Strength Finder – Priest survives COVID-19, celebrates 50 years of priesthood




Father Daniel C. Mahoney, pastor of Holy Family Parish, Latrobe, was among the first priests in the Diocese of Greensburg to begin streaming Mass to Facebook when the stay-at-home order was issued by the governor of Pennsylvania.

The veteran pastor had surrounded himself with technologically savvy staffers who married communication with evangelization many years ago.

Father Mahoney is good at identifying and cultivating the strengths of the people around him, which is why Holy Family was able to become a first-adopter of streaming liturgy. But he had no idea how much of his own strength it would take for him to survive the weeks ahead.

It was during one of those early streaming Mass shoots that a wave of dizziness overcame him.

“I felt myself becoming very dizzy, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor,” Father Mahoney said.

After a three-day hospitalization, he was sent home to recover from a diagnosis of COVID-19. It is still unknown how Father Mahoney contracted the virus, which stormed his immune system, confining him to bed for weeks with no appetite or energy. He remembers being so weak that even praying was difficult.

“I tried to talk to God, cry out to God for health and strength,” Father Mahoney said. “I knew I had to get over this, so I asked the Lord for grace and strength to continue to do what He wants me to do.”

A revered priest, Father Mahoney has served 14 different parishes as pastor, administrator or parochial vicar. By many accounts, his leadership style is transformational, working with a group of senior leaders in the parish to identify needed change, then helping them to create and realize a vision with committed parish laypeople. 

“I really try to hand as much of the work as well as the leadership over to the laity, because they are the ones who are going to be here next year and the year after that,” Father Mahoney said. “If it all revolves around me and my gifts and my personality, that means when I leave, it all falls apart. I try to set it up so it has a life of its own.

“We have adopted the Divine Renovation model as a way of organizing our ministries and reaching out to our leaders to help them to lead out of their own strengths,” he said.

As a means of helping leaders to identify the talents God has given them, they use a survey tool called Strength Finders.

“So many people in our parish have strengths and talents, and we want to help them find the best way to use them,” Father Mahoney said.

He is focused on finding new ways for his parishioners to become closer to Jesus. It is a calling he felt from a young age. In fact, he recalls a story from childhood when, as a toddler, he ran up to the altar.

“I guess I knew even back then where I was supposed to be,” said Father Mahoney, a native of Harrisburg.

He speaks fondly of his formative years and the priest who trained him to be an altar server. Father Walter Sempko, who died at the age of 94 in 2017, was the oldest priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg at the time.

“My first Mass with him was a bit of a disaster because the other altar server didn’t show up,” Father Mahoney said. “But we stayed connected over the years, and he became a very good friend to me.

“He also gave first Holy Communion to a young man named Edward Malesic many years ago, who we now know as Bishop Edward C. Malesic,” Father Mahoney said.

Father Mahoney was ordained to the priesthood May 9, 1970, at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg. Despite his own recovery, the coronavirus postponed the public celebration of his Golden Jubilee. But, it didn’t stop hundreds of well-wishers from parading in cars outside his rectory on May 9. Today, Father Mahoney thanks God for all the people along the way who helped him find his own strengths, and he hopes to have a public celebration in the future.

Left, in 1980

Right, 25th anniversary

Father Mahoney with his parents, John and Eileen, at his ordination at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, in 1970.


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