Friday, April 24, 2020


Chris sent this in for Earth Day (yesterday) and I though to share it with you.

Hi Fr. Valencheck,

I hope this email finds you well.
My name is Chris Payne. I'm a parishioner at St. Sebastian and a biology professor at Malone University in Canton (transferring to Franciscan U in Steubenville in the fall). I've written an earth day reflection to share with my protestant colleagues at Malone, but I thought that maybe it was something you could share via your daily letter (or similar venue) to help brighten some people's days and remind them there's still a beautiful world out there!
(This Apr 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!!)
I'll post it below.
Thanks, and God bless!


Ever take a walk through the forest in the ealive?

arly morning when the forest just feels 
The birds are singing. Nocturnal mammals can be seen scurrying, climbing or flying back to their homes to rest for the day. Flowers begin to open, and the morning throngs begin to wake – chattering with one another and grabbing their early morning bite to eat. Insect wings can be heard warming up and buzzing about as the dew dries in the rising sun, and the army of ants has already begun its work for the day. The trees rustle in the gentle breeze, and the water trickles in the nearby brook. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
But, also, strangely familiar...
Walk outside and down a busy street and you might find similar early morning energy from hustling, bustling, people -- some heading home from their night shift while others are just starting their first cup of coffee. Maybe you catch a glimpse of a child at play or someone deep in morning prayer. The commotion in a bustling suburban home or on a busy farm are not much different than these. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
It’s funny how much we’ve pretended for so long that “our” world is any different from that of the deer or wood thrush. In the forest, everything relies on one another. A beautiful ecology unfolds the more intently you examine the patterns and processes going on all around you...But isn’t the same true in the city? or the farm? So many people leading so many different lives, and yet all somehow interacting with one another. Somehow all part of an amazing ecology – somehow all part of one human family. And yet, we still rely on the organisms and landscapes all around us…
As Christians, we are called to celebrate and rejoice in life! And there’s no better way to do so than through our calling to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). But who is our neighbor?
Truly if we are to envision ourselves in the image of God – who is love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – then we can understand neighbor through the image of family. Not simply through our immediate family, but through intricate layers of family all interacting and reliant on each other: love of parents and siblings, love of classmates, love of co-workers, love of people in our town, love of people in our political party, (love of enemy!), love of our countrymen, love of all human life – love of the entire human family!
Yet, is this enough?
Just as each of these “layers” of family rely on and build from one another (as if concentric circles emanating from the shared love of our Holy and eternally loving Father), they still rely intricately on the complexities of Creation all around us. Somehow, love of family is subsumed in the greater story of God’s life-giving Creation. (And, more mysteriously and gloriously, the entire story of Creation is subsumed in the truth of Easter!). Those early morning walks examining the wondrous forest landscape and the strolls down busy city streets lead us to know that “our world” is in fact a part of an intricate and beautiful Creation that extends beyond our city streets and includes and contains all living things. Our call to love neighbor, then, must surely include love of all of Creation. Just as God’s Son truly loved all of us.
Know that as we advance our fields of ecological, biological, chemical, and physical sciences that we learn every day how our decisions impact those we are called to love. And sometimes – in fact, much of the time – our decisions instead hurt the life that God called us to care for (Gen 1:26, Gen 2:15). Ask yourself: “Do I make my daily decisions and live my life caring about how I impact those I’m called to love? Is my lifestyle promoting the sustainability of life throughout our planet? Do I truly love all life?”
“Isn’t now as good a time to start as any??”
This Earth Day, celebrate family and celebrate life. Give praise for God’s unimaginably complex and glorious Creation! Celebrate the interwoven and intricate ecologies of humankind and the world in which we live. Rejoice in God’s love for all of us, and delight in His calling for us to love neighbor. And most importantly, reflect upon the role you’ve been chosen to play in caring for God’s Creation. Isn’t today a wonderful day to do something about it? Answering the call will surely keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!!

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Yes.  COVID-19 is horrible.  But for the observant, there is good that can come out of it also.

Apparently pollution has been dropping precipitously in major cities around the world to unprecedented levels.  There has been so few car crashes that some insurance companies are giving payment breaks to their customers.  Never have so many dogs been walked so often and so far.  After generations of constantly speeding everything up, much of the world is taking a breath and chilling a little bit.  

It isn’t all gloom and doom although just about everything I read is about the horrible things going on (and there are horrible things going on.)  But if you only focus on the horrible things, you too will feel horrible and why add that to the mix?  It’s like the person alway pointing out how terrible the weather is.  My Dad was like that.  My Mother would always say, “Bill, you live in northeast Ohio.  Learn to enjoy it or you will be miserable and make everyone around you miserable.”  That’s good advice during a pandemic also.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "God is not a symbol of goodness; goodness is a symbol of God."  G. K. Chesterton


Last night we live-streamed Theology on the Rocks from the rectory.  Normally at Tangier's Restaurant, since we can't gather we thought this would be a "bandaid" to see us through until we can all get together again.

Seminarian Intern Ian Kelly and Seminarian Stage Hand Joe Menkhaus wired up the house and directed the chaos.  You would not have had most of these services if it had not been for their forced lab - er - I mean diligent work.
Thank you to everybody who has donated funds and equipment to make these things possible.  You are awesome!

The highlight on screen for me was Fr. Simone's Bongo solo.
If you get a chance to walk, notice that Fr. Pfeiffer NEVER gets distracted which is a feat because . . .
There were ALL KINDS of antics going on!  Seminarians crawling on the floor under cameras shots to fix things, equipment being moved around, dogs, people, conversations all a couple of feet away from the action.   
This morning, Fr. Simone and I were saying that, as much fun as we had last night, we are thankful we don't do this professionally every day.  But we are glad we got to try it.  

Here is the show if you are interested:

Monday, April 20, 2020


So as part of distancing and all that, Fr. Simone, Ian and I have taken on cleaning the rectory.  For the most part it is going well.  We are even getting to some things that have not been touched for awhile.

Although it keeps snowing and freezing outside EVEN THOUGH IT IS THE END OF APRIL, it seemed a good a time as ever to get the shop back out and clean the ashes out of the fireplaces.

It was going well until I hit some larger pieces of burnt wood that clogged the hose. 
I tried clearing it out - shaking the hose, holding it up so that whatever  was in there would come loose.  Then turning it back on it would run for a couple of seconds and then whatever was in there would clog it again.  How do you unclog a shop vac indoors?  Outside I would just swing the hose around until things flew out of it.  Then it hit me! 
I would just move the end of the hose from the VACUUM setting and attach it to the EXHAUST setting.  (Do you see where this is going?)  *BUT* using my great brain, I decided that I would aim the hose into the fireplace so that whatever came out would go into the fireplace and not my room.

And that is what I did. 
At least the first part of that theory was correct.

Friday, April 17, 2020


The Mass begins with the antiphons or opening hymn, not with the Sign of the Cross.  Arriving at the door during the opening hymn doesn’t mean, “Shwew!  We made it in time!  They’re still singing!”  

The opening hymn serves a couple of purposes.  It is more than what a theme song is for a sit com.  Firstly, it is meant to bring the community together.  We have all come from our separate lives and (hopefully) just spend some time in private prayer preparing for Mass.  The opening hymn is what initially draws us together in the same way that singing, “Happy Birthday” at a party or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th inning stretch or Christmas Carols at Christmas time.  

Secondly it serves as the communities first opportunity to worship God as a corporate body.  We are not just singing, we are worshipping - that is why not just any song will do!   For those who don’t sing, they are missing out on worship.  For those who hold back because they think they don’t have a good voice - God gave you that voice - give it back to Him!

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Yes, it is a terrible, tragic thing that we cannot all get to the sacraments.  But there are some things to learn from this.

For example, it just plain isn’t all that unusual.  Think of the brouhaha over the Amazon recently and all that drove some of the issues that came up over the lack of priests.  (I am not advocating for change, just pointing this out.)  It is also the reason the Diocese of Cleveland
sends priests to El Salvador, there just was not enough priests to minister to all the Catholics there!

My family came from the Alps in Slovenia.  Because they lived in the mountains and before there were modern roads and plentiful automobiles and such, they only had Mass twice a year in their church built in the 1700s because that was the only time a priest could make it.

It wasn’t until 1908 that the United States was no longer considered mission territory by Rome.  Before that we heavily relied on clergy from other countries to fill our pulpits!  

Today we getting a taste of what life could be like in the United States again if we do not promote vocations.  Please pray for vocations to the priestly and religious life.  If you are at all feeling pulled by God into such a life, consider speaking with a priest or with the vocation director of you diocese.

Be a solution!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Charity to the deserving is not charity."  from G. K. Chesterton's work, "Heretics"


Some shots from around the parish this past week:

After setting up for spring including our loggia fountain, winter came back:
The church decorated for Easter.
We put up the vexulas (banners) and flags for Easter but took them down by Easter night because we were told to expect strong winds (of course in this bizarre year) that evening.
Rehearsal for one of the Easter Masses.
This was written outside one of the doors in chalk
When you need to a laugh:

Monday, April 13, 2020


It was a challenge trying to put on the Easter Vigil Mass that normally takes about 100 ministers with out only seven people.  On top of that was the extra workload of trying to record and live-stream the event!  The Roman Rite isn't really written for pandemics, stay at home orders, or a dearth of people.  And the priests could only take on a limited number of extra tasks during the liturgy.  That left the remaining FIVE to take up the slack.  Of that number, one was an organist and one was cantor and THEY were in the CHOIR LOFT.  So, in actuality, that left Ian (our seminarian intern), Karen (our sacristan) and Wayne (half our technical team) to do EVERYTHING ELSE!

There were all kinds of behind-the-scenes goings on that, for the most part, I think people missed.  For example, during our rehearsal I realized there wouldn't be a bevy of servers around to pick up the purple material as I stripped it from the Cross on Good Friday.  So I dropped the material on the ground and the cameral followed me to the left of the sanctuary as I put the Cross in the stand and Karen would run out and pick it all up.

Also, I think we were able to hide most of our mistakes.  I had at least two major gaffs at the Easter Vigil that so far nobody has brought to my attention and so, for now, they will remain a mystery to all but me (and I am fine with you letting me live in my fantasy.)

One of Ian's jobs was to make all of the responses.  When we came to the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, his job was to come to the ambo and say, "I do!" when I asked, "Do you reject Satan?"  "And all his works?"  "Do you believe in God the Father," so forth and so on.  And I really wanted the people at home to get into this so I talked it up.
Ian, busy with - well - just about everything else heard that I was beginning the promises and had to come running from the other sacristy which at this point might as well have been in Iowa.
The hallways were crowded with all of the furniture and other things that we weren't using since there were only two of us in the sanctuary and much of the Easter Vigil was cut due to lack of people present.  But Ian was faster than a flying thurible, leaping over prie-dieus, dodging wires, cameras and extra chairs . . . 
He skidded out into the sanctuary, patted his hair and straightened his vestments, and the hardy voice and full lungs was able to shout out . . .

And that is the excitement and drama of live-streamed liturgy.

Great work Ian!

Sunday, April 12, 2020


Easter morning Mass is live-streamed at 9AM with Fr. Simone and the extraordinary for Mass (Latin) at 11AM.  Find it HERE.
 You can also find our Easter Vigil there.

Saw this at the church door yesterday and it touched my heart.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


Tonight begins the Sacred Triduum.  For anybody who may not be aware, St. Sebastian has a YouTube Channel HERE where you can see our Triduum live-streamed.  

One of the things St. Sebastianites will miss out on is our annual setting out of our Passion clock.  I saw one of these online YEARS ago - Fr. Pfeiffer was still here.  (I hope you don't mind that I stole your idea.  If you want credit let me know friends - I'd gladly post it.  Maybe send a picture of yours so I can show how a well done one looks like!)  I found an old, broken clock at a junk store down in Portage Lakes (not too far from our friend at St. Francis de Sales) - $5 - ordered at twenty four hour clock movement - $12 - and spent several days drawing the face.
As you can see, it starts with the Last Supper at 6 o'clock (where 3 o'clock normally is) and goes for twenty four hours until Christ is laid in the sepulcher.
Here is where I would normally write that, because of the Triduum and Easter I might not be posting for a spell (and still might not) but since things are little strange - sometimes busier than every before, sometimes oddly quiet - who know, I might just post again durning this time.

Many blessing on you all!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The smallest movement of pure love is more useful to the Church than all other works put together."  St. John of the Cross


Every day the parish of St. Sebastian sends out a letter to keep you up to date - mostly with what is happening at the parish.  If you do not receive it, send an email to

The cut off time for ordering home flowers is 2:30 today!

Here are some pictures from around the parish this week:

Palm Sunday from the only occupied seat in the house:
Karen kept ALL these plants at her house all during lent and brought them back to help decorate the church!
The Avalos family was walking by the parish and caught this neat photo and sent it in.
Grounds crew volunteers are starting to pop up!
 Alex is edging all of our garden beds (and trying to do so covertly but I caught a picture of him!)
I showed these chalk drawings last week but thought to show them to you from a view from the lower church roof!
A new use for holy water founts.
Fr. E.S. sent this in.  It made me happy and I hope it does you too!

Sunday, April 5, 2020


I commonly tell young men considering the priesthood but had undergraduate studies that appears to them not be much use to the priesthood that, "There is nothing you can learn that God won't find a way to use through you as a priest."  Most of you know that I studied theater (among other things) at the University of Akron - mostly back stage stuff - design, stage managing and such.  I only appeared on stage when people were desperate.  All those skills seem to be serving particularly well however during this time of having to do ministry in different and creative ways.  Just for Palm Sunday alone there was:

The script read through:
 Blocking, rehearsals and production notes:
 The dreaded "Tech Rehearsal"
 We have a stage manager - I mean a seminarian intern - no - a stage manager.
 And then there is the dreaded waiting for the reviews to come in . . .