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
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