Archive | May 2013

When Hot Dogs Were Fish and First Holy Communion

Shortly after our Baptism and First Confession, Fr. Ostrowski took Renee and me out for lunch to celebrate, AND he did this on his own dime!  I thought that was so terrific that a priest would take so much interest in us kids.  It was an amazing thing to me and Renee.
The place where we went to lunch was in our neighborhood of McKeesport, but after this many years I sure as heck don’t remember the name of the place.  So there we were, with this priest who is telling us to order what we wanted.  WOW!!!  Nobody ever told us we could do that, ever. 
So, as I recall we had something like hot dogs and hamburgers and drinks and fries. . .I believe.  As we were about to say the blessing Fr. Ostrowski remembered something.  He remembered it was Friday!  Now in the Catholic church in the early 60’s Fridays were no-meat days. . .soooo, Fr. Ostrowski said the blessing with us before meals and then blessed the food ~ making the sign of the cross over the food and proclaimed “Fish!”  We all had a good chuckle and went on to eat our food.
The next thing we did was go to a religious articles store.  He wanted to buy us each a Rosary, so he asked us what color we wanted.  After we had chosen the color, he paid for them, blessed them and gave them to us as a gift for our Baptism and First Confessions.  It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for us.
Fr. Ostrowski then began to instruct us on Holy Communion.  He told us about Communion and had us practice how to receive Holy Communion in the rectory.  I have to say I felt kind of funny sticking my tongue out for a priest, communion or no communion.  It was something that you just don’t do.  Besides, I felt kind of embarrassed to do it.  I don’t know how Renee felt about it.
The time had come when instructions were over and First Communion was just around the corner.  We were so excited.  Fr. Ostrowski just told us to pick a Sunday and come to Communion just like everybody else and he will give us Holy Communion.  Mom and Dad were told the same thing.  So we decided on December 23, 1962. . .it was exciting to receive our First Holy Communion just two days before Christmas.  It was for us a big Christmas present.
The day was here!  Renee and I walked to Church and received the Holy Eucharist with everybody else.  No special dress or veil, no notice to the congregation.  It was all very silent.  I’d like to think that the Angels in Heaven were applauding and screaming with joy that day.
I will always remember Fr. Ostrowski with great fondness. . .he was a good man and a great priest.  May God bless him always.
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013

Fr. Ostrowski, Baptism and Rum Candy Part 2

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

Oklahoma Tornado May 20, 2013

Oklahoma Prayers

I want to offer my prayers for all the victims of this horrible tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma yesterday.  I pray not only for those who died, may God rest their souls, but for those left homeless and for the responders who are helping get the debris cleaned up and for the caretakers, who are there to offer comfort and hope.

May God’s richest blessings be with all of you,

Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013


I am blogging this because I feel it is important enough to read and understand. Both my husband and our daughter work(ed) for the federal gov. My husband for the now defunct Bureau of Mines and our daughter as a critical care nurse bin a VA Hosp.  They are affected just as Sheri de Grom almost was.

And my husband and our daughter are not people who were paid exhorbetant amounts of money. . .I think that is the big misconception by the folks out there who do not work for the government.  To be sure there are those who do get huge sums of money, not my husband and daughter.

And that is my soapbox for today. . .

Sheri Lawrence de Grom

Congress Places All Retirees At Risk
One Woman’s Opinion
By Sheri de Grom

DC Lots of PeopleCongress 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.

Congress has politicized federal pay freezes and other penalties for federal employees have been enacted. Do your representatives enjoy giving themselves a pay raise every year while cutting federal employee pay and benefits?

Federal employees and retirees (one of which would be me) have contributed fifteen million dollars from our savings over the past ten years through an increased pension contribution. These monies have been taken from a protected account by Congress…

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Holy Spirit Moments

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

Fr. Ostrowski, Baptism and Rum Candy

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