Monsignor Ronald Bocian, pastor, offered the Mass in which students of Trinity Academy, located in the Father Walter J. Ciszek Education Center, participated.
"What happened last month 105 years ago?" said Bocian to children gathered Tuesday. "Father Ciszek was born and baptized. Do you see what's standing right in the center aisle in the back? It's a baptismal font, and that is the actual baptismal font that Father Ciszek was baptized in."
Born in Shenandoah on Nov. 4, 1904, Ciszek joined the Jesuits and became the first American ordained in the Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church. Responding to a call by Pope Pius XI for missionaries to the Soviet Union, he entered the communist country under an assumed name. He was captured, held five years in the infamous Lubianka gulag in Moscow and later sent to Siberia. After 23 years in captivity, he was released in a prisoner swap in 1963.
On his return to the United States, he wrote two books, "With God in Russia" and "He Leadeth Me," with co-author the Rev. Daniel Flaherty, S.J.
Ciszek died Dec. 8, 1984, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, at his residence in the John XXIII Center at Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y. Ciszek is buried at the Jesuit Novitiate in Wernersville.
His cause for canonization is being investigated through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown. The Father Walter Ciszek Prayer League is the official organization for the promotion of the cause of canonization of Father Ciszek.
"All his life, especially when he was in prison, Father Walter tried to do God's will," said Bocian to Tuesday's attendees. "And do you know what he finally realized? God wants me at this time, in this place, to do what I am doing, which is doing His will. He realized that all through the time he was in prison. As for me, this is what God wants me to do in this place in Shenandoah, at this time of my life, and that's God's will for me."
An annual tradition observed during Mass on Dec. 8 is to have the religious sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Later in the Mass, Bocian asked the boys in attendance to think about the possibility that they may have a vocation to the priesthood, noting that Ciszek began thinking of his vocation after he turned 13.
"Just ask yourself if it's God's will for me to become a priest like Father Walter," he said.
Link (here) to the Republican Herald
Photo is of the headstone of Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.