Getting back to Fr. Ostrowski. . .Renee and I finished our instructions eventually. Fr. Ostrowski was a very kindly, old priest with a very rough exterior. It you didn’t know him, you’d be afraid of him. He had a deep voice and would look at you from over his eyeglasses. . .just like an old professor studying his students. I don’t know how old he was at the time. . .I just knew he must be very holy and I loved that.
I craved anything that seemed even the least bit holy. I loved it. I wanted to be holy just like them. I remember reading the lives of the saints and wanting to be just like them. The more horrible the story, the more I wanted to be like them. . .
Anyway, Fr. Ostrowski would sit behind his desk and talk with Renee and me about the Catholic faith and its doctrines. (actually as a teacher, he was pretty boring with his monotone going on and on frequently interspersed with Um’s and Uh’s) We listened politely and learned our lessons well.
It was a magical time for me because it all happened during my most favorite time of the year, fall and winter. I loved the snow and still do. It gives me a very warm and kind feeling. Almost a protective feeling. I don’t know why or where it comes from, but I still feel it to this day. It may be because someone once told me that winter and snow is the contemplative time of the year because it seems the world around you gets quieter. . .no sounds outside, no racing cars down the street, no screaming kids playing games outside. I have always loved this time of year.
Now Mom and Dad went faithfully to their instructions and each Sunday we would go to two different Masses. Renee and I would go to the early Sunday Mass and come home to watch the younger kids so mom and dad could go to the next Mass. It was so interesting, they did this every week. It was something new for us. I mean, we did go to church, but not all the time, at least not before we became Catholic. We just went to whatever church was in the area in which we lived. (Although I do believe that we went to various churches because my dad had gone to them for money for food or rent. This is something he did on a regular basis. I know because later I will have my Pastor Romig story to tell which proves my theory.)
The time came for our Baptisms. It was very exciting for all of us. We needed godmothers and godfathers. It’s funny the things you remember, but my godfather and mother were Patsy and Julius. I don’t remember their last names. I do remember though that Julius was from Hungary and was a very nice guy. They were related to one of my cousins through marriage. My parents godparents were members of the same family.
It was November 1962 and the big evening was here. We all went to St. Peter’s Church. There was Mom, Dad, Renee and myself along with Tommy. He was the baby. We were baptized that night even though Renee and I had been baptized Lutheran when I was 5 and Renee was 3. Fr. Ostrowski said he had to do it again, “just to make sure”.
Right after our baptisms came our first confessions. I can’t tell you how terrifying that prospect was. But, for the life of me as I look back, I can’t understand why. What could a 9 year old and an 11 year old kid have done to warrant this terror we felt? Well, we felt it. Renee was pretty laid back ~ I think she thought of it as just another interruption in her day. But we did it and new were official ~ well, except for our First Holy Communion. That would come in a month’s time.
We went back to the rectory after the ceremony and my parents had to sign some books. While we waited Fr. Ostrowski went to his personal cupboard and pulled out a box of the most delicious Rum candy I had ever tasted. I thought it was great. Renee thought it was even better because she became a little tipsy on the candy. But, what the heck, it was her baptism day after day! I think Fr. Ostrowski mentioned something like, uh-oh, maybe I shouldn’t have given that to the girls. Too late I thought, but it was good.
Coming next, a lunch with Fr. Ostrowski and our First Holy Communion. . .
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
Congress Places All Retirees At Risk
One Woman’s Opinion
By Sheri de Grom
Congress gave themselves a pay raise yet they haven’t received a satisfactory rating from their employers—the people of the United States in years. Other members of Congress became so discouraged with their inability to accomplish anything in Washington, they gave up and went home.
Meanwhile, Federal employees are watching what’s happening to their retirement plans while having their pay frozen since the beginning of 2011.
Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles received the Holy Spirit. They were given power to heal, to bring people to Jesus, to speak in tongues to evangelize the world that they knew. It was a tremendous moment, one promised by Jesus before His Ascension to the Father.
I’m willing to say that we have all had “Holy Spirit Moments” in our lifetime. I can recall several Holy Spirit Moments in my lifetime. . .
(1) When our father told us we were going to be Catholic after years of going to many other Churches, depending on what neighborhood we lived in, and yes we actually did become Roman Catholic.
(2) One evening when I was ironing, thinking of mom and my other siblings and the desperate situation they were in; they needed to move but had no place to go. She had applied to the city housing authority and was told she was way down on the list. As I was ironing I kept getting the same message in my mind ~ “Tell your mother to pray and ask God for forgiveness for her sins. Tell her to pray and ask God to help her get the housing that she applied for. Tell her to trust and God will provide.” I heard it over and over again. It wouldn’t stop or leave me alone until I made the call and told her to do what I believed God wanted her to do. I kind of felt funny telling her this. I was afraid she would think I had lost my mind. She listened and said, “Ok, I’ll do it”. Once she agreed to do what God wanted her to do that phrase left me and and I was able to complete my ironing that evening.
The next morning, my mother called and said, “You are not going to believe this! I just got a call from the housing authority and they told me they had an apartment for us to live in.” “You were right, I did everything you said I should do and now we have a place to live.”
I was almost speechless!!! I told her that God does hear our prayers. It was an amazing thing to witness.
(3) The 7 months before my double lung transplant seemed as though it was orchestrated by God himself. And I believe it was. My husband retired in February of 2005. This was so very helpful because in April I started my evaluation process to see if I was eligible for a transplant in the first place.
He was available now to take me to doctor appointments and to the hospital for all the testing I would need done. He was able to help me get things done at home since I was on oxygen 24/7. I was on 50ft. of tubing to be able to move from the first floor to the basement. I told my friends that I had a new “leash” on life.
The biggest Holy Spirit Moment came in September 2005 when I got my call for new lungs. I was on the transplant list only 2 weeks to the day. When we arrived at the hospital at 1:30 in the morning we were told to wait in the waiting lounge off from the ER waiting room. The lighting was very dim and there was a man walking toward us through the shadows. When he got to us I recognized him as a priest I had worked for years before. What was so surprising is that I hadn’t seen him in years because he was living in the state of California ~ an entire country away.
The priest didn’t recognize me probably due to the fact that I gained weight from the steroids and I was wearing oxygen. He walked past my husband and I. I told my husband to go outside and bring him back in.
The priest’s name is Eugene B. He walked toward us and I said, “Eugene!” He very cautiously said, “Yeeesss”. I said, “You don’t know who I am do you?”
He answered, “Honey, I don’t know anybody at 1:30 in the morning.” I went on to explain who I was and that I worked for him and finally the recognition came. . .He said, “Sandy, what are you doing here?” I explained I was called for a double lung transplant. His eyes got big and very sweetly took my hands in his, he prayed for me and offered his prayers.” As he was getting ready to leave he said, “I just wish you all the best.” He left and flew back to California.
I knew at that very moment that I would be just fine. I wasn’t scared in the least, I knew that God was going to bring me home to my family, healing and happy
I saw Fr. Eugene 3 years later in my hometown and he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was doing well and thanked him again for his prayers. He then said to me, “You really don’t know why I was there that night”. I answered that I didn’t. He informed me that he had just left the bedside of a friend who had died. I went on to tell him that he walked from death to life that night!!!
Those are just a few of my Holy Spirit Moments. . .I would love to hear from you about your Holy Spirit Moments. . .
May you be blessed by the Holy Spirit this day and for the days and years to come!
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
Your fragrance is light and life to me
You have given me awareness of all the God places in my own heart
so to see the God places in others ~
Grace, you are awareness!
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
When we were living in Dravosburg my father came home one day and declared to the family that we were going to become Catholic. It was 1962. I was eleven and Renee was 9.
Dad didn’t tell us why, he just said it was. I think it was a Holy Spirit moment. My mother apparently didn’t give him an argument because the next thing I knew, Renee and I were told to report to the rectory of St. Peter’s Church in McKeesport after school each day for instructions.
Mom and dad were to go in the evenings while Renee and I watched our siblings, Tommy age 4 and Denise age 2. Renee and I were pretty good babysitters. I mean, we had a lot of practice.
I was very excited about the idea. I can’t explain it, but all of my short life, I wanted to be a Catholic. I had it in my head that one day I would become a nun and a great saint. (Oh the thoughts of children. . .hmmm)
I think I was much more excited about this than Renee. It was the fall and winter of the year and the weather was really cold. I remember waiting and waiting for Renee to show up at the rectory. I’d sit in the hall and Fr. Ostrowski would come out from time to time looking for her. “Um, well. . .where is that Jimbo?” he’d ask (jimbo was his nickname for her). We sometimes would wait for over an hour for her to show. We found out later that she was travelling through the local department store called Misco’s.
Thinking about this move we were about to make, I thought there was no reason that I would want to be Catholic, but somehow the thought of becoming Catholic was a dream come true. No one ever talked about Catholics around us, as far as I know. But the desire had come from somewhere, again, I believe a Holy Spirit moment. I have never regretted it, our move to Catholicism, I just become sad and disillusioned at times. I felt sometimes that the way I look at people and the world didn’t seem to be the way the Pope and the rest of his friends do. This feeling has come and gone from time to time. . .but at the heart of it all I love my Catholic faith. I can’t even begin to think of going elsewhere. My heart was found by a loving and living God. . .much like the Hound of Heaven, we were found and embraced by the immense love of God. I find myself saying, Lord to whom shall I go, for You have the words of everlasting life.
I just remember feeling sometimes that it would be wonderful to be Catholic. It seemed to me that they had it all. I mean, where else could you go and talk to a priest in a little boxlike room, tell him your sins and have them forgiven just like that??? It was the best possible thing to have!
It’s true that all of us mess up from time to time, sometimes REALLY mess up. I thought it was so neat to be able to clean it up with God right now before I die. This way you don’t have to worry that when you die God might not be in a very forgiving or happy mood. (This is my eleven year old mind. . .of course now my beliefs about God’s mood are much better!!! haha) After all when you are trying to oversee a whole world and galaxy at one time, you could get a little crabby.
I thought this was the perfect way to talk to God when he was still in a reasonably good mood. Actually, confession is like writing a letter or using the phone, you get the same results, you just don’t have to worry about looking the person in the face while you do it. That is what I considered to be a bonus.
Part two coming soon. . .i’ll get to the Baptism and Rum Candy next. . .
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
There were many times during our childhood when we were very low on food and money. I think we lived on welfare more than a paycheck. It seemed my dad would move from job to job as often as you would move through grade levels in school.
So you can imagine, there were those instances when creativity in the kitchen was an art form. Dad was very good at making something out of nothing. It was amazing how he could put together a meal from what we thought was “a lot of not much”.
If all you have is potatoes, cheese, bread and baked beans you can actually have a pretty decent meal. He fried the potatoes, heated the baked beans and made very interesting cheese sandwiches. He would take one piece of cheese and place it on a piece of bread. Then he would roll the bread over corner to corner and hold it together with a toothpick, then placed a tray of them in the oven until they were brown, crispy and the cheese was melted. Not bad!!! Although today the cholesterol police would be knocking at our door.
Years ago, before Food Stamps, there was “free food”. If you were on welfare you went to a distribution center and picked up a month’s supply of government surplus food. The amount of food was determined by the number of people in your family. I can tell you that they usually gave you enough to feed your family for 3 months. (Well, maybe not that long, but sometimes I thought I was going to die if I had to eat one more piece of peanut butter bread or cheese.
We did have interesting, fun meals too. In order for us to eat the rice (that they seemed to give an overabundance to everyone) was to color the rice. One morning we would find a bowl of red rice or a bowl of blue rice. How exciting for a kid!
We liked to eat cold rice with milk and sugar, just like breakfast cereal. We never knew what color the rice would be the next morning. My mother wasn’t too excited about it. In fact she told us she was going to puke if she had to look at another bowl of green rice. Not to mention the green mashed potatoes!!! We couldn’t understand how she could feel that way. We thought it was the next best thing to Red Devils Food Cake.
Dad was a good baker (He missed his calling. I think if he wasn’t an alcoholic, a baker would have been a great choice for him). Anyway, he was very good at making Red Devil’s Food Cake. Boy we loved that cake. . .one time we found out what he did with his mistakes. . .
We came down one morning and wondered what was for breakfast. Dad said, “Red Devils Food Cake”. . .we’re thinking, really? for breakfast??? He said sure. I made it last night. He opened the oven and brought out either a big plate or two cake pans, not sure which, and they contained the broken pieces of cake. . .apparently they just didn’t want to cooperate and come out of the cake pans in one piece.
Now, if it just had some icing on it, yeah! Instead we ate it with glasses of cold milk. Cake for breakfast, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!!!
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
It was so cold that January morning; in fact the whole world seemed cold as we stood and watched the pallbearers place the coffin on its bier. We were a small group; mourners in this circus of red-rimmed eyes and pale faces.
Who could really believe what we were witnessing or understand the relief of that young body who struggled through his short life. Would anyone in the years to come truly say that perhaps his death was not so much a tragedy as a welcome release from the pain that lived in him? None of us know the answer, for we struggle through our own pieces of pain and unanswered questions about this life we were given – unbidden and perhaps for some of us – unwanted.
The service had begun and the words of hope, peace, and love and “the world to come” somehow sounded better than we’d ever heard before. We needed to believe that there is a world to come that is all of those things.
As the priest continued the prayers, my younger brother Tim leaned over and tugged on Al’s sleeve. Al was married to our sister Renee and was one of the pallbearers.
“Hey Al”, whispered Tim, “was it heavy? I mean, was it hard to carry?” Al leaned over with a smile on his face and a tear to match and said, “he ain’t heavy Tim, he’s my brother”. “Oh” Tim sighed. That was all he needed to know then.
And so the years began, or should I say the years continued for this family who tried so hard and fell so often. . .a family who stumbled helplessly and hopelessly into the outstretched arm of God’s outrageous mercy and compassion. . .
The road is long, with many a winding turn.
that leads us to who knows where, who knows where.
But, I’m strong, strong enough to carry him. . .
He aint heavy, he’s my brother.
So on we go, his welfare is my concern.
No burden is he to bear, we’ll get there.
And I know he would not encumber me. . .
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness
that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness
of love for one another.
It’s a long, long road from which there is no return.
While we’re on the way to there, why not share?
And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all. . .
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
(Lyrics from: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother ~ Performed by the Hollies)
This is a true story, written in memory of my young brother Tommy who died in January of 1972. l still miss him He was only 14 years old and in the years since we have lost our parents within 18 months of each other and another sibling, Denise at the age of 40 in a car crash in Florida in the year 2000.
Life contains so many wonderful moments of pure joy, grace and happiness. Life also carries within it sadness that can’t be consoled. . .deep painful moments. But through the grace and blessing of our good God we survive, we go on, we become stronger, we become who God wants us to be. . .people of blessing, people who know how to share, to give and receive from others. My prayer for myself and all of you is that we stay open to what God has in store for us. Gratitude for our life is a wonderful prayer to offer and God will pleased with your efforts.
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
In other words ~
God speaks in other words ~
The words of Scripture ~
The words of our works.
God speaks through you ~
God speaks through me.
God speaks in other words. . ..
God speaks through other religions ~
Every person ~
Every search for truth ~
** A book called White Buffalo which I read many years ago, said the Indians said that we are not to make fun of Christian Scriptures or other spiritualities for God speaks in other words.
I believe that God doesn’t just hang out in church waiting for us to show up ~ God hangs out in the “Comfort Inn”, at the Greyhound Bus Station, at the shelters, the prisons, any place where people are, God hangs out.
He hung out in a bar or two in Homestead, Pa. with the St. Francis of Assisi statue that my dad put on the bar next to the cash register. My father told me he had a hard time finding a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. So one day I saw a good size statue in the front window of the St. Vincent de Paul store in our area. I asked my mother-in-law if she could go up and buy it for me. It was all black and stood about a foot tall.
My mother-in-law was in her 70′s at the time I think. Anyway, she called me and told me that she got the statue but that she had a hard time carrying it home in a shopping bag because the statue was made of cement. We both laughed about it.
The next day the St. Francis statue, myself and our 2 toddlers and one infant went to Homestead to see my dad. So imagine me carrying a statue in one arm, an infant in a little infant seat in the other and 2 other little kids each holding on to the pockets in my coat. We marched right into that local bar and put the statue down on the bar. It was the middle of the day. My dad was so thrilled about the statue that he placed it right beside the cash register.
As it turned out some people questioned why he would put St. Francis on the bar, feeling it was inappropriate. My dad then went on to say that it is very appropriate because where else should he be but in a bar. Not another word was spoken. . .
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
My friend is enduring a painful time in her life and it is hard trying to know how to help.
In one sense it is a mourning for a time gone by, a time of loving what you do and enjoying it every single day that you do it. I know it sounds mysterious, but that is all I can be right now.
Answers don’t come easy. . .what to say, what not to say, who to say it to, what to do, what not to do? I feel for her. I have been in similar circumstances where I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place and no matter what I do someone is going to get hurt, a whistle will be blown, a moment in time comes and goes convinced that nothing will come of it or be done.
I was given the following poem by another great friend and I want to share it here. I hope this poem will lift her up and give her a reason to believe that she is worth so much more than even she believes. That no matter what a storm brings or who tosses her around with words that hurt, SHE will persevere!
Arise Woman of God
Rise up, O woman of God
In what He has given you,
The things God has laid on your heart,
Rise up, go forth, and do
Unlock what God has placed within,
The potential you have inside
The world is waiting for your release
To expand your wings and fly
Arise in your God-given gifts
For this is your finest hour
Arise in the Lord’s holy might,
Ignited and empowered
For God is calling you to come forth
To impact this world for Him,
Don’t hold back or limit yourself
Let His power arise within
And take His message to the world
To those that have lost their way,
For you can surely make a difference
If you’d hear His voice and obey
You shall be strengthened in the Lord
As you begin to arise,
Conquering those doubts that pull you down
And believe who you are in Christ
For you shall surely be transformed
As, in you, God increases more
And become a woman of true excellence
Bringing honour to her Lord.
(c) By M. S. Lowndes
This my good friend is who you are ~ don’t ever forget this.
Sandy Ozanich (c)