Keeping the faith




The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Catholics worship, but clergy, staff and volunteers work hard to help people stay connected. Both electronic and traditional media may also be playing a role in evangelizing those who have not attended Mass in many years.

The Diocese of Greensburg produced “Faith During Crisis: Lord, Have Mercy!” a one-hour broadcast special that aired on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19, on WTAE.

Father Tyler J. Bandura, director of the Office for Priestly Vocations, believes many of the 55,000 people who watched the special could be those taking the first steps on the path to renewed faith.

“Of course, it was many people who are already involved in the church, active and waiting for the day they can return to the pews and be back with the members of their community,” Father Bandura said. “But I also think that 55,000 viewership included so many people who perhaps have strayed from the faith, or who have just not had the opportunity to be a part of a church community, who had that experience on Divine Mercy Sunday. It’s our prayer that will only be the beginning for them to continue to grow in their faith and discover God’s love for them.”  

Father Bandura also hosted a virtual Easter basket blessing on Holy Saturday which premiered on the Diocese of Greensburg Facebook Page. He also wrote about how to conduct your own basket blessing at home in the March edition of The Catholic Accent newspaper.

Theresa Miscik, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew Parish, Crabtree, said it was the first time in 84 years that she couldn’t take her basket to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday.

Her son, Kevin, read about the basket blessing in The Catholic Accent and followed the guidelines for setting up a prayer table. He placed family heirlooms on the table along with the Easter baskets filled with food for Easter Sunday.

The family also tuned into Facebook and watched Father Bandura do the blessing.

“We were so grateful to be able to have our basket blessed on Holy Saturday. This is something that we will never forget,” Theresa said.

Stefanie McCulloch, a parishioner of St. Sebastian Parish, Belle Vernon, was also grateful.

“We have several Easter traditions that have been passed down through many generations,” she said, noting that she learned from her father how to decorate pysanky eggs with wax and dye in the traditional Ukrainian method.

“These eggs are always added to our Easter basket on Holy Saturday. I was so excited to hear that Father Bandura would be doing a virtual basket blessing,” McCulloch said. “I filled my Baba Senko’s basket from the 1930s with our traditional foods and the pysanky, and our tradition continued, which meant a lot to us.”

Other families appreciated the extra time they were able to spend together and draw closer to God.

“For our family, this quarantine has really changed how we look at what is normal, and I’m finding that I’m actually enjoying the new normal of our family,” Christie Smith, a parishioner of St. Barbara Parish, Harrison City, said about her husband, Will, and their teen children Nicholas, Robbie and Grace.

Smith produced a video on how to conduct a home prayer service that is available on the Diocese of Greensburg Facebook page.

“We have spent a lot of time praying together. Doing the family prayer service to be shared online, praying the rosary together and just talking about our relationship with Jesus have been really important to our family,” said Smith, director of youth ministry and special events for the diocese.

She said gathering for streamed Masses on Sundays has been a great comfort.

“There is just something about that live stream from our home parish that really has spoken to all of us. It means something to be a part of that,” Smith said.

“It has just been great to be together as a family. We have walked together outside, and we have been doing service together. My daughter and I have been sewing face masks to give to those who need them. It has been a total blessing for us to have so much time together.”


Christie and Grace Smith make masks; below, Kevin and Theresa Miscik

Stefanie McCulloch’s pysanky eggs


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