Tuesday, July 23, 2024

On the Feast of St. Patrick, Bishop Senior Visits St. Patrick Parish in Trevorton

History runs deep in Trevorton, where the faithful of the town in coal country have been devoutly practicing the faith at St. Patrick Church since the early 1850s, two decades prior to the formation of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Priests would come from Danville and Sunbury to the coal town to celebrate holy Mass in the faithful’s homes in the beginning, until a small church constructed out of mountain stone was built in town. In 1857, St. John Neumann, then the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, made the arduous trek through the mountains to dedicate the church’s cornerstone. Legend has it that, in 1860, Father George Gostenchnigg carried the new bell for the stone church some ten miles from Sunbury for the parishioners of this new parish, named after what would be the patron saint of the entire Diocese of Harrisburg. Sadly, Father Gostenchnigg died a few days after completing the journey, which physically taxed him, succumbing to pneumonia.

Bishop Timothy Senior celebrated Holy Mass at this church on the Feast of St. Patrick, March 17. In his homily, he expressed his joy at being in the “beautiful church” to celebrate Mass with the faithful who have supported the parish for so many years.

“St. Patrick came back to Ireland after being enslaved and banished, to not only share Jesus, but show Jesus to the people,” Bishop Senior said. “People could see Jesus in him because of his heart for the people and his obedience.”

He added, “When we come to know Jesus, we see His love is unconditional, and that love is to be encountered every time we come to the Eucharist…. Lent is the time when we need to find the parts of our hearts to be renewed – Jesus does not need 40 days to renew us, though. We live in a world where selfishness rules. St. Patrick was selfless and showed Jesus to people and people saw Jesus in him. We can do the same.”

After Mass, Franciscan Friar Father Nicholas Spano, pastor, thanked Bishop Senior for visiting the parish and presented the bishop with a monetary gift and spiritual gift for his home’s chapel.

The longest serving pastor of the parish was the beloved Father Aloysius Bleistein, who shepherd his flock from 1902 to 1935. He was responsible for overseeing the building of the current church dedicated by Bishop John Shanahan, third Bishop of Harrisburg, in October of 1927. In the town cemetery to the rear of the church, an impressive memorial marks Father Bleistein’s grave, placed there by his grateful parishioners for his 33 years of priestly devotion to the faithful of Trevorton – a town where coal was first discovered and mined in 1827. Those ancient coal fields can still be seen as you leave the town where devout Catholics have been celebrating their rich faith for nearly 175 years.

(Photos by Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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