Updates from the Monastery

Monastery Updates 2/4/2023

Dear Friends:

ORDINATION IN PUERTO RICO: I returned last Monday deeply appreciative of having attended the ordination to the priesthood of Fr. Luis Daniel, C.P. The young man who attended with me was very impressed, likewise. It was beautiful. Our Bishop, Neil Tiedemann, was the ordaining Bishop. He delivered a beautiful homily on priesthood. Please pray we will have some more ordinations and here in the USA.

CHANGES IN REGULAR SCHEDULE: We are proud of our tradition dating all the way back to the founding of this monastery in 1853 of daily having a confessor available for clergy, religious and laity. We will continue this service with a slight change. On Wednesdays only, the front door will open at 1:00pm. This allows for our community in the morning hours to have prayer, Mass together, and meetings. So, on Wednesdays, the church will be open as regular. There will only be one Mass on Wednesdays for the people at 12:10pm. A confessor will be available at the front office which will be open from 1 till 5pm that day.

LAUDATO SI - film on March 8 th : Fr. Provincial asked each community to set up a ‘Laudato si team’ that will try to bring some teachings from that encyclical of Pope Francis into practical life in their area. I assembled a small group and have asked them to look into ways where by we can implement some of the Pope’s concerns. We have been meeting for several months and are going to show the film “The Letter” in the retreat house on March 8 th at 7:30pm. We hope this will lead to us looking into projects for protecting the environment. The film is open to everyone. We are hoping to draw some of the many young people who live in our vicinity.

FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE WAS FEB. 2: I had Mass for our Passionist Nuns that day and was touched by this feast. Here’s part of my homily: 

One day in Jerusalem, a mother in her middle teens, accompanied by her somewhat older husband, brings her new born Son to the house of God. They were poor and for the past forty days had grown accustomed to the humblest of lodgings. They carry a pair of captive pigeons, the offering of the poor. As they enter, Mary is not over-awed by the splendor of God’s house. She is at home there. For no son of Israel belonged so completely to God as her Son. For Mary’s Son had no father but his Father in heaven. On this day of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, she presents to God the very best gift she had – her Son – her flesh and blood. Upon entering the House of God, the Infant Jesus is recognized for who He is – ‘The Light of Revelation” and “The Glory of Israel.” Of all the people in God’s house that day, he is recognized by two people advanced in age but alive with wisdom. Simeon who the gospel says  ‘was in the temple filled with the Spirit’ and Anna ‘who was constantly in God’s House worshiping day and night in prayer.’ It is no mere coincidence that Simeon and Anna recognize Christ and rejoice in the presence of Jesus. They are able to do so because they are people of prayer, constantly in the temple, filled with the Spirit, day and night. We are also called to live in the temple, to be temples where God is worshiped. We are called to be people who are prayerful.

If so, we like Simeon and the holy Anna will be people of prayer to whom God will come and who will recognize Christ. Prayer is about God and giving him honor and praise. It is not about us or what we get out of it. When we are faithful to prayer, we live in God’s presence. A change of heart takes place whereby we become more loving. As the poet William Blake wrote: “We are put on earth for a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love.”. When we are faithful to prayer, we have a greater ability to listen to God in the situations of daily life. Simeon and Anna recognized Christ. They were two people of tremendous prayer constantly in the temple. St. Paul of the Cross, a great mystic and man of prayer, said that he saw the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the poor. By prayer, we like Anna and Simeon see and recognize Jesus everywhere."


VOCATION HOLY HOUR - TUESDAY FEB. 7 TH : Join us this Tuesday for an hour of prayer for vocations especially to the Passionists. It is a prayerful hour with beautiful singing, quiet adoration, rosary, benediction and this month we will ask the Passionist Saint, Gabriel Possenti to be with us specially!

IN CHRIST, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

Updates  1/22/2023

DEAR FRIENDS:

POPE FRANCIS PRAISES US CATHOLICS FOR PRO-LIFE WITNESS: Returning from Mass at the Passionist Nuns this past Friday, I was thinking that it was the day of the Right to Life March in Washington. When I was Pastor, we always accompanied the young people from our school and parish. We had Mass and were part of the annual March for Life. It was a beautiful thing and I miss being part of that. I was gladdened to read the message our Pope sent to all the participants in the National Prayer Vigil for Life. Pope Francis said to Americans, he “is deeply grateful for the faithful witness shown publicly over the years by all who promote and defend the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family.” My good friend, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, is now chair of the Bishop’s Pro-Life Committee. He said the most important work lies ahead. It is the work of not only changing laws but of changing hearts.

ORDINATION IN PUERTO RICO: This Thursday, I am flying down to San Juan, Puerto Rico for an ordination to the priesthood of a young Passionist seminarian, Luis Daniel Guivas. He is a member of our Province based in the eastern USA. I have been also talking to a young man interested in becoming a priest in our community. Our Vocation Director asked me to accompany him to Fr. Luis’ ordination. I am honored. I will return Monday. The ordination is Friday at our church of St. Gemma there and his first Mass will be Sunday at his home parish. I return Monday. Pray that God sends us more. St. Paul of the Cross would say: “More. More. Never enough because we have to proclaim the love of Christ Crucified.”

VOCATION HOLY HOUR: We have a beautiful hour of prayer for vocations to the Passionist way of life once a month on a Tuesday. We say the rosary, have some beautiful songs, quiet, and end with benediction. I ask a Passionist saint to accompany us each time. Always on a Tuesday from 7 to 8, St. Gabriel will be with us this month. His beautiful shrine is in our church. It’s the room with all the candles. It was added-on in 1920 the year of his canonization. There were so many people coming here to pray to him. It was enhanced during the renovations with a beautiful new statue of St. Gemma and ceiling paintings copied from those on the ceiling of our first church at Monte Argentario. St. Gabriel is a deeply loved Passionist saint. Didn’t live to be ordained a priest. He loved the Sorrowful Mother. She led him to Jesus and he became a saint.

His Director, Fr. Norbert Casinelli is also up for sainthood. He was still alive when Gabriel was beatified and he spoke to some young Passionists about Gabriel. They asked why were they canonizing this kid? Fr. Norbert said if you knew him you would understand. He loved God so much and the Blessed Mother.

NEW WEDNESDAY SCHEDULE 2/7: Reminder starting Feb. 7 th , there will be a change of schedule on all Wednesdays. One Mass at 12:10. Monastery door open for confession only after 1:00pm. Reasons were all explained last week.

LAUDATO SI: A group to discuss this encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment and care for God’s earth has begun meeting. They are reflecting and thinking of ways the monastery may implement and help others to understand the Pope’s concerns. A date is being chosen for the showing of the film, ‘The Letter,’ which explains the Pope’s message. The date will be finalized this week.

Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

Changes to schedule coming 1/13/23

Dear Friends:

THE PASSIONIST RULE ON DAILY EUCHARIST: St. Paul of the Cross wrote a rule of life for Passionists that we strive to live. It has been updated and edited with the approval of the Pope. Our last revisions were in 1984 and approved by St. John Paul II. In my copy back then, I highlighted #43 which reads: “The Eucharist is central to the life of each community. In so far as possible, we celebrate it together every day as the fundamental action of community life. Our common sharing in the same Body of Christ nourishes the life of our community, constitutes its norm and fosters union among ourselves. For each community, and for each religious, the Eucharist is a divine reality that transforms their lives.”

OUR FR. PROVINCIAL RECOMMENDED TO OUR COMMUNITY: When Fr. Jim O’Shea, our Provincial Superior, visited our community last year, he noted that we had gone down from 17 members to 6. We were trying to maintain all our commitments. He told us to at least once a week have a Mass together.

We did several times on feast days. When Fr. Jim returned recently, he gently reminded me that I had not followed his directive of a weekly Eucharist. The community has met for three weeks and have agreed to implement changes that will enable us to be faithful to our Passionist Rule and the directive from our Provincial. This will affect you and our schedule at the monastery.

Please Note NECESSARY CHANGES: After a number of meetings, we have decided the following effective February 8th :

Wednesdays will be special community days for the vowed Passionist Community; 8am Morning Prayer, 9am Community Mass, 10:00am Community Meeting, 11:00am Adoration of the Bl. Sacrament, 12:00 Lunch, 5:00pm Evening Prayer, 5:50pm Supper.

** On Wednesdays the front door will not open until 1:00pm, Confessions will be available on Wednesdays from 1 – 5pm.

** There will be no 7:30 Morning Mass on Wednesday beginning Feb.7 th (Intentions already taken will be celebrated). The Mass on Wednesday open to the public is at 12:10pm.

** Beginning Feb. 7 th and on Wednesdays the front door will open at 1pm.

Thank you for any adjustments you may have to make.

THANK YOU VOCATION HOLY HOUR: This past week we had a Holy Hour for Vocations. It is always for me a highlight. Andrea and the Cantor, Amy, provided beautiful music. We prayed, adored the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and then asked St. Charles to take care of our community as he did when he was at our monastery at Mt. Argus. Thank you for coming out.

With gratitude, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

Updates from the Monastery 1/8/23

Dear Friends:

HOLY HOUR FOR VOCATIONS TUESDAY: We are set for the Holy Hour at 7pm on January 10th. We are assured of music and it will be a beautiful time of adoration and prayer. Please attend and pray for us that God will bless the Church with religious vocations and remember especially us, Passionists. Each month I pray ahead of time and ask one of our Passionist saints or blesseds to accompany us during that hour. This month I am inviting St. Charles Houben. 

St. Charles Houben was an outstanding Passionist priest. Born in Holland in 1821 to a devout Catholic family of 11 children. He learned of the Passionists while in military service. He applied to our community and was accepted by Bl. Dominic Barberi and pronounced his vows in 1851 in Belgium. After ordination, he was assigned to England where the Passionists had recently opened 3 foundations. In 1856, he was transferred to Ireland to a new monastery being built on the outskirts of Dublin, Mt. Argus. He never mastered the English language and was considered a poor preacher. The Irish people loved him. There were eloquent preachers in the house but all the locals flocked to Fr. Charles for his blessing and confession. Though a Dutchman by birth, he was referred to as Fr. Charles of Mt. Argus. Towards the end of his life, hundreds were coming daily for his blessing and for confessions. He also had the gift of healing and cured many. People came from England, America, Australia and parts of Europe. He couldn’t understand it and would just ask them to pray for “Poor old Charlie.” At his death in 1893, the papers noted that thousands came from all over. They had never seen anything like this. The Rector of Mt. Argus wrote his family: “The people have already declared him a saint.” St. John Paul II declared him Blessed in 1988. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him with 4 others at an outdoor Mass because of the enormous crowds of people on June 3, 2007.

I was part of the Passionist delegation and concelebrated at the mass with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. I remember it began to rain and I was not under the canopy! A great honor even though I got soaked. Let me tell you a little story, I never forgot. At one point, the Fr. General of the Passionists visited all the Passionist Monasteries throughout the world to see how they were doing. His report on Mt. Argus was dreadful. He called it one of the worst Passionist communities he visited. Except for a couple good religious there, it was not what it should be! It’s wonderful when things are perfect, but we are meant to become saints even when they’re not!

OUR WEBSITE HAS A NEW WEBMASTER: We have gotten a new webmaster, Brenda Accurso. She has already put the Mass cards and enrollments online. She has updated material there. Hopefully in a month or two, we will get it all up to date. I think she will do an excellent job.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS BEING HELD: We are having regular Community Meetings here to make adjustments to our schedule and commitments now that we are only 6 in the community. It was easy to fulfill all our commitments and have a regular community life when there were 16 or 18 here. Fr. Provincial told us we need to have a weekly Mass just for the Passionists. We pray and share at that. Our Rule from St. Paul of the Cross calls it: “The fundamental action of community life.” So we have been having weekly meetings and have made some decisions to enhance our living together and adjust to the declining numbers. We hope to have everything in place by February. Basically, we will be adjusting when we open the monastery on Wednesdays and the number of public Masses and when confessions begin that day. We hope Wednesday will be a time of prayer, community Mass and a time we can meet. I will keep you fully informed of the changes that we make.

ORDINATION SCHEDULED IN PUERTO RICO: One of our seminarians, Luis Daniel Guivas, CP will be ordained a Passionist priest. Currently, he serves as Deacon in our New York parish. He will be ordained on Jan. 27 in Puerto Rico at our church, St. Gemma, by our Passionist Bishop, Neil Tiedemann, CP. The assistant Provincial asked if I could attend and bring with me a young man who is interested in joining our community. I will be honored to attend and to bring to the ordination and first Mass there. Pray that God blesses all our work!

In Christ with much gratitude, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P.

Christmas Message

Dear Friends:

A Holy, Blessed and Merry Christmas! This is how much God loves us that He sends His Son as an infant who will 33 years later die on a Cross to prove that love. Jesus is proof of a God that would spare nothing to prove His love. There is nothing we could ever do that would make God love us less! The hands of the little Babe that reach out to us from the manger will become the hands stretched out to us and nailed to the wood of a Cross. They tell us of His love. Some years back as Pastor, I gave as a Christmas present to each of the staff a flat Cross on which was resting the Infant Jesus. I had read in a letter of St. Paul of the Cross written on December 18, 1761 to a person he was directing: “Many years ago I had a picture of the Infant Jesus painted on German paper that had Him sleeping quietly on a cross. Oh! How much that symbol pleased me. …On Christmas you will have the Infant in your heart and be transformed into Him with love. Rest with Him on the crib of the Cross being in union with his heart. Then listen to Mary’s lullaby: “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The second verse is “To work, to suffer and to be silent.” The third verse is: “Do not excuse yourself, do not complain, do not harbor resentment.” What a beautiful Christmas message 2022 from our father and founder, Paul of the Cross. May we strive to follow it and become saints.  

With love and prayers, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

12/16/22

Dear Friends:

After John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus tells his followers to go tell John what they have seen Jesus doing: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead rise and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Jesus tells them He is the One and these things happen when we are with Him. In these last days of Advent, we await the One who never disappoints. We have had enough of politics, war and threats of war, positions and opinions contrary to Christ and the Gospel and to human life, itself. We await the One, who loves us more than we can imagine. The great Cardinal Newman, now a Saint wrote: “God beholds you. God calls you by name. God views you in your day of rejoicing and in your day of sorrow. God sympathizes in your hopes and in your temptations. God hears your voice, the beating of your heart and your very breathing. You do not love yourself better than God loves you.” St. Paul of the Cross tells us: “What God sends is better than anything we could choose for ourselves.” Surrender to His love. He never disappoints. He is always faithful. Come to Me and I will refresh you. He comes under the appearance of bread so He can be with us. The arms that reach out from the wood of the manger are the same arms that reach out from the wood of the Cross. They tell us how much we are loved. He is more anxious to forgive us than we are to be forgiven. There is nothing we could ever do that would make God love us less. Christ wants to lavish us with his love. I want to end this message with my favorite quote from Vatican II: “The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings.” Come Lord Jesus!

Gratefully, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

12/11/22

Dear Friends:

NOVENA OF MASSES: This past week, I had to fill in at the front door more than normal. A few things surprised me. I know many people come in to the confessional all day long. In many places confessions are falling off. Not so here. More men than women come and more young than old. Many people come in or phone in for Mass cards and enrollments. Others call in with prayer requests. That day I helped with answering the phone and manning the office desk, there were nearly 50 requests to enroll people in the Christmas Novena! WOW.

‘LAUDATO Si’TEAM MEETS: Our Provincial, Fr. Jim O’Shea, asked that the Local Superior of each foundation have a team to consider ways of implementing and living Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. He has and will send out some directives. We are a workable small group and had our second meeting and shared a lot of good ideas. Rose Ann Lord is leader and has practical experience. Suggestions were quite good. We are looking into showing the film “The Letter” one night when space is free. Young people especially have been impressed by it. The monastery is surrounded by many younger people.

WE HAVE CANDLES AGAIN: At any given time, you can go to the St. Gabriel shrine which is attached to our church (built in 1920 for St. Gabriel’s canonization). There are always large ruby six day candles burning – at least 125 of them. We were running out of candles because our supplier’s machine had broken down. We were down to our last boxes of candles. Good News! Machine is fixed. Thousands of candles are back in stock as of two days ago! I often turn the lights out at night. That whole shrine room remains brightly lit by about 130 candles before St. Gabriel, St. Gemma, St. Vincent Strambi and St. Therese. Beautiful act of faith, each one!

VAGABOND MISSIONARIES: These are young people who do street ministry to young people. I knew them when I was Pastor in Greenville, N.C., which is one of the areas in our country where they work. They are also in four Pittsburgh locations including Allentown, right near us. I invited them to use our church, gardens, chapel for prayer and sacraments. The young missionaries will be here this Monday for a day of prayer before Christmas. I admire them and am delighted whenever I can talk with them, say Mass, have adoration and confession available. They are generous servants of the Gospel!

GOD LOVES THIS PLACE: Our bookkeeper about a week ago gave me an alert that our operating budget was very low and we need to write some checks. I sent her something I had in reserve and told her not to worry. Since I have been here, I have seen miracles constantly. God loves this place and what we do here. I told her that. Within the past few days, we received several wills and several large benefactions. God takes care of us if we take care of his people and serve them generously with the sacraments and prayer! Thank you for remembering us in your wills.

ORDINATION SCHEDULED: One of our Passionist seminarians, Luis Daniel Guivas, has been approved for ordination this January by the Provincial and his Council. They want to make this a beautiful Passionist celebration. His family is in Puerto Rico. He will be ordained there. I got a call from our headquarters asking if I would attend and bring a candidate with whom I have been meeting. I had not planned on attending. However, I must be obedient to my Superiors. Yeah! Yeah! What an honor.

Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

12/5/22

Dear Friends:

HOLY HOUR FOR VOCATIONS TUES. DEC. 6TH:  This coming Tuesday night is our monthly Holy Hour for Vocations. It is one of my favorite nights of the month. It’s a night to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and to ask him to send young people to continue the charism and work of St. Paul of the Cross in the Church. This Tuesday 7pm to 8pm. We simply expose the Blessed Sacrament. We say the rosary. Pray in silence for vocations, especially Passionists. I carry the monstrance through the church and pray over each one. We have a cantor and organist who provide beautiful music. We call upon a particular Passionist saint or Blessed to accompany us and to beg God to send us Passionists who will proclaim the love of Christ Crucified – priests, brothers, nuns, sisters. We end with benediction. I always leave assured that God hears us. When I was a Pastor in the North Carolina, we received a new Bishop. He announced that every parish was to have a monthly Holy Hour for vocations. The diocese always had 2 or 3 seminarians studying for priesthood. After the Holy Hours started, after a year or two, we were praying for our 20 or so seminarians. I know God will hear our prayers. The Passionist Nuns are having inquiries and we pray for them, too. Please come out this Tuesday. I have invited Blessed Bernard Silvestrelli, CP to accompany us. He was a classmate of St. Gabriel, Superior General of our community for many years, the first General to visit the Passionists in the USA and a visitor to this Monastery. He is only a step away from canonization. I am sure he will assist us. Come out and let us send our prayers and Jesus will not disappoint! All are welcome.

FR. VINCENT SEGOTTA, C.P.   We received word from our Community in Jamaica, NY that Fr. Vincent had died during the night on Dec. 2nd. He was 81. Many of you often ask for him as he had been assigned to the Pittsburgh community for many years. He left here not long before I arrived. Often people ask: “How is Fr. Vincent doing?” Lately, we had to tell them that he was quite sick with cancer. I had not lived with him as a Passionist. But I knew him when I was a young boy. We were both from Jersey City and the same parish, Sacred Heart. In fact, he lived right around the corner from us. I remember his mother, Rose, and his father drove a big truck. Vinnie had three sisters that called him “Brother.” They would often be looking for him and would ask; “Did you see, Brother?” The answer inevitably was: “Yes. He was walking up the block to church and had a prayer book!” He was in the choir and loved singing, a short man with a exceptionally strong voice. He was also an altar boy and taught me to be one. Our paths didn’t cross much as Passionists. I hope they will in the future because I’m sure he’s with God singing his heart out about God’s goodness.

WEB SITE IS FINALLY BEING REVAMPED:  We will have a special part of the site for our enrollments and remembrance cards and purgatorials. This bulletin message will also be posted. It is being revamped as you read this. Pass words and pay pal and all sorts of things will be worked out. Rome wasn’t built in a day but it didn’t take as long as our website!

With much gratitude and appreciation, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector

11/27/22

Dear Friends:

THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION: We had a beautiful well-attended Mass at 9:30 on Thanksgiving Day. We are still not back to pre-pandemic attendance but it appears some services are picking up. The usual collection for the food bank brought in a goodly amount of food. The offerings received will also go to supplying food for those in need. Thank you very much.

FOOD BANK AND DOOR MINISTRY: These are two of our ministries that go back to the founders of this monastery. Every Friday we open our food bank, under the direction of Peg and Tom Donley and a number of volunteers, and are able to assist a large number of local families with food and groceries. St. Paul of the Cross had directed our brothers to always put aside some food for the poor. He also called our monasteries: ‘refugium peccatorum,’ the refuge for sinners. In following that directive, we have the sacrament of penance available everyday from 9 till 5 with the exception of Sundays. We have done this from the very beginning of this monastery and hope to be able to continue it in the future. 

DECEMBER HOLY HOUR – ADORATION FOR VOCATIONS: Our monthly hour of adoration for vocations will be Tuesday, Dec. 6th. We will have rosary, benediction and beautiful music. I am asking Bl. Bernard Silvestrelli, CP to accompany us that hour. He was General of the Passionists for 25 years and died in 1911 after a bad fall. He was known for his holiness. Our community grew and expanded to many countries under his holy leadership. A classmate of St. Gabriel, he was the first General to come to the United States. He led a Provincial Chapter here in Pittsburgh. We ill invite him to come to this church again and ask God for more Passionist priests, brothers, nuns and sisters.  

LAUDATO SI COMMITTEE: This group which our Provincial directed be established will meet on Monday, Dec. 5th at 6:30 in the heritage room. Susan Lord agreed to lead us. With directions from Fr. Jim, we hope to develop this group into an active body that will help us better appreciate and preserve God’s gifts of our earth and environment.

THANK YOU NOTES FOR MY JUBILEE: I had a wonderful jubilee celebration. I have not yet been able to send out thank-you notes. Please be patient and know I am very conscious of your kindness and appreciative and intend to thank each and everyone.

RECENT DEATHS OF BENEFACTORS: Recently, three of our loyal friends and benefactors died. We remember them specially in our prayers. The Rector says Masses each month for our benefactors deceased. I want to express our gratitude to these three who were so good to us for many years. Sylvester ‘Jake’ Kramer, 97, died Nov. 19, Rita Kasicky, 93, died Nov. 20, Mary Stromple, 91, died Nov. 22

ADVENT IS HERE: Caryl Houselander wrote this, my favorite Advent reflection: “For nine months Christ grew in His mother’s body. By His own will she formed Him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave Him herself. Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers. His flesh and blood. From her humanity she gave Him His humanity. Walking the streets of Nazareth to do her shopping, to visit her friends, she set His feet on the path of Jerusalem. Washing, weaving, kneading, sweeping, her hands prepared His hands for the nails. Every beat of her heart gave Him His heart to love with, His heart to be broken by love.”  - from ‘The Reed of God.’

With much gratitude,  FR. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector