Monday, October 23, 2017


There is a new face in the St. Sebastian rectory.  His name is Archer.  (Get it?)  He is a black lab mix rescue just like Sebastian.  He is on a two week interview to see if he will work out.  Sebastian is going to be 11 this year and it seemed time to have a trainee come in and learn the ropes.

So far he gets along with dogs, children and adults.  He doesn't bark much.  He respects the house rules.  He and Sebastian are getting along.  The staff seems to love him.  The only thing so far is - he's a sneak pooper.

Not so Sebastian.  Everybody can tell when Sebastian is about to do his duty.  He has tell tale signs that go on forever as though he wants the world to know the creation he is about to unveil to the world.
First he takes a funny turn away from the direction we are walking.  Zig zags a couple of times.  And when he finds a tuft of grass (it's aways the same type of landscape - so much so that if you miss him creating, you'll find it by looking at the topography) Then he walks a little more - his hind legs spreading further apart with each step and then, finally, he slooooowly squats like a dainty elephant trying to sit on a small stool and remains that way long enough to read half a page of comics.

Not so Archer!  Most of the time there is no warning.  As he is trotting along it might just squirt out with no warning.  You might miss it but I guarantee you the passing car won't.  From time to time he likes to display his creations on pedestals.  If I didn't see it I wouldn't have believed it.  The other day he backed up against the base of one of the light poles and left a perfect specimen sitting on the elevated cement platform on to which the pole is bolted.  I'm glad I saw it happen because if I hadn't and saw it later I would have though someone was playing a not so funny prank on us.

What in his background before he was found brought about this behavior???  Oh well.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017


The further progress of the crusade is not found in the parish archives, but the results may be witnessed by the impressive rectory which stands to this day.  The mission revival building remains much as it did when it was constructed in 1938 on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the parish though the second story on the west wing, over the garages, is a later addition.

The rectory contained three modest sized suites for priests which consisted of a small sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.  The pastor’s suite was march larger, grander, and more in keeping with the building’s mission revival architecture.  There was also a “Jack and Jill” set of rooms for guests.  Two more bedrooms on the first floor were intended for live in help, a situation that was not at all uncommon in rectories at the time.  This was largely owing to the lack of social security and widows seeking a place to live and to have a source of income.  

The house was set up so that those in the service corridor would not have to pass into the main part of the house and visa versa.  To this day it is difficult to go from the front rooms of the house into the back of the house at night as there are no light switches located by doors heading in this direction as no-one was supposed to pass that way.  A little door is located in what used to be the small dining room through which meals would be passed.  There was a floor buzzer (no longer in existence) that would announce to the kitchen when a course was finished.

The house only contained three offices which suited a parish of the 1930’s.  There was one large office for the pastor, one for the secretary, and a final office which the parochial vicars would share.  This would only become a problem later when a typical parish would have many more employees.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


The fact that we die makes everything more beautiful.”

It took a long time to figure this saying out.  I find that it is true.  The fact that everything has a time limit gives us the impetus to see and experience here and now.  

At my first assignment there was a public garden that I passed all of the time.  I always told myself that one of these days I am going to stop in there and see what all of the fuss is about.  At first the assignment was for five years and I kept thinking, “There will be time later.”  And then when winter hit, “I’ll see it next summer.”  When time was running out I received two extensions which just made me put if off even longer.  Sadly I left the parish without ever seeing those gardens.

Sometimes that happens with love.  After a period of doting, we can take each other for granted.  There is just so much to do and to accomplish, when all of this fussing is passed I will refocus on my spouse, my family, on God.

This happened notably once to me while growing up.  I had a dog named Benny that I loved dearly.  Every time I had a wish to make (shooting star, dandelion, birthday candles) I would wish that he would live forever.  I entered a period of life when I became very busy and our relationship consisted largely of, “Not now dog,” or “Later,” or “Out of my way I don’t want to trip!”  Then one day coming home, he was excited to see me as he always was I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to him for some time.  I immediately fell down on my knees and petted and played with him feeling guilty and happy at the same time now that we were reconnecting.

Dogs aren’t forever.  There time is very limited compared to ours.  That makes the time we spend with them so much more beautiful.  If we face the fact that everything is passing (this beautiful fall) we will really see it and appreciate it.  It will seem more beautiful because we didn’t rush passed it.

These end dates - death - if we face them with the confidence of a true Christian, give us the freedom to remember love is more important that getting that thing done.  He or she won’t be here forever.  You won’t be able to walk forever.  That garden won’t bloom forever.  Stop and smell that rose before the frost.  They are beautiful now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Self sacrifice is always tedious and tiresome.  Faith makes it palatable.  Love makes it a joy."  Archbishop Chaput.

QUOTE II:  "In the land of the deaf, you have to shout."  Flannery O'Conner


My office had the chicken pox.  This is my sister standing in my office as we were trying to figure out how the lights worked for our Autumn Nights Festival at St. Sebastian.
George Bachman provided live music for the event.  Here he is settling in for the evening.  All he needs is a red cap and he could be a garden gnome!
So in dog news . . . St. Sebastian may have a new resident.  His name is Archer.  Thanks to generosity of some parishioners, he may be an additional rectory dog.  Sebastian is going to be 11 in a few months, very old for a lab, but he's doing Okay with the help of modern pharmaceuticals.  My hope is that he will train the new dog to be as great a dog as he is.
He was found in Kentucky and was brought to a lab rescue in Ohio.  He is PAINFULLY skinny - something that should NOT be a problem at the rectory where I have to regularly beg the staff to stop feeding the dog.  He is here for two weeks after which we will need to decide if he is working out or not.  (We've still not heard him bark - maybe he will be a quiet dog like Monsignor over at St. Joe's.)

Ian Kelly, a seminarian from St. Charles came over for a visit yesterday and Archer took to him.

I think Sebastian is handling it Okay although with all the loving going on with the new dog he got depressed and went out back and stuck his head in the ground.

Well, maybe that is not the reason why - but it was funnier that way.

Last night we had Theology on the Rocks at a new location.  The Honorable Daniel Horrigan, Mayor of the City of Akron spoke at Bricco Prime with an OUTRAGEOUS amount of food provided by the restaurant.  There was defiantly more room here.  

 People seemed to like the new digs but it is rather far away from St. Sebastian.
So should we stay???  The next speaker will be Fr. Jim Cosgrove, newly minted priest and classmate to Fr. Simone, Fr. Bearer, and Father Jordan.  Keep an eye out for the location by following Theology on the Rocks on Facebook.
Here are some of the people that make ToR possible:
Here is an excellent video and part of an explanation of why St. Sebastian started the Academy of Culture and Arts for adults and children: (5:49)

Monday, October 16, 2017


Thanks for coming back after having nothing to read for a whole week!  I was on retreat and it didn't seem right to play on the computer while trying to realign myself with God and focusing on remembering that He loves me.

Oh it was horrible.  It went on all night long.  And just as I started feeling like it was all over and all was going to be well and that I could finally fall asleep, my alarm went off.  So now that I was miserable and sore, I was also tired and annoyed.  It is easy for me to slip into feeling sorry for myself in times like that.  

Then I got called away on a couple of anointings, one of them a much younger guy, and both of them were not long for this world.  What's a little soreness and tiredness?

Then the next day everything looked so much better.
Sebastian and I went for a wonderful morning walk on a crisp, colorful fall morning.  We saw three deer in the park who just stood there and looked at us.  A red tail hawk zoomed close over our heads. It was a magical morning.  

In this morning's Gospel Jesus asks why does this generation demand signs?  His love is all around us if we just look.  The fact that you have being is His gift at every moment of your life.  If you can read this, it is a sign of His love for you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I'm not really blogging this week.  I was on a retreat and am taking a break until next week.  HOWEVER, I did want to share with you this:

Don't worry . . . they will have the game on before and after . . . 

Thursday, October 5, 2017


This letter was sent out to the parish “at the request and by order of the Most Reverend Ordinary of the Diocese, Bishop Schrembs.”

“The attempted marriage on Sunday morning in a local Protestant Church before a Protestant minister by a member of a well known family of the parish - an event widely publicized in the society columns of the daily papers - and the formal act of apostasy attendant thereupon, has been the cause of serious public scandal to all and where ever the party concerned is known.”

All those associated with the wedding fell under a decree of excommunication, which could only be lifted by the bishop himself.  In September, however, he lifted the censure, “from all parties concerned except the principal party who by her illicit union remains excommunicated.”


P.K. reminded me that today is Chester A. Author's birthday.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


So a lady calls me who had been trying to get into a religious order out of state.  “I was accepted!” she exclaimed and wanted to come in to see me the next day to talk about it.  To tell the truth, I was excited also.

The next day she comes in and starts balling tears.  Waterfalls.  Like someone accidentally punctured a water tank.  I was mildly confused.  “I thought we were happy and excited about this,” I said.  As it turns out, the gentlemen with whom she was spending time decided that he was serious about loving her and wanted to spend a lot more guaranteed time with her.  So out of the blue he proposed and now she was conflicted.  

“What does God want me to do?  Does He want me to be married or does He want me to be in a religious order?”

“Well, first let’s look on the bright side,” I responded, “It is not as though you are looking at the difference between death row and a life sentence.  This is a choice between two goods!”  (That didn’t help.)

Unlike St. Francis, most people don’t have a dream or hear a voice from God saying, ‘HERE IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO.”  Be glad.  If that happened, you would HAVE to fulfill it or be in serious sin since you would know the will of God and then ignore it!  Most of us are granted MUCH more leeway.

So most of us go through a period of discernment.  Or we should instead of just plowing through life doing the next thing that pops up.  If you want a plan of discernment, there are all kinds of books, tubes and retreats on the matter.  Many times it comes down to making a decision.  Your discernment may leave you with two goods and nights of roiling over “What does God want me to do?”  Here’s the answer (and you may not like it if you are in the roiling process right now.)  Sometimes God wants you to choose and then be faithful to that choice.  Marriage and religious life are two goods.  They were placed before the woman mentioned above like two puppies.  She had to choose one and only one, and then make the decision to give that one puppy all her care.

Sometimes that alone is God’s will.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


This is a post for people who need proof that life isn't fair.
Yes, this is the priest who goes on vacation every year with sole intent to see how much fat and sugar he can consume.  A square meal to him is anything that comes in a box from a fast food restaurant.  A "healthy" meal means forcing himself to down the leaf of lettuce that is served on his triple decker, extra greasy hamburger.
And you KNOW what his doctor told him?  He is as healthy as a horse.

You what my doctor told me?  WHAT HE HAD THE NERVE TO TELL ME?!

Don't mock the Valutime Cheese Curls (may they rest in peace.)  

Friday, September 29, 2017


In the summer of 1936, a mysterious letter was sent out to 300 representative parishioners asking them to come to a meeting in the school assembly room (now the library and computer room). The letter gave no reason for the meetings but stated that it would be explained once they were there.

The meeting was described in a parish newspaper called, “The Local Motive” and featured a charging steam engine on its masthead charging toward the reader.  The people gathered before a speakers table at which sat Father Zwisler and “his able assistant” Fr. Murphy.  The whole audience was “agog with curiosity” waiting for Father to say what the mysterious meeting was about.

The talk began with a review of the remarkable first eight years of the parish, the construction of the beautiful, all-purpose building and the creation of beautiful grounds making St. Sebastian, “the greatest parish in the diocese.”

“‘I did not bring you here just to tell you these things because you already know them yourselves,’ the eloquent speaker stated, ‘but to submit for your consideration two very pressing needs with which we are at present confronted.’”  On top of the list was a need for a rectory.  The current house afforded little privacy for those who were visiting “on sensitive matters,” and was too small.  “The sleeping accommodations are so limited that an extra priest, helping out over weekends, must be lodged in the restroom of the school.”  It was also at good distance from the church, “however, the priests are not complaining.”  He also hoped to have a larger house in order to make it possible for another parochial vicar to be assigned to the parish whose services were sorely needed for the growing community.

Shortly after this time the priests had to move from the house on Roslyn.  The owners of the house wanted to sell the it so a different one was rented at 100 Elmdale.  It was time for the parish to have its own rectory. 

The estimated cost of the rectory would be $30,000.  A second $30,000 was also requested for debt reduction.  Parish debt still stood at a staggering $230,000.  A reduction of $30,000 would cut the yearly interest rate by $1,500.  

The Local Motive declared that the subscription campaign would begin Tuesday, September 8th, 1936 and that it would be “a dignified style of fund-raising sure to please.”  “Give it right away” the paper prompted, “Will you tackle this duty that comes your way with a resolute soul and cheerful - Or hide yourself from the light of day with a shrinking soul and fearful?”

A number of advertisers that bought space in the paper are still with us today: Hummel and Billows Funeral Homes, Grismer’s Catholic Store, and Reiter Dairy.  Other past business supporters are the things of memory such as Ahern’s Florist and Isaly’s Dairy products.

The second issue of the Local Motive reports that the 200 parishioners that Tuesday night had, within one hour, raised $9,710.  A “FLASH!!” appeared as an insert in the paper.  “Will O’Neil and Lon G. Tighe, staunch members of the congregation, unable to attend the meeting last Tuesday night, phoned their regrets to Father Zwisler the following day and authorized him to publish their names for respectively $1,500 and $300, a boost to the 1st week’s total.  Thanks a lot, Bill and Lon, and we hope to see you in the Assembly Room next Tuesday night when we sure will sing the ‘Three Cheers’ song in your honor.”

The help of important investors such as these provided the foundation for a successful campaign which the pastor desperately wanted to succeed.  The Local Motive reported, “Virtually every parish in the diocese and numerous non-Catholic interests of the city, have heard of the crusade’s launching and admiring the courage and common sense of our people, have their eyes focused on the campaign and eagerly await the results of our efforts.  The wonderful reputation established in the past eight years during which “failure” has been an odious word to every parishioner, is at stake in this enterprise and the exceptional pastor in charge of the congregation, with his own record of outstanding achievements, must be supported by every worthwhile member of the congregation.”

It should be noted that Father Zwisler himself is recorded as having given among the third highest level of donation at $500, an amount in today’s money that would still be appreciated as generous.

The third issue of The Local Motive had a “Roll of Honor” that included family names still associated and very much involved in the parish.  Those listed contributed around $250 apiece to bring the total of the first week of the crusade to $14,615.  

One particular gift received special attention in the paper.  It was a pledge for $25 with a $5 down payment made in cash.  The reporter wrote, “Mr. Salvatore Ferrise greeted the director with a smile as he handed over his pledge.  The roar of applause that followed the announcement was significant and greater in volume than that accorded many larger offerings.”  The reason for the cheering was two fold.  The first is that $1 in 1936 was worth about $17 in 2016 dollars.  That means his donation today would be about $425, not an insignificant sum.  But over and above that, it was noted that the Ferrise family had twelve children!  This was truly a sacrifice.

It was announced that at the next meeting, the pastor, “to whom honor is due,” would be so honored.  Donations to the campaign that night would be a tribute to Father’s great work in the parish.  The paper wrote, “Good friends are rare and precious blessings in this world, and once found are not lightly to be ignored.  They are God-given.  Like opportunities, they come seldom, and if not appreciated, disappear among the great things that might have been.

“Father Zwisler is a friend that St. Sebastian’s parish can reckon as genuine and sincere, indeed, beyond the price of pearls.  Knowing him for what he is as a man, and recognizing him as high priest of the Master, no one can help but realize it is a signal honor to share his friendship.”

And they did turn out.  A picture on the front page of the Local Motive showed a standing room only crowd.  The headline screamed, “PARISH SMASHES WAY TO $20,000 MARK AT PASTOR’S MEETING.”  One of the largest gifts came from the school children whose combined gift totaled $1,000. 

It was announced that the next meeting would honor The Rev. John Murphy, the parochial vicar.  On this night he was afforded an opportunity to talk.  He began by saying, “I am reminded of a puritanical Irishman in a crusade like this who objects to the pastor who received contributions without considering their source.  ‘Why Father,’ he said, ‘that $1,000 you just received came from a bootlegger.  It’s tainted money!’  ‘Well,’ the pastor sighed, ‘taint yours and taint mine so why worry?’”

He went on to say, “Father Zwisler is a man determined to make St. Sebastian the finest parish in the diocese, if not the entire state of Ohio.  Already we have the best building viewed from an ornamental and utilitarian standpoint that you can find anywhere.  This is not my opinion alone but that of the numerous critical visitors who come here, sometimes from great distances to inspect it. . . It is one of the finest ecclesial properties in the country. . . We owe (Father Zwisler) much and now, with his call to the parish, to continue this work by a substantial reduction of our debt and the erection of a necessary priest’s house  Everyone should converge to his support.”

The final Local Motive in the parish archives proclaims, “CURATE’S NIGHT SENDS CRUSADE SCORE AMOST TO $26,000.”  Seventy five parishioners added about $6,000 to the crusade in honor to the parochial vicar.  

The meetings themselves seemed to have something of a pep rally atmosphere with humorous stories, rally cries and cheering, and singing.  The reports often mention the pianist who would lead the crusade hymns.  “Promptly at 8 o’clock, Tommy McGovern took his place at the piano and rattled off the tuneful crusade melodies while the seven floor men passed out printed forms and song cards . . . The Notre Dame ditty [caught] the fancy of the audience by its measures  which swelled in a diapason that would have tickled the green-shirted warriors from South Bend.”

By all accounts, the meeting was a success having honored the curate with pledges that would total almost $102,000 in today’s money.  The next meeting, for which we do not have an account, would honor the sisters in the school as well as St. Therese Little Flower.  There was also a talk advertised on the life of the Little Flower with an exhibition of “two remarkable rose petals.”  “NON-CATHOLICS WELCOME.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Lots of great things have been happening at St. Sebastian Parish.  Well - things that I find extremely fascinating and that I am excited about and want to talk about, but there is a limited audience with whom one can share that kind of excitement.

It is possible to share your success stories with your priest friends - especially your classmates and your close associates.  But there is a limit.  There is no doubt that they are happy for you and wish you the best, but as one gentlemen spoke of last week (not clergy) there is that moment when you can see the switch flip behind the eyes of your friends and instead of interest they are now on auto pilot waiting for you to finish or at least taking a breath long enough for them to say, “So what else is happening?”

And really - that is understandable.  I admit to being the same way.  We may be brother priests, and it may be that we are all supposed to pull together to make this Church thing work, but we were unwittingly trained (things are changing now) to make OUR parish and OUR school for which we are responsible as healthy as they can be and unfortunately that inspires a bit of competition.  I think of my classmate down in New Franklin who has seminarians coming out of his ears, who runs some wonderful spiritual programs that perhaps every parish should have, and who is so darn thoughtful that I want to beat him with a stick.  So hearing of his many and varied successes, I start thinking, “Hey you big oaf, why don’t YOU get on the stick and accomplish more like your classmate here?”  That’s when the switch flips behind my eyes, I wait for a break, and then ask, “So what else is going on?” maybe to stop feeling guilty that I am not accomplishing more.


That is where a good dad comes in.  A guy in the parish and I were lamenting the deaths of our fathers.  A good father as a male role model can be The Guy that cheers you on.  There is no competition with Dad.  When you were younger he was already better at everything than you (or at least seemed to be) and when you were older, he’s already moved on to other things and you are not the competition.  Hopefully he sees something of himself in you and so can be proud of your accomplishments and instead of the switch flipping behind the eyes, he can say, “Tell me more.  Then what happened?  That is awesome!”

To those dads who can do this - your sons thank you.  In this way you exemplify The Father and the way He loves His sons and daughters.  We need more male role models like you.  You are more important and awesome than you know - more vital to the mission of Christ than you can realize.

Thanks both dads and those who love us like a dad.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The simple phrase, 'For God so loved the world . . .' would have puzzled an educated pagan.  And the notion that the gods care about how we treat one another would have been dismissed at patently absurd."  from Frank Stark's, "The Rise of Christianity"


Just pictures this week:

Bishop Gries OSB celebrating the first Mass at the Julie Billiart School of St. Sebastian last Friday.
Bishop Perez having Mass at St. Sebastian on Saturday.  Talk about being blessed with two awesome bishops!
As part of receiving permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament at JBSS, the ordinary needs to visit the space.  So after dinner on Saturday, Bishop Perez made a visit to the new chapel.
Sunday was Octoberfest at St. Paul in Akron.  Here is something I thought I would never, ever see:  Fr. Pfeiffer cutting a rug on the dance floor!  Didn't know you had the moves brother!
Fr. Trenta left yesterday to return to studies in Rome.  He wanted Swensons for his farewell meal.  We took this picture and sent it to seminarian David Stavarz, sometimes resident in the St. Sebastian rectory, to encourage him on his soup and salad diet.
Even Sebastian got in on the fun.
Adam sent this two hour video in:

Monday, September 25, 2017


This is not an exaggeration.

At 2:55PM on Tuesday I made the casual remark that, although we have a lot to do, and Bishop Gries  OSB is coming on Friday to have Mass at the Julie Billiart School at St. Sebastian, there are no major events at the parish this weekend so it should be a relatively relaxing weekend for a change.

At 3:00PM I received a phone call.  "Bishop Perez wants to have Mass at St. Sebastian this weekend. Can that be arranged?"

Can it?  Ha!  I was terribly excited to welcome our brand new bishop down to the southern part of his diocese!  How ultimately awesome!  And an honor!

Then the doubts set in.  "Is he coming down because we did something right or because we did something wrong?"  (As it turns out he is going to be visiting every parish as he can and we just happened to have an early pull from the parish jar - but I didn't know that then.)

The rest of the week was a blur of getting ready.  A friend said, "Do you realize that you turn in to your Mother whenever a bishop is coming to St. Sebastian?"  With dread comprehension I knew it to be true.  Cecil B. Demille would have been proud of my pre-production preparations.  One of the best lasting effects have been that now it is Monday morning and things that I have been wanting to have fixed/cleaned in the rectory and church were taken care of for the Bishop's visit and today we enjoy it.

But there are so many things over which one just doesn't have control.  When does the battery in the air conditioner unit in the rectory decide to die?  While the Bishop is here.  When does every "empty" or "full" alarm go off in the rectory?  When the Bishop is here.  Of course.

It was a beautiful things seeing the church packed however.  The only thing that made me nervous was that my cousin Steven, a bit of a prankster, was sitting in the front pew.  And guess what, Bishop Perez likes to walk around when he gives a homily.  Guess where he stood the majority of the time.  In front of Steven who looked at me with his mischievous grin and wiggled his eyebrows.
By and large it was a great pastoral visit by our new shepherd.  The next visit, now that we know how to care and feed the shepherd will be much less stressful.  

Speaking of shepherds, Bishop Roger Gries OSB had the very first Mass at the Julie Billiard School at St. Sebastian, Akron on Friday.  That was much less stressful for the three priests here at St. Sebastian, Fr. Simone, Fr. Trenta and me.  It was more of a challenge for him.  From my years in children's theater I have learned that children are brutally honest.  And the can be like water, flowing in unpredictable places.

Bishop Gries had a wonderful Mass and during part of his homily he went down to speak to the K-2nd grade students.
You know, the best laughs in the world are ones where you are trying your darnedest not to laugh.