Prayerful Preparation for Holy Week

Recently, our parishes took up a collection to benefit the Priests’ Retirement Fund. I want you to know how grateful I am to you and to all our parishes that participated in this collection. Many of you have been very generous to this collection for several years, just as you have been to the national collection which benefits the Retirement Fund for Religious.
As you know, aging can be an expensive and a challenging proposition for us all, and for priests and religious as well. In West Virginia, we have the challenge of supporting our retired priests who are scattered across the entire State, some retiring to their native towns and others moving to Wheeling to live in our Welty Retirement Apartments. But many of you know the difficulty of being able to afford retirement and the care necessary while we age. In that spirit, I do very much appreciate your generosity to our retired priests. I know that many of them live in retirement and are often assisted by former parishioners with many kindnesses, and many of them strive to still be of assistance in retirement, filling in for our parish priests while they are on retreat or at convocations. These retired men remain a vibrant part of our Diocesan life.
This past weekend, I travelled to Morgantown to participate in one of the nicest annual events of our Diocesan Calendar: the Catholic Schools Mass and Awards Dinner. This year’s Mass was on a really beautiful day with a full Church at St. Francis de Sales Parish. From there we went to the Awards, meal with a wonderful program honoring many beautiful students and dedicated adult award recipients. In particular this year, a new award, the Golden Apple, was established for an exemplary Catholic School teacher in our grade schools and in our high schools. Shelly Kraus, a teacher at St. Patrick School in Weston, and Bill Mehle, a teacher at Charleston Catholic High School in Charleston, were the first ever recipients of the Award. I was able to meet these honorees as well as the other student and adult award winners for photographs and in the individual presentations. These events allowed me to see such a great representation of what makes up Catholic Education in our Diocese. It was very inspiring and one of the best events this year, without a doubt.
Now we are in the important weeks of the Lenten Season. This is a time to pray and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and especially his Passion and Resurrection. Many of you are fortunate to have clear images of Christ and his Passion which are great points of meditation and prayer. In your homes and at work with family members, parish communities or alone we need to be mentally with Christ our Savior.
There are many opportunities to prepare ourselves for Holy Week and the celebration of the Pascal Mysteries. I always look forward to this week, gathering with our priests at the Chrism Masses in Charleston and Wheeling, celebrating the great liturgies of the Triduum, and greeting people with great joy at the Easter Sunday Mass. It is during these celebrations that the Church is most truly itself. And I ask you to pray for your Bishop and our Diocese, that we may proclaim the Easter message effectively.
I am very grateful to the priests of our Diocese working in the vineyard of our Parish communities. I sincerely ask for your prayers for them at this time of the year, with so much activity in our parishes. For them, this time of year is both the most sacred and the busiest, as the work with the Elect and Candidates, their catechists and sponsors, with musicians and liturgical ministers, parish volunteers, and so many others to ensure that the liturgies of the Triduum and Easter Sunday are meaningful moments of grace, making the life-giving death and resurrection of Christ present to all who gather in our parishes for prayer, penitence, and praise.
Even in the midst of these joyful preparations, the realities of daily life break in often. We have just lost a wonderful retired priest, Father Edward Bell, who for many years was the Pastor at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Parkersburg and as I write this, I am travelling to St. Francis de Sales Parish in his native Morgantown to celebrate his funeral Mass. There are other priests having serious health problems at this time and they are really in need of your prayers.
Ahead of us is Easter, that moment when Christians around the world celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. I hope that you and your family are blessed with a joyful Easter and that you are surrounded by the people you love and are able to greet each one you meet with happiness that comes from knowing that Christ is Risen indeed.