Taking the Easy Way

I have been 100% uninspired over the past several weeks. You haven’t heard from me and my writer’s block seems to become a wall for now. I am so sorry.

However, I am heading to Duquesne tomorrow, Friday, 4/11/2014 for a family get-together! We are going to be celebrating my Aunt Peg’s 88th birthday on Sunday. Aside from the excitement I’m feeling about being with my whole family for the weekend, I am hoping to get rejuvenated about writing once again.  I miss it.

In the meantime, I have resurrected (appropriate for Eastertime) some past Eastertime posts just to provide you with a bit of nostalgia and a fantastic Eastertime comfort food the Bubba’s used to make.

I hope you don’t mind the “reruns” but hopefully I’ll be full of inspiration upon my return!

From 2012…………………

Richard Terek added a comment yesterday, March 20, 2012, in response to my posting about the wonderful treats our mothers and grandmothers used to make at Eastertime. Specifically, he mentioned the hot cross buns and the puska. Richard then added:

” I remember my grandmother making Sirecz (Egg Cheese) for Easter too!”

In honor of your grandmother and all of our “Bubbas” and mothers who cooked from their hearts, I found a recipe that duplicates the Easter Egg Cheese of our youths.


Called cirek, sirets, sirok, sirecz, Hrudka or just Easter egg cheese since it traditionally served on Paska (Easter Bread) A traditional Slovak Easter Cheese served with the Easter meal. This is served sliced and cold. It tastes like a sweet custard.”


12 eggs

1 quart milk

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 pinch ground nutmeg


1. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until mixed well.

2. Transfer the eggs to a double boiler and stir in milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes. Use a metal slotted spoon and constantly stir the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.

3. When the mixture looks just like cooked scrambled eggs, pour it carefully into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Carefully gather the ends of the cheesecloth in your hands and pull them together until the cheese forms into a ball. Tie the cheesecloth tightly at the top of the ball. Tie the cheesecloth ends over a faucet or to the handle of a kitchen cabinet (place a bowl under to catch the whey dripping down) and let hang for about 3 hours.

4. Untie the cheesecloth and wrap the cheesecloth ball in plastic wrap before refrigerating. The cheese will keep for about a week. Slice and serve.


Today, my wife and I had to stop by Walmart to pick-up a few items we needed for an Easter basket that we were preparing. As I was walking through aisle after aisle of Easter candy, treats, baskets, decorations and God knows what else, I realized that the previously simple job of buying Easter goodies had become a very complicated task. One could no longer just go and purchase a bag of jelly beans, we tried, and it’s impossible! There had to be at least 30 to 40 different types of jelly beans at Walmart! They had every flavor, every color, and every brand imaginable. Seriously, jellybeans are simple items. Red ones are supposed to taste like cherries, orange ones like oranges and black ones like licorice! That’s not the case anymore. I found red ones that were passion fruit flavored, orange ones that were mango-tangerine flavored and black ones that were espresso flavored. I don’t get it!!!!

 I thought back to when I was still the recipient of an Easter basket back home in Duquesne, and what exactly did I receive. Of course, there was the traditional milk chocolate bunny. It always depended on whether my dad’s business was having a good year or bad year that determined if I would a solid chocolate rabbit or a hollow one. (Gotta love those good years!)

This photo was taken in our living room in 1954. I was 3 years old and apparently mighty happy with the candy I was eating based on my chocolate covered mouth!

Mom would recycle our Easter baskets from year to year for my brother and I. The only change would be the color of the cellophane Easter grass, and every so often, the basket would be wrapped in a huge sheet of cellophane. When Steve and I would wake-up on Easter morning, once we were given permission, we’d race down the stairs and into the dining room to be greeted by two large baskets brimming with goodies. We would run and grab our baskets and then high-tail it back to the sofa, taking just a few minutes to peer through the cellophane to assess what the Easter Bunny had brought us.

 In contrast to the HUGE array of treats available today, the candy assortment we received at Easter was rather simple. The centerpiece was always the chocolate bunny standing proudly in the center of the basket, poised and ready to become an earless hare in a matter of minutes. Surrounding the bunny was an array of smaller chocolate critters to include baby bunnies, lambs and chicks. They were normally milk chocolate, but occasionally the lamb would be white chocolate. The rest of the basket would be made up of foil covered chocolate eggs, fruit flavored jellybeans (a.k.a. Jelly Bird Eggs), chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, and speckled eggs (a.k.a. Robin Eggs) that tasted like malted balls when you bit into them minus the chocolate covering. The truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of them and Mom and Dad usually ended up eating them. In fact, I believe they purposely loaded the baskets with them so they could munch on them without feeling guilty.

I recall that there were often large boxed candy eggs sitting on the dining room table. They were usually Fruit and Nut eggs. The inside was filled with a dense white nougat that was surrounding dried fruits and nuts. The entire egg was then dipped in milk chocolate, decorated with a few sugar flowers, wrapped in cellophane and then boxed for Easter. I never ate them since I hated nuts. Besides, they reminded me of fruitcake at Christmas time and probably weighed as much!

 I was always amazed how Mom was able to keep track of how much candy we had consumed from the basket. Since I had no concept of moderation, I would have eaten the entire contents of the basket on Easter morning if Mom hadn’t placed specific limitations on how much my brother and I could eat. Her strategy must have been to get us wired on an appropriate amount of sugar so that we were “nearly” bouncing off the walls just prior to visiting my grandparents. It usually worked!

After the excitement of reviewing our Easter baskets on Easter morning, we would be hustled up to our room to begin getting ready for church. My mom always made sure we were all “gussied-up” for Mass, so extra time was always needed to prepare. Mom and Dad also would don their very best for Easter that morning and we would all proudly march down our driveway into the family car as if we were conducting our own “Easter Parade” on Thomas Street.

 As a very young child, I remember entering Holy Name Church on Easter morning and being overwhelmed by the amount of flowers that decorated the altar and sanctuary. Huge white Easter lilies were everywhere and the pungent scent of fresh flowers filled the entire church. All of the ladies and young girls had their Easter bonnets in place along with their prettiest dresses and every male member of the congregation looked very dapper.

I remember becoming very fidgety during the Mass on Easter. I was usually well-behaved for Masses of normal length; however Easter meant that the Mass had much more content, more music and more pomp and ceremony. All of those “extras,” coupled with the kick I was feeling from my morning dose of Easter basket sugar, didn’t help the situation. Usually by Communion time, my parents were ready to pull their hair out, and as a result, we would often make a quick retreat out of the church immediately after Mom and Dad had received communion. Not the best example to set for us, but much better than strangling your kids in church because they’re driving you crazy!

The remainder of Easter Sunday was spent at my grandfather’s house on Duquesne Ave. in West Mifflin with the entire Volk extended family as well as several family friends. We’d all arrive in our Easter finery and immediately begin posing for pictures. The trick was to take our pictures upon arrival and before we began digging into the numerous baskets of candy and other treats that were scattered around the house. Also, once we began playing outside, it was a lost cause to think they could round us up for a picture or expect us to look like anything except a disheveled mess! 

Dinner was usually served around 4 p.m. and consisted of all of the Hunky basics; slices of ham, stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa, mashed potatoes, beets with horseradish, sirecz, hard-boiled Easter eggs, and tons of baked goods including poppyseed and nut rolls and paska. Everyone would have a special Easter egg that had our name on it. At the meal, we would peel our egg and then cut it into several pieces. We would then share a piece of our egg with every family member present and they would do the same with their egg. This was a tradition that was carried on every year. 

Life was good, we didn’t know what we didn’t have. All we knew was that we were surrounded by a loving family of hunkies that made every day of our lives in Duquesne, a lifetime special memory.

I hope that you all have a very blessed holiday with family and friends, and that you enjoy many, many more to come! Nádherný veľkonočné požehnanie všetkým svojim priateľom! HAPPY EASTER!

                      And remember to share and share alike – STEVE!!!


As a Catholic child, a student of Holy Name Grade School, and an altar boy, the three days prior to Easter marked the most  pious and important days of the liturgical year. Although Holy Week officially began on Palm Sunday, the solemnness of the week really was felt and exhibited on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

I remember the seriousness and significance of the meaning of each day. The good sisters at Holy Name drilled the importance into our impressionable minds throughout our eight years of attendance. My mother and father reinforced those beliefs and certainly, as an altar server, I was fortunate to be part of the observances during Holy Week.

Good Friday stands out as the day that I truly felt the most stirred, and to a degree, frightened by the history of events that occurred that day in the life of Jesus Christ. I remember watching how everything would stop in our home, and an eerie silence would occur in our neighborhood and in the City of Duquesne from noon until 3 p.m. that day. Parents, priests, neighbors, friends all focused on the fact that the crucifixion had taken place at this point in time.

I remember how I would watch the skies at this time. I recall how very often, it seemed toEaster at St. Joseph be either a rainy or cloudy day. The coincidence of the weather with day’s history always made an impression on me. In fact, the photograph below was taken on Good Friday in 1970 during the 12 to 3 p.m. timeframe. I had walked up to the statue of the Passion in St. Joseph’s Cemetery and snapped this photo of an approaching store. I found the original copy of this photo recently and noticed that it was dated 3/27/70 on the back. When I check out the date, besides being my brother’s birthday, it was also Good Friday that year.

If you are like me, so much has changed in our lives since the days of our youth. It is so helpful to me to recall all of those things that made this time of year so important in our lives. It restores and  my faith to even greater degree. To me, it is comforting that those doctrines of our faith were embraced and observed throughout our hometown.

After our steadfast observances of the Rites of Easter during Holy Week, like any child, my brother and I looked forward to waking Easter morning to all of the expected and traditional delights of the day. Carefully wrapped cellophane covered Easter baskets were always perched on the dining room table each year. Steve and I would peer through the colorful cellophane wrapping to try to see what was waiting for us inside the basket. We were never allowed to unwrap the basket before we went to Mass, however, before we were old enough to receive Holy Communion, Mom would always have some “spare” chocolate Easter eggs to tide us over.

Walking into Holy Name on Easter Sunday was sensory delight. The fragrances of Spring flowers filled the air. Hyacinths, Easter lilies and tulips graced every altar in the church. Combined with the sometimes “over-the-top” hats that the ladies would wear, the church was alive with color. The pews were packed and the celebration of Easter Mass was truly inspiring. I can still picture it all to this day. Once we returned home from Mass, the events of Volk Family traditions took effect and our day continued to hold one adventure after another that was shared with our entire extended family of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. These are memories I will never forget!

The following are random images that might conjure up some Easter time memories for you, followed by a synopsis of the history and the rites of Holy Week.

To all of my Duquesne and Hunky friends, Have a Wonderful Easter Holiday!!


Holy Name Altar


HT Church 60s


 The Rites of Holy Week – Wikipedia

Holy Week in Latin Rite Catholicism 

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)

Holy Week begins with what in the Roman Rite is now called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Before 1955 it was known simply as Palm Sunday, and the preceding Sunday as Passion Sunday. From 1955 to 1971 it was called Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday.

 To commemorate the entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem, to accomplish his paschal mystery, it is customary to have before Mass a blessing of palm leaves (or other branches, for example olive branches). The blessing ceremony, preferably held outside the church includes the reading of a Gospel account of how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, reminiscent of a Davidic victory procession, and how people placed palms on the ground in front of him. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the entering of Jesus into Jerusalemé, he begins his journey to the cross. This is followed by a procession or solemn entrance into the church, with the participants holding the blessed branches in their hands.

 The Mass itself includes a reading of the Passion, the narrative of Jesus’ capture, sufferings and death, as recounted in one of the Synoptic Gospels.

 Before the reform of the rite by Pope Pius XI, the blessing of the palms occurred inside the church within a service that followed the general outline of a Mass, with Collect, Epistle and Gospel, as far as the Sanctus. The palms were then blessed with five prayers, and a procession went out of the church and on its return included a ceremony for the reopening of the doors, which had meantime been shut. After this the normal Mass was celebrated. 

Monday to Wednesday

The days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are known as Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday. The Gospels of these days recount events not all of which occurred on the corresponding days between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Monday Gospel tells of the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which occurred before the Palm Sunday event described in John 12:12-19.

 The Chrism Mass, whose texts the Roman Missal now gives under Holy Thursday, may be brought forward to one of these days, to facilitate participation by as many as possible of the clergy of the diocese together with the bishop. This Mass was not included in editions of the Roman Missal before the time of Pope Pius XII. In this Mass the bishop blesses separate oils for the sick (used in Anointing of the Sick), for catechumens (used in Baptism) and chrism (used in Baptism, but especially in Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as in rites such as the blessing of an altar and a church).


When the principal services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil were celebrated in the morning, the office of Matins and Lauds of each day was celebrated on the evening of the preceding day in the service known as Tenebrae (Latin, “Darkness”).

Maundy (Holy) Thursday 

Mass of the Lord’s Supper 

On this day the private celebration of Mass is forbidden. Thus, apart from the Chrism Mass for the blessing of the Holy Oils that the diocesan bishop may celebrate on the morning of Holy Thursday, but also on some other day close to Easter, the only Mass on this day is the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which inaugurates the period of three days, known as the Easter Triduum, that includes Good Friday (seen as beginning with the service of the preceding evening), Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday up to evening prayer on that day. 

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his Twelve Apostles, “the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandment of brotherly love that Jesus gave after washing the feet of his disciples.”

 All the bells of the church, including altar bells, may be rung during the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the Mass (the Gloria is not traditionally sung during the entire Lenten season). The bells and the organ then fall silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. In some countries, children are sometimes told: “The bells have flown to Rome.”

The Roman Missal recommends that, if considered pastorally appropriate, the priest should, immediately after the homily, celebrate the rite of washing the feet of an unspecified number of men, customarily twelve, recalling the number of the Apostles.

A sufficient number of hosts are consecrated for use also in the Good Friday service, and at the conclusion the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a place of reposition away from the main body of the church, which, if it involves an altar, is often called an “altar of repose”.

The altars of the church (except the one used for altar of repose) are later stripped quite bare and, to the extent possible, crosses are removed from the church or veiled. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, crucifixes and statues are covered with violet covers during Passion time, but the crucifix covers can be white instead of violet on Holy Thursday.)

Good Friday 

Roman Catholic Christians treat Good Friday as a fast day, which is defined as only having one full meal with, if needed, two small snacks that together do not make a full meal. 

The Catholic Good Friday in the Roman Rite afternoon service involves a series of readings and meditations, as well as the (sung) reading of the Passion account from the Gospel of John which is often read dramatically, with the priest, one or more readers, and the congregation all taking part. In the traditional Latin liturgy, the Passion is read by the priest facing the altar, with three deacons chanting in the sanctuary facing the people. Unlike Roman Catholic services on other days, the Good Friday service is not a Mass, and in fact, celebration of Catholic Mass on Good Friday is forbidden. Eucharist consecrated the night before (Holy Thursday) may be distributed. The cross is presented, with the people given an opportunity to venerate it. The services also include a long series of formal intercessions. The solemnity and somberness of the occasion has led to a phenomenon whereby in the course of history the liturgical provisions have a tendency to persist without substantial modification, even over the centuries. Some churches hold a three-hour mediation from midday, the Three Hours’ Agony. In some countries, such as Malta, Philippines, Italy and Spain, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.

The only sacraments celebrated are Penance and Anointing of the Sick. While there is no celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful only in the Service of the Passion of the Lord, but can be taken at any hour to the sick who are unable to attend this service.

The altar remains completely bare, without texts, candlesticks, or altar cloths.

It is customary to empty the holy water fonts in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil.

The Stations of the Cross are often prayed either in the church or outside.

The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o’clock, but for pastoral reasons a later hour may be chosen.

Since 1970, the color of the vestments is red. Previously it was black. If a bishop celebrates, he wears a plain miter.

‘The liturgy consists of three parts in the Roman Rite: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.

The readings from Isaiah 53 (about the Suffering Servant) and the Epistle to the Hebrews are read. The Passion narrative of the Gospel of John is sung or read, often divided between more than one singer or reader. General Intercessions: The congregation prays for the Church, the Pope, the Jews, non-Christians, unbelievers and others. Veneration of the Cross: A crucifix is solemnly unveiled before the congregation. The people venerate it on their knees. During this part, the “Reproaches” are often sung. Communion service: Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the previous day are distributed to the people. (Before the reform of Pope Pius XII, only the priest received Communion in the framework of what was called the “Mass of the Presanctified”, which included the usual Offertory prayers, with the placing of wine in the chalice, but which omitted the Canon of the Mass.)Even if music is used in the Liturgy, it is not used to open and close the Liturgy, nor is there a formal recessional (closing procession).

It was once customary in some countries, especially England, to place a veiled monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament or a cross in a Holy Sepulchre”.

If crucifixes were covered starting with the next to last Sunday in Lent, they are unveiled without ceremony after the Good Friday service.

Holy Saturday 

Mass is not celebrated on what is liturgically Holy Saturday. The celebration of Easter begins after sundown on what, though still Saturday in the civil calendar, is liturgically Easter Sunday. 

On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.

The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare, until after the solemn Vigil, that is, the anticipation by night of the Resurrection, when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days.

 In some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States, there is provision for a simple liturgy of the word with readings commemorating the burial of Christ.

The tabernacle is left empty and open. The lamp or candle usually situated next to the tabernacle denoting the Presence of Christ is put out, and the remaining Eucharistic Hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday are kept elsewhere, usually the sacristy, with a lamp or candle burning before it, so that, in cases of the danger of death, they may be given as viaticum.

Easter Vigil 

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Easter Vigil, the longest and most solemn of the Catholic Church’s liturgical services, lasting up to three or four hours, consists of four parts:

1. The Service of Light

2. The Liturgy of the Word

3. The Liturgy of Baptism: The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for new members of the Church and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises by the entire congregation.

4. Holy Eucharist


The Liturgy begins after sundown on Holy Saturday as the crowd gathers inside the unlit church. In the darkness (often in a side chapel of the church building or, preferably, outside the church), a new fire is kindled and blessed by the priest. This new fire symbolizes the light of salvation and hope that God brought into the world through Christ’s Resurrection, dispelling the darkness of sin and death. From this fire is lit the Paschal candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the Church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that that Christ is “light and life.”






All baptized Catholics present (i.e. those who have received the “Light of Christ”) receive candles which are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic “Light of Christ” spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is decreased. A deacon, or the priest if there is no deacon, carries the Paschal Candle at the head of the entrance procession and, at three points, stops and chants the proclamation “Light of Christ” or “Christ our Light”, to which the people respond “Thanks be to God.” Once the procession concludes, the deacon or a cantor chants the Exultet (also called the “Easter Proclamation”), and, the church remaining lit only by the people’s candles and the Paschal candle, the people take their seats for the Liturgy of the Word.


The Liturgy of the Word consists of between two and seven readings from the Old Testament. The account of the Exodus is given particular attention in the readings since it is considered to be the Old Testament antetype of Christian salvation. Each reading is followed by a psalm and a prayer relating what has been read in the Old Testament to the Mystery of Christ. After these readings conclude, a fanfare may sound on the organ and additional musical instruments and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung. During this outburst of musical jubilation the congregation’s candles are extinguished, the church lights are turned on, and bells rung while the church’s decorative funnings — altar frontals, the reredos, lectern hangings, processional banners, statues and paintings — which had been stripped or covered during Holy Week, are ceremonially replaced and unveiled and flowers are placed on altars and elsewhere. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, the statues, which have been covered during Passion Time, are unveiled at this time. In some places, the church removes the covering of statues and puts Easter flowers and decorations on the day of Holy Saturday before the Easter Vigil celebration. Also, in the current ritual the lights are turned on after the last proclamation of ‘Christ our Light’.) Members of the congregation may have been encouraged to bring flowers which are also brought forward and placed about the sanctuary and side altars. A reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent (or, in the pre-Vatican II rite, since Septuagesima). The Gospel of the Resurrection then follows, along with a homily.


After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is consecrated and any catechumens or candidates for full communion are initiated into the church, by baptism and/or confirmation, respectively. After the celebration of these sacraments of initiation, the congregation renews their baptismal vows and receives the sprinkling of baptismal water. The general intercessions follow.


After the Liturgy of Baptism, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual. This is the first Mass of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptized receive Holy Communion for the first time. According to the rubrics of the Missal, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.


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8 Responses to Taking the Easy Way

  1. Sarajane Fields says:

    Jim, I really enjoyed your Easter memories. Hope you and your family have blessed Easter.God Bless.

  2. Milly Estochin says:

    Hi Jim,

    Beautifully done!! Hope you continue this site.

    Milly Estochin

  3. Joseph J Kulha says:

    Hi Jim Happy and Blessed Easter to You and Your Family Keep Up The Good work .

  4. Great memories, I use to visit my Aunts and Grandparents every week on Orchard Court in Duquesne, we went to this Church. Way back in the 50″s and early 60″s.

  5. Larry McConnell says:

    Thanks for those Easter memories, Jim, I missed your blogs. I hope you have a safe trip. Take lots of pictures of Duquesne if you can.

  6. Lori Achtzehn says:

    Jimmy, It absolutely amazes me how your remembrances so closely match mine. Down to the thoughts and feelings of the days–even noticing the weather. Its nice to know that someone out there shares the same thoughts as mine. Lori

  7. debriantsofc@aol.com says:

    Thank you for All you do.
    Jim Staton
    Debriants Office Services, Inc
    512 Griffith Rd
    Charlotte, NC 28217
    1-800-279-8161 – Office
    704-527-7712 – Office Fax
    704-258-9089 – Cell

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