Explorer’s Day

Do you feel you are being called to a deeper ministry?  Do you feel that you might be called to ordained ministry?

If so, please consider attending our Explorer’s Day on September 9th at St. Mark’s, Erie.  The program will be offered at no cost and will run from 10:00 AM to 3:15 PM (lunch will be provided).

Explorer’s Day is a program that we run jointly with the Diocese of Western New York. It serves as a day of exploration into ministry and as the entry point to the ordination process.  We hope that, through this program, participants will be able to better discern their call to ministry and make informed decisions about their next steps.

During this day-long program, we will take a look at the different callings and roles of three of the orders in the church: lay, deacon, and priest.  We will do this through theological reflections using the Book of Common Prayer, studying scriptures that show different ways we may be called to ministry, and hearing from representatives of each of the three orders.  We will also explain the details of our respective ordination processes.

We held our first Explorer’s Day in January of this year and had good attendance from both dioceses.  Those that attended found the program very informative and useful in their journeys.  Some chose to enter the ordination process, some discerned that the ordination process wasn’t for them, and some decided that they wanted to continue their prayer and discernment.  Attendance does not mean you are entering the ordination process or that you are locked in to anything.  This program is intended to be what it is titled: a day of exploration for those who feel they may want to go deeper in ministry.

People who believe they may have a call to ordained ministry or a deeper call to lay ministry are encouraged to attend. If you know someone who fits this description, please share this information with them and encourage them to attend.

A couple of notes:  We do require that the priest from the attendee’s congregation accompany him or her, as the clergy will be walking alongside them during this exploration of call.  Also, though you do not have to enter the ordination process after attending this event, attendance at this event is required to enter the ordination process.

To sign up for the event, please contact Valerie Hudson at vhudson@dionwpa.org or 814.456.4203.

‘Courage To Follow A Call’ by Nina Palattella

Nina Palattella is a high school senior blogging about her experience as a Christian. Click here to read Nina’s previous blog posts.

Hello again and welcome to my seventh blog post! I hope that all of you are enjoying the return of spring and the Easter season. Easter is a universal time of joy in the church; although Lent was in my church a necessary and productive period of reflection, I was happy to enter into a multi-week celebration of Christ’s return that includes flowers throughout the church, loud hymns, and unapologetic use of the “alleluia.”

I have another piece of happy news to report—after much stress, research, and careful deliberation, I have decided that I will be attending the Honors College at Kent State University this fall! I made my last visit to another large research university, my second top choice, this past Thursday, and after that I felt I had all the information necessary to make my decision, and I wanted to go to Kent. I am looking forward to being a student of the Honors College and living in a dorm with other kids in that program, and I am excited to begin my studies as an English major under the direction of very competent and enthusiastic faculty. My brother will be around to help me if necessary, but we don’t expect to run into each other all the time, which is most likely a good thing.

12957437_1154559797910014_7548171173434636891_o  Earlier this month, my church had the pleasure of hosting the annual North American Conference of Cathedral Deans; as the name suggests, priests from cathedrals around the continent converge in a different location each year for a long weekend of discussion, prayer, and fellowship. The conference is not usually hosted in locations as humble as Erie, Pennsylvania (think Jerusalem and Hawaii), but the dean of my cathedral made a very convincing argument—the phrase “Rust Belt Chic” was mentioned more than once. I was not present for all the events of the conference, but our congregation was praised many times for their involvement in the entire process, including showing the deans around our (unfortunately cold) city, baking and arranging treats to be served after the Sunday service, and simply being visiting with our guests. My parents spoke repeatedly of the wide variety of friendly, interesting priests whom they had the pleasure of meeting; the deans included people from different generations, genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, reflecting the wide reaches of the bonds and acceptance of Christ, which is a wonderful aspect of the Episcopal church that has always made me proud to be a member.

12321334_564938103673208_5533117079208251553_n At the last gathering of The Vine, the Episcopal youth group in my community, we had the pleasure of having the Very Reverend Miguelina Howell come to speak to us. Rev. Howell currently serves as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, and when she was installed in early 2016 she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected dean of an Episcopal church in the United States. In addition to the short PowerPoint presentation she prepared, Reverend Howell spoke about her experience growing up in the Dominican Republic as well as preaching there and in the US. She told stories about her parents, and spoke very affectionately of her father, who was not formally educated but insisted upon education for his children. She talked about a camp that helps serve the youth of Santo Domingo, which seemed very similar to the church camp that I attend except that it operates year-round, helping better the lives of children who are often very poor and disadvantaged. I admired that she has done so much great work in the country where she grew up, but followed what she felt was her call to serve in the United States. It often takes a great deal of bravery to recognize exactly what our individual call to serve might be, and it requires even more courage to follow it, but great people like Reverend Howell have shown me that it can be done.

After the conference had ended, my dean gave a sermon that tied in the theme of the conference, which focused on the perseverance of faith in times of loss and hope. Cathedrals, he said, are different from regular churches because they are at the heart of the community, both in terms of location and involvement in the lives of the people whom they serve, and the Cathedral of St. Paul is involved in its community through varied efforts such as food pantry, outreach dinners, and special events such as the conference. Christianity, cathedrals, my community and similar communities across the country—each of these has experienced its own form of loss, from declining attendance to declining populations to financial uncertainty. Change is evident in every facet of life, and occasions like this conference give us a multitude of reasons to be hopeful; they show us that our work is appreciated, worth continuing, and far from finished.

Nina Palattella, The Cathedral of St. Paul

Trusting the Call

This is the first in a 3 part series highlighting the stories of the three members of our diocese who will be starting seminary this year.  Click here to see the second installment about Nick Kuchcinski.

1381374_309843139154662_231990307_nNicholas Evancho is a smart young man with a strong faith. He grew up in a single parent home attending the Presbyterian church where his mother was an elder. He began playing the organ at the age of 8 and read the Suma Theologica (the 3000 page compendium by Thomas Aquinas) for fun when he was young. He graduated Valedictorian from his high School in Hamburg, N.Y. and headed off to Grove City College for pre-med. He received a rude awakening and found his faith challenged by the theology at Grove City College. Now, almost 4 years later, he is going to graduate a changed man.

Nicholas is one of three members of our diocese beginning seminary this year, our diocese’s first seminarians since 2010. He has always been interested in religion and was very supported by his mother who took him to church and Sunday School. Nicholas thought about becoming a priest in high school but didn’t think he would actually go through with it. He felt that becoming a doctor was a more financially stable profession. However, the call kept gnawing at him. He continued to play the organ at his home church in New York and continued meeting with the Presbyterian pastor there who made him believe he had what it took to become a priest. It was on a trip to Boston that he attended Trinity Church in Copley Square (a 280 year old Episcopal church) and felt called to become an Episcopalian. This led him to Church of the Epiphany in Grove City and to his own epiphany.

Church of the Epiphany became a refuge for Nicholas. They not only helped him with practical things like rides but they also helped him emotionally. He had a hard time at college and it became a place where he could talk. He often had tea with Epiphany’s deacon, the Rev. Tricia Lavery when life got stressful. “They have given me more than I could have asked,” Nicholas says. He has found a church home there as well. He has played the organ, served as an acolyte, sung in the choir, led morning prayer, and been a Eucharistic Minister and a Eucharistic Visitor. Church of the Epiphany is also where Nicholas found answers to the questions about his faith that were started when he began to attend Grove City College. It “gave me a more loving interpretation of what I always believed.”

It turns out it was only a surprise to himself when he discerned the call to the priesthood.  Looking back he remembers going to graduate school fairs and spending more time talking to the seminaries than to the medical schools. His mother, who Nicholas describes as “the biggest influence in making me believe I could make it to where I am now,” was not surprised at all by this decision. Early on during a bible study at Church of the Epiphany, after a comment Nicholas made, Cheryl Wild (wife of the Rev. Geoff Wild, the vicar at Church of the Epiphany) said, “And thus spoke our next Episcopal priest.” Nicholas remembers thinking she was insane at the time. Then Nicholas attended the diocesan convention during his sophomore year. Getting to meet all the clergy and getting to participate in the church cemented the decision for him.

Nicholas is a changed man: “I finally decided to let my judgment go and trust that the rest would be taken care of.” He no longer needed the notion of financial stability through becoming a doctor. Nicholas will attend Virginia Theological Seminary this fall. He anticipates enjoying the Chapel as well as the tight knit community there, eating and worshiping together every day. He also looks forward to having his faith and views challenged so he can grow and be sure his faith stands up. We too are eager to see the priest Nicholas becomes.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Steady, Diligent, Dedicated Faith

Brian ReidNot all faith journeys are like the Road to Damascus. Most of us do not get knocked off our horse with the blinding light of revelation. Many think that they need this kind of conversion for their faith story to be relevant. Canon Brian Reid has a different understanding. He believes that a slow and steady faith journey can lift you up. His journey is more like the road that the Good Samaritan found himself on when he helped the man beaten by robbers. The road where we do what faith demands of us without expectation of reward or blinding light revelations.

A cradle Episcopalian, Brian Reid was born in Detroit, Michigan, and took what he describes as a “bizarre” path to the priesthood, the type of path that we don’t see all too often these days. He went from high school to college and then straight to seminary and into the priesthood. He says that he knew in high school that he wanted to be a priest but this was not news to his family. “My parents said they knew from when I was little that I would be a priest.”

Brian was deeply formed by his experience in seminary at Nashotah House. He says it didn’t just give him an education, it formed him as a priest: “Nashotah made you know what a community is, how a priest is formed by and forms that community.” He felt that, in the midst of a society that was “experimenting” in the early 1970s, Nashotah grounded him in tradition. The experience of morning and evening prayer every day taught him that life does not have to have “one continuous spiritual high or one continuous spiritual low.” Slow and steady can lift you.

Within 6 months of his first assignment in an inner city church in Detroit, the rector left, essentially leaving Brian in charge. He headed up a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly black neighborhood: “I got to know all sorts of and conditions of people.” After that experience and some supply work, he found himself in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania (then known as the Diocese of Erie). “My mother grew up in DuBois and my aunt who still lived in Pennsylvania pestered the Bishop until he gave me a job.”

And this is where Canon Reid became the guru of Canons. As a young priest in the Diocese in the late 1970s, Father Reid was asked to be part of the Constitutions and Canons Committee. It was an important time for the Diocese as we were figuring out how to combine the Diocesan Council with the Board of Trustees. “Being new, I read the Canons and prepared by thinking about what we might do.” He became at his first Constitution and Canons meeting, and remains still, the Diocese’s go-to expert on the Canons. In fact, when we decided to simplify our structure after Bishop Sean’s consecration Canon Reid produced the first draft. He is humble about his expertise. Around 1980, Canon Reid, took classes at Penn State Behrend and now has the credentials to be a paralegal. “I guess I like the Law,” he says.

And the rest is an almost 40 year history of steady dedication and commitment to faith and to lifting up the people and congregations of this Diocese. Canon Reid has served at Osceola Mills, Houtzdale, Youngsville, Warren, Franklin, Brookville, Emporium, St. Mary’s, Rigeway and DuBois. He also has mentored countless students in his role teaching classes on scripture at the School for Ministry and his role on the Commission on Ministry. He has not only shaped the laws of the Diocese in his role on Constitutions and Canons but has helped guide the Diocese in his role on the Standing Committee. He even taught New Testament Greek in his time at Youngsville!

Canon Reid says that the Diocese is still struggling with the same issues it did when he first arrived, and even from when it first started in 1910, that we feel “small, poor and ignored and we struggle to become church in that context.” He says we will continue to struggle and that one of the glories of the Anglican Communion is what he calls, “Holy Plodding.” “You put one foot in front of the other.” His advice to new clergy is to “remember it is not up to you and it is not your responsibility to save the world but rather to continue plodding along with the task God has given you.”

Some of you may not know that Canon Reid is a pilot and has been since he was a teenager. He owns two planes and has flown to Vegas, Florida, the Bahamas, Northern Michigan, Colorado, Canada and Long Island to name just a few. Flying is a liberating experience for him. His philosophy about flying sounds like good advice for all of us: “You can’t be thinking about what you left on the ground. You have to attend to what you are doing.”

We are thankful for Canon Reid’s dedicated and steady attention to lifting up this Diocese.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

What is my vocation?

Recently, one of the sons of our diocese, Tim Dyer, was ordained to the transitional diaconate. It was a wonderfully vibrant and hope filled day for everyone! Tim’s journey toward the priesthood is not quite complete but it is moving forward and that is a story best told by Tim himself. But his journey began with a deceptively simple question: what is my vocation?

By virtue of our baptism, we all have a vocation. We all have been called by God for ministry in his church. We may be called as lay persons, bishops, priests or deacons. Yes. There are four orders of ministry, not just three. It is unfortunate that when someone feels a call to do more in their life of faith, we tend to assume it is a call to ordained ministry. The truth of the matter is that lay ministry is vital to the life of the church. That said, there is much more to lay ministry than what might first come to mind.

Our catechism defines the ministry of the laity as, “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the church.” BCP p. 855. A key phrase in this definition is ‘according to the gifts given them.’ When we are discerning our vocation, it is important to know that our call will align with the gifts that we have. We may be called to altar guild, hospitality, visiting, praying, supporting mission work. All of it is ministry.

Discerning a call to ministry begins with the individual—either by the one being called or in some cases by a person who sees in someone else a call to such ministry. When the question keeps nagging and won’t be silenced, we need the help of the community (such as the clergy, spiritual directors and/or diocesan staff) to discern the particular nature of that call.

It may be a call to one of the licensed lay ministries. Most of us are familiar with Eucharistic Ministers and Eucharistic Visitors. However, there are others. One can receive training and be licensed as Worship Leaders, Pastoral Leaders, Preachers, Catechists and Evangelists. These licensed lay ministries are integral components of successful congregational ministry, particularly in the case of bi-vocational and non-stipendiary clergy. If you want more information on the training required for these ministries, contact the Diocesan Church Center.

It may well be a call to ordained ministry. Today there are various paths toward ordination. All of our deacons and some of our priests are locally formed in the diocese. They take most of their classes in the diocese and are ordained as non-stipendiary clergy. Some of our priests are formed through attending full time residential seminaries for a period of three years. Still others follow a more hybrid route with some classes being taken locally and some offered through online classes at accredited seminaries.

What is my vocation? It is a question we all need to be asking as we take our baptismal vows seriously. The answer is the journey of a lifetime. Ask Tim.

The Reverend Martha Ishman, Canon for Mission Development and Transition and Vicar of St. James, TitusvilleMartha Ishman