how about it? Consider a young man you know who might make a good priest and find an opportunity to plant that seed and tell him so. “Come follow Me!” Jesus said to the disciples and that was the beginning of their vocation. His voice planted a seed.
Your voice might plant the seed also. You might be creating a miracle in the making!
Finally, as I often say at Mass as I look out at the people, “Even though I became a priest 37 years ago when I got ordained by Bishop Matthew Clark, I’m still becoming a priest because of the people I serve—people like you, because of your faith and your love for God and others. I truly love being a priest, and I truly love you and thank God for you.
God bless you all!” – Father Pat
Let’s Go for a Walk!
by Father Pat
This might be a long walk—a walk back in time—to when I was a boy and a teenager. That would have been from about 1959, when I was 8 years old, to 1969 when I graduated from high school.
These events and everything in between all revolved around the church you see pictured above; more than a church, it’s a national shrine: Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, outside of Buffalo, NY, and built by Msgr. Nelson H. Baker, “Father Baker,” who’s now a candidate for Sainthood.
I made my First Holy Communion there on May 17, 1959. I remember the day well. My oldest brother, Michael, was one of the Altar Servers. In fact, he held the Communion Paten for old Msgr. McQuire as the priest came along the Communion rail to us as we were kneeling there with our hands folded and ready to receive on the tongue.
The Servers used Communion Patens (i.e., small metal plates with long handles) in those days to catch the Sacred Host in case they fell off the tongue. When they came to me, I closed my eyes, looked upward, opened my mouth wide and stuck my tongue way out as rehearsed earlier with our teacher, Sister Afra, SSJ. I was a little nervous but also excited about receiving Jesus into my heart! We had learned about Jesus and His Love. I was feeling a lot of Peace.
Suddenly, I felt this jab of cold metal pushing into my throat. I wanted to cough, but at the same time, I wanted to giggle as it sort of tickled! But I was afraid to giggle. After all, this was church. This was Mass, and this was a Most Sacred Moment, Holy Communion, and lots of people were watching me—my family, my friends, classmates, and Sr. Afra.
As I opened my eyes, I saw that brother of mine, Michael, watching and grinning at me as if to say, “Gotcha!” He had played a subtle trick on me that even the Monsignor didn’t notice! Just between me and him, and as I remind him, God! (Years later, Michael said he was sorry and even went to confession to tell the priest!)
These many years later when I stand as a priest at Mass with children making their First Holy Communion, I share with them my experience. Even though this gets a chuckle from many, I remind the children that in no way was my brother trying to show disrespect to Jesus, nor am I, in retelling this story. What I want to do is focus on this little boy kneeling at the Communion rail, so excited about meeting Jesus in a brand-new way. To welcome Jesus into his heart through taking the Sacred Host, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Himself, which He gave as gift to His Apostles and to all of us on the night before He died for us.
When I went back to my pew from receiving my First Holy Communion, I felt something else—not some cold hard metal object on my throat—but something like a hand on my shoulder, as if to tell me, “I am here with you, and I will always be with you, to help and guard and guide you in all things.”
This little boy looked up at the altar on that day and saw Msgr., my brother, the other servers, and high above, the statue of Our Lady of Victory, holding the child Jesus.
My heart felt peace, and I remember thinking, “I want to become a priest!”
So I did! And as I stand at the altar as a priest, I am grateful to God that He has given people like you to continue to walk the journey with me.
P.S. When my brother Michael comes to visit, he serves Mass with me, and he is always very reverent!
Words of Remembrance for Father Erb, given by Sister Gertrude Erb
John and I are very grateful to Father Pat for this opportunity to represent the family of Father Francis Erb at his funeral Mass. We’re also very appreciative to be able to thank you—the parish staffs and members of all the parishes of the Southern Tier where Father Erb served—for the care and love which you have shown Father throughout his priestly life. He knew he was loved by all of you, and from all reports, we were sure he was loved by all of you. (Acknowledged by Deacon George and caregiver, Minh, also.)
John and I are here today representing the two large families from which Father Erb came. His father, our Uncle Frank Erb, was one of fourteen children, and his mother, our Aunt Mary Farrell-Erb, was one of sixteen children. Father was an only child! So, we are here on behalf of our many, many cousins, spanning five living generations in fact. Father Erb had 45 first cousins. There are now nine first cousins living.
Father Erb had wonderful parents. You may have met them along the way. They lived in Cohocton, NY, when Father was pastor there. They were always so loyal and supportive of his ministry. His father died in 1980, and his mother died in 1989.
Through the years, I’ve been the connecting link between the family in Rochester and Father. Since Father’s retirement especially, I had the joy of having long conversations with Father—sometimes when he treated me to lunch at St. Joseph’s Hospital and sometimes on the telephone. More recently, we had infrequent but wonderful conversations over the phone. He would tell me about his aches and pains, not in a complaining manner at all, but just as a matter of fact.
Then he would say, “I have 20/20 vision.” I would respond, “And a 100% mind.”
I will really miss those calls.
In his last call to me on January 31 of this year, Father said, “Our eternal rest is what counts.”
So it was with him. Whatever God willed for him in his life, he accepted joyfully, knowing, “Our eternal rest is what counts.”
Father Erb, may you enjoy eternal rest in the presence of the God whom you served so faithfully and completely. As found in Psalm 116: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
Father, may you be precious in the eyes of the Lord forever.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. . . . This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
A Fond Farewell to Father Erb from Father Pat
Today I said goodbye to a good friend, Father Francis Erb. I presided at his funeral Mass, as he had requested me to do. He was a retired priest who helped celebrate Masses in my parish, Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish until health problems prevented him from saying anymore.
He was 91 and a priest of this Diocese of Rochester for 66 years. He once had a hobby of flying airplanes. He obtained his license, joined a club, and used to fly single engine planes for recreation until he had to give it up due to age and health issues. Now, he is up there, high above the clouds, not in a plane but walking in the Kingdom of Heaven, gazing on the Face of God and filled with bliss. May he rest in peace and pray for us.
We love you, Fr. Erb! 🙏🙏🙏♥️♥️♥️
In Memory of Father Erb from Father Pat
This morning in Morning Prayer, I prayed this Psalm 63 and thought of Fr. Erb saying it and living it. The picture above is him saying one of his last Masses.
As you read this Psalm prayerfully, imagine Fr. Erb praying it with you.
Pray for his Peace of Soul as he looks now at the Face of God forever.
O God, You are my God,
it is You I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless. and without water.
I look to You in the sanctuary
to see Your Power and Glory.
For Your Love is better than life;
my lips shall ever praise You!
I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on Your Name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise You!
I think of You upon my bed, I remember You through the watches of the night.
You are indeed my Savior, and in the shadow of Your Wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your Right Hand holds me
— Psalm 63: 1-9
I must confess this brought a few tears to my eyes as I thought of our dear, departed friend. Rest in peace, Father Erb. We will always love ️ you. Pray for us
Beginning to reopen our Churches!
Update: June 25, 2020
We’re very pleased to announce our parish will be open our churches for Mass beginning next weekend, June 27-28, following our regular weekend Mass schedule. We are still limited to 33% occupancy at this time.
We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe, so while in the church, we ask that you follow these guidelines:
- Masks are required to be worn while in the church.
- Use hand sanitizers when entering the church.
- Please maintain Social Distancing.
- Avoid touching things while in the church.
- If you’re feeling sick, or have underlying health concerns, PLEASE STAY HOME.
- Recall Bishop Matano has given special dispensation from physically attending Mass, and we’ll continue to live stream our Mass each weekend.
Headed back to Church! (June 26, 2020)
Here we go again!
Today we gather, in smaller numbers, as a parish for the first time in more than 3 months. Our readings are filled with prophesy and promise, once again. Judging from what we have all been through, these readings may be “Just what the doctor ordered”.
Elisha gave a prophesy and promise to a woman who needed a son to care for her in a culture that believed she needed one. Paul reminds the Christians of the promise of life through Christ, if only we could believe without failing. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells us “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” NOW THAT IS A BIG PROMISE!
Today we continue to live the promises that we have held close to our hearts when we could not gain our strength from each other in community worship. The thing is, all of us aren’t here, and cannot be, so that means our job is never completely finished. Our job is to believe the prophesies and promises as we take care of others who may not even know that they need us.
We live in a confusing and scary world and we have had to do it in isolation. So that isolation really is only as scary as we let it be, when we forget the promises that were fulfilled with the life of Christ. So, has it really been all that bad?
We have learned about loneliness, fear and uncertainty that made up the core of Christ’s life as he came to fulfill his father’s promise to humanity. I remember those feelings when I left the security of my family’s home to make my way in the world. I had to rely on values I learned from my parents and searched for how to live out those lessons alone. I failed. I succeeded. I learned. I survived.
My prayer is that you both survived and thrived. I pray that you found ways to enrich your life while relying on the lessons of faith.
Now we move forward, together still. Remember Christ promised that “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me”. I suggest we all make a list of those people who came to us as Christ in some of our darkest hours. All the things we learned about ourselves that we had forgotten because we were too busy to celebrate God’s goodness present in each person.
So here we go again, celebrating, loving. being joyful and living the good life! Whether together or still at home, today’s readings tell us we have no excuses. Take care everyone!