Updates from the Monastery
Monastery Updates 2/18/2023
OUR WEBSITE: www.stpaulofthecrossmonastery.com is being taken care of by a new person. She is a young mother of three, a musician and teacher. I met her and her husband in North Carolina. The family visited me here in Pittsburgh a year ago. Her husband was raving about her work for his music and website. They are both faithful Catholics. I have hopes she will help us make our website more user friendly.
ENROLLMENTS & PURGATORIALS ARE NOW ON LINE: One of the first things the web master did was to put our Mass cards and Enrollments on line. You can now select, order and pay for them on line. That will help the financial viability of this house. It is a huge place with insurance bills and all sorts of things that need to be paid for promptly. We depend solely on free will offerings, bequests, the enrollments, offerings that come from the candles at the shrine etc.
LAUDATO SI GROUP MEETS: The group that planned the showing of the film on the Pope’s encyclical on the care of God’s earth meets this week to plan. We would like to expand and do some concrete actions and projects. We have beautiful acres of property. I am hoping we can use them more for prayer and appreciating God’s gifts. The Passionist Community will be meeting this week on Wednesday and this will be one of the items of discussion. The Laudato si group is open to hear from you.
ST. MAR1A GORETTI SHRINE: A beautiful addition to our church was adding the shrine to St. Maria Goretti. Her fidelity to Christ no matter what the cost is an example for all of us today. Her refusal to offend God by a sexual sin even to the shedding of her blood helps all of us to strive to follow her good example. Maria was stabbed to death for not consenting to sin sexually and died forgiving her attacker. She had been given her first communion and made first penance with Passionist priests. Our community sponsored her canonization. We oversee her shrine in Netuno, Italy where she in entombed. The marble statue in our church is a replica of the one in Corinaldo, Italy where her mother and her repentant attacker are both buried in the back of that church. I want our shrine to be a place where people can pray for strength to be pure, for forgiveness of sins, for healing of wounds, for loving and pure hearts. I am going to have special prayers there where we can pray for these things. Every so many years the relics of Maria are sent on pilgrimage. I am trying to have our church placed on the list. This past year we obtained a relic from her bones and it is in a beautiful reliquary which you see attached to the shrine.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS: I have appreciated very much that you are making the Stations of the Cross on the Friday nights of Lent. We have picked up in numbers. A Passionist Church should be especially a place where we show our love for Jesus Crucified. It is wonderful to remember his love that made Jesus give all for us.
ANNUNCIATION – MARCH 25TH: Next Saturday, is this wonderful feast. The Angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she is to become the Mother of God. Jesus takes flesh in her. Christ the Word is enfleshed in Mary. Gabriel announces to her God’s plan and Mary says “Yes.” She lets God use her. She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. Mary conceives and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The feast is exactly nine months before Christmas. Enjoy this feast. I remember visiting Nazareth and the Basilica of the Annunciation built over what, from the first centuries, was believed to be the home of Mary. There is an altar there that has the words of the Angelus in Latin “Et verbum caro factum est.” And the Word was made flesh. And one other Latin word was added ‘hic’ which means ‘here.’ Wow! Right here. I was with my classmate, Fr. Peter, we asked the sacristan if we could come back and say Mass at 6:30 the next morning. He said he would be here but couldn’t open the church till 7:30 or so. Peter handed him something green and at 6:30am we had a beautiful Mass ‘hic’ right here where Mary became the Mother of God.
Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector
Monastery Updates 3/11/2023
THE MOVIE: “THE LETTER”: The Laudato si committee this past week had a showing of the film “The Letter” at our retreat house. It was well received. The film was exceptionally well done. It presented the goodness and beauty of God’s earth and the care that must be given this gift. It was all based on Pope Francis’ Encyclical letter, ‘Laudato si’. We didn’t know how many or if any would come. About 26 people came. The committee that organized the presentation was pleased. We will meet on March 28th. At that time, we will make decisions of how to gather together and how to implement some of the Holy Father’s thinking.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS: I thank those who are coming out at 7pm Fridays in Lent. We recall the Way Jesus walked to Calvary. It is a beautiful custom and I invite you to join us.
FR. THEODORE FOLEY: This past week we reprinted Fr. Theodore Foley leaflets. People are praying to him. We have in the back of the church near his tomb two stands with books on them. In the one book, is recorded favors requested through his intercession. In the other, is recorded favors granted through prayers to him. In the files, there are two cures written up that people felt were miraculous. However, the scrutiny given a “cure” is terribly strict. It has to be miraculous without any doubt. No other explanation can be possible. We are going to relook at one of the cures. The priest in charge of Passionist canonizations lives in Rome, Fr. Masimo Parisi. He is coming over in several weeks for a visit and to interview some living people who knew Fr. Theodore. I think all of Theodore’s writings and papers have been examined. I could see him being declared Venerable before lone. Beatification and canonization require a proven miracle. There is certainly a cult of praying to him here. I know he answers prayers!
VOCATION PROGRAM: The Passionists are offering a program for men interested in priesthood and religious life. It’s for those who are discerning that God is calling them. That means you have already spent time looking at a religious vocation and are considering it. If this would interest you, call Fr. Curtis or myself. We can give further information about that week-end retreat.
ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: This St. Cyril was the Bishop of Jerusalem. He is one of the 37 Doctors of the Church. He is the Doctor of Catechesis. Right after ordination, he was put in charge of instructing adults preparing for Baptism. He received many people into the Church and was a brilliant theologian. He then became Bishop of Jerusalem at a time when a heresy, Arianism, was dividing the church. It denied the divinity of Christ. Cyril was a gentle teacher but got caught up in the heretical controversy that put him at odds with even the emperor. Most of his time as Bishop he was fighting heresy. In the end, the Arians lost and the Council of the Church defined the true faith using Cyril’s words and definitions. He was exiled three times and excluded from his diocese for over 16 years. In the end, the Council of Constantinople backed Cyril and his wording of the Creed was accepted by all as the true faith. “I believe in one God…and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.” People died for those words. The Holy Spirit speaking through the gentle St. Cyril kept us faithful to the truth. Here is a beautiful quote from him: “We proclaim the Crucified and devils quake. So don’t be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. Openly seal it on your forehead that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away.”
Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P.
Monastery Updates 3/4/23
STATIONS OF THE CROSS: On the Friday nights during Lent, we have the Stations of the Cross at 7pm. It is a beautiful tradition, the Way of the Cross. We think of Jesus as he made his way through Jerusalem carrying his Cross to his place of execution, Calvary, outside the city walls. St. Jerome, the great biblical scholar and Doctor of the Church, lived in Bethlehem for the last 35 years of his life. He died in 420. Jerome attests to how crowds of pilgrims in Jerusalem would make the way of the Cross. They would begin where Pilate condemned Jesus and stop and pray at different points, especially where he met his mother, and then end at Jesus’ tomb. This continued for centuries. Indulgences were attached to making this way of the Cross. In the 1300’s, the Franciscans were appointed Guardians of the holy places in Jerusalem and the Way of the Cross. When the Moslems blocked entrance to the Holy Land and pilgrims were prohibited from pilgrimages there, various Popes allowed the erecting of a Way of the Cross in various places and churches throughout the world. In 1742, Pope Clement XII set the number of stations at 14 and allowed every church to erect them inside the church on the walls. That’s how we have come to have the beautiful custom of the Stations of the Cross. We, especially as Passionists, are very happy to remember Jesus great love for us during the way of the Cross. Join us on Friday nights.
HOLY HOUR FOR VOCATIONS: You are also invited to join us this coming Tuesday for an hour of quiet prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life especially the Passionists. It is a time for the rosary and time for adoration and quiet. There are some beautiful songs sung. But mostly, we look at God and he looks at us. It is one of my favorite times of the month. I invite you to come and look upon Jesus and have Him look upon you.
‘THE LETTER’: This is the name of an hour-long film on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the beauty of God’s creation and our care for the gift of the earth. I have not yet seen the film. Everyone who has thinks it is beautiful and helps us understand the mind of Pope Francis as he calls us to cherish and protect God’s gift of the earth. I put together a small committee on the Pope’s letter “Laudato si.” They are sponsoring this showing. I hope you will be able to attend. We are looking for ways to open our beautiful gardens for prayer a little more. This committee hopes to implement some of the teachings of Laudato si. Please come on this Wednesday, March 8 at 7:30pm in the retreat house. We are having some light refreshments afterwards. If you are able to come, it would help us if you called in.
RETREAT HOUSE PROGRAMS: Frs. Gerald and Curtis have been conducting the week-end retreats here and I am hearing so many good things about the programs they are offering. During covid many things closed down. People stopped coming to church and to retreats. Everything is starting to pick up a bit including the retreats. Besides the week-end retreats, during Lent the retreat house is offering Days of recollection and prayer. They are greatly appreciated. If you think you would like some quiet refreshing time with the Lord, these programs are available to you. Thanks for all your help.
Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P.
Monastery Updates 2/25/23
‘LAUDATO SI’ FILM MARCH 8 TH : We have arranged to have a free showing of the film “The Letter” on the message of the Pope’s encyclical on the care of God’s creation at 7:30pm in our retreat house lounge on Wednesday, March 8 th . We have set up a committee headed by Roseann Lord to help understand and implement the Pope’s message on caring for the gift of the earth. We feel this is a way to gather people with practical concerns for the beauty of our earth and how the beautiful acres of our property can be used to bring people closer to God. I am reminded of a beautiful poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “The earth’s crammed with heaven and every bush afire with God. But only he who has eyes takes off his shoes….” Lord, give us eyes to see your presence in the beauty of creation. Please come Wednesday, March 8th . Call in and let us know. We were planning some light refreshments for afterwards and need to know. LENT HAS BEGUN: I had a beautiful experience the first day of Lent. I preached on it at the evening Mass. Trying to figure what to give up for Lent, I was fasting most of Ash Wednesday day for blood work I had in the afternoon. Hungry, I stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home. I ordered a fish sandwich which came with French fires. I wanted to use catsup and thought maybe I should give up things that make food taste better. Anyway, as I was thinking , I saw an older woman employee come over and help a teenager who dropped her fries all over the floor, then help a woman who got angry at a machine that didn’t take her order correctly, then the woman got ketchup for those of us who needed some. She inspired me and I decided I would try to be nicer to people. I thought of Jesus: “It is love I desire and not sacrifice.” Perhaps try to be more kind to people who cross our path and I used the ketchup.
ST. POLYCARP: His feast day was Thursday, the 2 nd day of Lent. He was a martyr and an Apostolic Father – one of the early bishops of our church appointed by one of the Apostles . He led the church in Smyrna. He knew John the Apostle. He spoke on things John had preached and how John preached. He was 86 when a persecution broke out. Polycarp was arrested and sentenced to be martyred for his loyalty to Christ. Asked to deny the Lord, he said; ‘Eighty six years I have served him and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King, who saved me?” They tried to burn him to death but the flames would not touch him. He was stabbed by the executioner. The story of his martyrdom was written and read as one of the Mass reading in the early church.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Every Friday in Lent, we will have the stations of the Cross at 7pm in the church. I will do my best to lead them. Please come out for this simple journey on the Fridays of Lent. It is a beautiful way to remember how much God Loves us. In grammar school in the 7th & 8th grades, I would go to Sacred Heart Church in Jersey City and make the Stations of the Cross. A Passionist priest told me it was a good way to prepare to be a Passionist. Many years after that, as a Passionist priest , I had to clean out a deceased uncle’s apartment. I found a box with old letters. One was from the Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in 1913 to my great grandmother, Filipina Thorne Kerber. It was thanking her for donating three of the Stations of the Cross in memory of the deceased of the Kerber family. It made me think.
VOCATION PROGRAM: Our Province is planning a weekend retreat for those interested in being a Passionist priest or brother. It will be hosted at our retreat house in New York. If you think you might be interested, let Fr. Curtis or myself know and we can talk with you about it and give you further information.
HOLY HOUR FOR VOCATIONS: For March, our Holy Hour will be Tuesday, March 7th. This is one of the events I appreciate most each month. A beautiful quiet hour of prayer, song and silence. In the presence of Jesus, who always hears our prayers. MONASTERY GARDENS: Both the retreat house and monastery are working to beautify our gardens. They are a beautiful place for God’s presence. Any help will be appreciated.
Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P.
Monastery Updates 2/17/2023
THE SOLEMN COMMMEMORATION OF THE PASSION: The Passionists celebrate a feast proper to their community on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. As I write this message to you, it is that day and we are celebrating this feast. It goes all the way back to our founder, St. Paul of the Cross. St. Paul wanted this to be the ‘joyful’ celebration of the mystery of Good Friday focusing on the Passion of Jesus “as the most overwhelming sign of God’s love.” Fr. Thomas Struzzieri, who was assistant superior to Paul, wrote the prayers and got the approval for the feast. Paul leaned on Thomas to get a number of things accomplished. He had connections. It was shortly after this that Fr. Thomas was named the first Passionist Bishop. St. Paul was honored but missed him greatly. Paul said: “Wisdom comes from the wounds of Christ. The Passion contains everything. By gazing on the Cross, we understand God, ourselves, love, the human heart and the heart of God.”
ASH WEDNESDAY: Please note that we are adding extra Masses for Ash Wednesday: 7:30am, 12:10pm, 5:30pm. Ashes will be distributed at those Masses. I remember growing up and how we would do something special for Lent. You would give up candy or sweets or do something special like Mass every day or say the Stations of the Cross. I still think Mass is the best thing to do for Lent. Jesus offers Himself again to the Father. Then He comes to us because He wants to be with us.
THANK YOU - TOM DONLEY: On Saturday, Feb. 11, Tom Donley died surrounded by his family. He was 87. He and his wife, Peggy, had celebrated their 50 th wedding anniversary last year. They have two sons and four grandchildren. As a young man, he had considered a vocation to the Passionists. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he had a 30 year career in the insurance business. After retiring, he reconnected with the Passionists by volunteering at the monastery here on the South Side Slopes. For nearly 25 years, he has been the director of the Monastery’s Food Bank along with his wife, Peggy. They have served Christ faithfully week after week in the needy who come here for food and assistance. He has kept our food bank supplied and cared for the Lord as he comes in the guise of the poor and needy every week. St. John of the Cross, the Carmelite mystic, has a often quoted famous saying: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on Love alone.” I used that quote at Tom’s funeral Mass. All those years of serving God’s needy of helping families with basic sustenance. All the truck loads of food picked up and delivered, week after week, month after month in the heat of summer and the cold of winter and all done for Jesus as he waited on line for help from Tom, Peggy and their cohort of volunteers. I first came to this monastery in August, 1959 for a visit. I had completed my first year of high school seminary with the Passionists at Dunkirk, NY. I wanted to see this monastery where eventually I would come to officially become a Passionist. I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen and holy. Saints were buried in the crypt. It was the first Passionist foundation in the new world. Fr. Gregory Flynn was in charge of the novices. One day we would be one of them hopefully. I was told this monastery was important for two things. Confessions were heard every day except Sunday. People came here for confession. It was a ‘refuge for sinners.’ Secondly, on Fridays the needy came here for food since the very first days of our time in Pittsburgh. Just as Paul of the Cross had wanted: “Always put aside some of your food for the poor.” In a special way, we, Passionists, thank Tom and Peggy Donley for keeping us faithful to our care for the poor. God bless them specially! In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.
Gratefully in Christ, Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Rector
Monastery Updates 2/4/2023
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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