Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Historic Milton Parish Welcomes Bishop Timothy Senior for a Pastoral Visit

Shaped like a handbell, Northumberland County stretches up into the far most northwestern portion of the Diocese, some 25 miles south of Williamsport, where the west branch of the Susquehanna meanders along the low bluffs of the old industrial town of Milton. The pre-American Revolution town began as a “milltown” along the river in 1769. Not long after, the Catholic faith became deeply rooted when local families petitioned Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore to furnish priests to celebrate the sacraments in this northern Pennsylvania town. The first Holy Mass was celebrated in 1796 at Boyd’s Mill as President John Adams succeeded President George Washington to become the nascent nation’s second Chief Executive.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, April 21, Bishop Timothy Senior made the journey to Milton to celebrate Holy Mass at St. Joseph Church, which has graced the bluff on Broadway Street in downtown Milton since the original log church tragically burned in 1880. Since 1882, when the current church was built and the cornerstone laid, the rich Catholic tradition has continued to live on in this historic town.

“Having been born in 1960,” Bishop Senior told the faithful with a smile, “I benefitted, I think, from many Chef Boyardee products that formed me during my childhood.” The original Chef Boyardee factory was built by town resident Ettore Boirardi. He died in his late 80s in 1985, and the factory still operates in Milton borough under the Conagra Foods label.

“You have a wonderful community here and a beautiful church,” Bishop Senior said. He was the sole celebrant for the Holy Mass, as longtime pastor Father John Hoke continues to recover from an illness. “Father Hoke will be back to 100 percent soon,” bishop said.

“The power of Christ is enduring love and mercy – it is not wealth or military power…. Power is love, mercy – this is the greatest power in the universe,” Bishop Senior said in his homily. “It is concretely expressed in Jesus, who lays down his life for us as the Good Shepherd so we can see Him face-to-face forever. One day we will see Him face-to-face, but for now we get a glimpse of Him in the Holy Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ.”

“We too see Christ when we see people who have generosity, give of themselves totally for others, and in our proximate relationships when we give of ourselves…. Little by little we are transformed by Him. When we live our faith well, we give others a glimpse of Jesus.”

April 21 was also World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and in his closing remarks Bishop Senior stressed the need for men and women to discern the call to a priestly or religious vocation. “Our world desperately needs love and mercy, and when we recommit to letting the Good Shepherd shine in us, we say to others that we need good shepherds. I hope the thought crosses your mind and you think and discern whether a vocation is for you. We need more yesses in the Church. Please do not be bashful,” Bishop Senior said.

The Milton faithful have been saying yes to the Catholic tradition begun in a humble mill more than 230 years ago.

(Photos by Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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