I have often written about Fr. Dennis, Pastor of Christ the Light of the World, in Duquesne. Fr. Dennis is Pastor for the Holy Name site, the St. Hedwig site, and at the St. Joseph site. In December, 2011 after a visit to Duquesne, I posted the following:
It was 8 a.m. and we headed to Duquesne to the 8:30 Mass at St. Hedwig’s on South 5th Street. It had been drizzling that morning, so the air was filled with the familiar smells of damp fallen leaves on the sidewalks and streets. I parked across from the church on 5th Street underneath one of the majestic sycamores that line the bricked streets. Churchgoers were filing into the church and it reminded me of an idyllic Norman Rockwell illustration from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
St. Hedwig’s is the smaller of the Catholic churches in Duquesne. It offers an intimate setting for all attendees but doesn’t compromise on pure beauty. Even though I grew up in Holy Name Church, I have become very comfortable at St. Hedwig. My dad liked attending mass there and since his death, I have continued to do so as well.
To tell you the truth, it wouldn’t really matter which of the church I went to that Sunday. Since all they all had Fr. Dennis as the celebrant, they all would have been equally inspiring. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to experience attending a mass being conducted by Fr. Dennis Colamarino, you definitely need to do so.
As I sat next to my Aunt Peggy during mass on that 2nd Sunday in Advent, a thought crossed my mind. I realized that the extraordinary sense of belonging, of faith and of reverence that I was feeling was EXACTLY the same as I felt as a child when I first understood what being a Christian and a Catholic was all about. I remember how my parents were so passionate about attending mass and always seemed to be so “connected” to what was occurring. THAT’S what I felt that Sunday morning with Fr. Dennis.
To say that Fr. Dennis is captivating as a celebrant is an understatement. His personality, positive demeanor, style and speaking ability is “over the top” in a very positive way. When you couple his talents with the extraordinary musical talents of the Music Ministry members, Debbie Walters, Ray Judy and Greg Lesko, you have an experience just this side of heaven.
Fr. Dennis’ sermon contained a story about a woman who was nearing the end of her life due to a health issue. She was having a discussion with her priest about her wishes for her eventual funeral. She told her priest that she wanted to be buried in the dress she wore when she was married. The priest indicated that it should not be a problem. She then indicated that she wanted to have the song, On Eagle’s Winds, sung at her funeral. Again, no problem. Her final request took the priest aback however. She told him that she wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand. The woman explained. “My mother once told me a story that I never forgot and I have tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. Here’s her story:
“In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew something better was coming . . . like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!’
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork? Then I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork . . . the best is yet to come.”
What a wonderful way to begin my visit to Duquesne. Thanks Fr. Dennis.
I received some very sad news yesterday from my friend Lou Andriko, whose mother, Betty Andriko, had attended Sunday morning Mass at St. Joe’s. It was the type of news that hits you like a ton of bricks.
“Mom called me and said Fr. Dennis announced at Mass on Sunday morning, April 7th, that he has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, i.e. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with extensive involvement of most of his voluntary motor functions; prognosis is poor, perhaps a 3 yr. survival….
With Bishop’s permission, he plans to remain at Holy Name and minister as long as possible and remain in Duquesne even afterwards until he passes.”
So many of us have been fortunate enough to witness the exuberance of the celebration of Mass with Fr. Dennis. His ability to make the congregation feel involved and joyous about Mass is unparalleled. Many of you moved from Duquesne prior to Fr. Dennis’ arrival, but may have been members of the parish that he currently shepherds or family members who still are part of the congregation. Those of other faiths should take solace in the fact that Fr. Dennis has embraced Duquesne as his home and the entire community as his family.
For those reasons, and countless more, we all need to pull together and inundate our Lord and Savior with thousands of prayers on behalf of Fr. Dennis. We need to create a virtual Duquesne Deluge of prayers petitioning our Father in Heaven to provide strength and healing for Fr. Dennis and those responsible for his care. Together, with a concerted effort, we can provide love, hope and comfort to Fr. Dennis.
I invite all of you to post your thoughts and prayers for Fr. Dennis in the comment section of this post. The love and spirit that each of you have felt and shown for our hometown can certainly be demonstrated now with your prayers and petitions.
In the Sunday bulletin this weekend, Fr. Dennis posted a “Letter from the Pastor’s Desk” that I thought was especially meaningful. In light of the announcement he was about to make and the news that he had received, I found his strength and determination inspiring:
From the Pastor’s Desk – Christ the Light of the World Parish
Posted on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 04:01PM –
1. Throw out the non-essential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. 2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down. If you really need a grouch, there probably are family members who fill that need. 3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Just never let the brain get idle. 4. Enjoy the simple things. When the children are young, that is all that you can afford. When they are in college, that is all you can afford. When they are grown, and you are on retirement, that is all that you can afford. 5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. Laugh so much that you can be tracked in a store by your distinctive laughter. 6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, move on. The only person who is with us our entire lives, is ourselves. 7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it is family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, etc. Your home is a refuge. 8. Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help. 9. Don’t take guilt trips. Go to the mall, the next county, a foreign country, but not guilt. 10. Tell the people you love, that you love them, at every opportunity.
Remember, life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take but measured by what takes our breath away. – Fr. Dennis
In you would like to contact Fr. Dennis, the parish contact information is as follows:
Christ the Light of the World Parish
32 South First Street – Duquesne, PA 15110