Parish engages parishioners in a post-pandemic world

Parish engages parishioners in a post-pandemic world

By Paul Paterra


SEWARD – The Mass Father William J. Lechnar celebrated July 20 at Holy Family Parish was a rare occasion in which he didn’t mind if worshipers had to “hop up and run out” of the church.

It was the parish’s first-ever Blue Mass honoring first responders, and the pastor knew many in attendance could be summoned to an emergency situation.

“Many of you gathered here with us have important tasks,” Father Lechnar said during his homily. “You never know when you are called. You never know when you’re going to be needed to help someone in a moment of great need. … It’s an amazing ministry that so many of you are called to.” 

The Blue Mass was one of several activities the parish hosted to engage its parishioners as the COVID-19 pandemic lessens.

The Mass also marked the 44th anniversary of the 1977 Johnstown flood, which resulted in 84 deaths.

Father Lechnar has been involved in the Pennsylvania State Police chaplaincy program for 16 years. He also has worked with a number of local law enforcement agencies.

“I’ve grown to recognize how important it is for those folks to feel that not only are they appreciated, but that people pray for them,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to minister to those who sacrifice in so many ways. I was amazed at how generous and how selfless they were and how difficult those roles are.”

Father Lechnar also invited to the Mass others who are called to emergency situations, such as public utility workers.

First responders were involved in many facets of the Blue Mass. Parishioner Jacob Brown, 19, a member of the Clyde Volunteer Fire Department, served as the cantor.

The Blue Mass was started in Baltimore by Father Thomas Dade, with the first Mass on Sept. 29, 1934 attended by 1,100 police and firemen dressed in blue uniforms.

Since then, the Blue Mass has become a local parish tradition that allows people to celebrate and thank police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service workers, while also praying for their continued protection.

One of the first funerals Father Lechnar presided over, shortly after he was ordained in 1997, was for a state trooper from the Uniontown barracks. He said he was impressed by the outpouring of support.

“There were over 400 state troopers and law enforcement officers from all over, not just Pennsylvania, but from all over the country in attendance,” he said. “It was one of the most challenging funerals that I ever had the opportunity and the blessing to preside over. The procession from the chapel to the cemetery was over two miles long. When you see that, it brings you to tears.”  

After the July 20 Mass, Father Lechnar blessed emergency vehicles at the church, including fire trucks, law enforcement vehicles and ambulances.

“We want to ask God for protection, especially to the vehicles that so many of you rely on for quick and safe transport of your selves to emergencies and others from emergencies to a hospital or other medical care facility,” he said.   

On July 25, nearly 100 parishioners and friends of the parish gathered at the Southern Yankee BBQ & Fish Fry, in Seward, for a summertime celebration of parish life with a Christmas twist.  In addition to outdoor games and activities, people enjoyed wonderful foods, face-painting and sang Christmas Carols.

The parish also held its Summer Faith Day for Youth July 27. There were 14 participants for the retreat, which featured a presentation on “wheat” in the Scriptures by Danielle Cribbs, Parish Life and Ministry Director. The day included Mass, prayer, reflection and time to learn about the church sanctuary, sacred spaces and liturgical items.

Holy Family Parish also will host Pathways, a Diocesan faith formation and mature discipleship program. Sessions are scheduled for September, October, March, April and May.

“People have asked for religious events outside of Mass,” Father Lechnar said. “They asked me to do it and we have provided these things. It was their turn to cooperate and come. They listened and they came.”


Subscribe today!