KNIGHTS on BIKES: Knights of Columbus take faith on the road

Knights on Bikes 1

Matt Goreczny, Chris Wolfgong and Robert Burneisen, left to right, are founding members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Knights on Bikes. (Photo by Mary Solberg)

Matt Goreczny, Chris Wolfgong and Robert Burneisen, left to right, are founding members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Knights on Bikes.


Don’t let the black leather biker vests fool you. Robert Burneisen, Matt Goreczny and Chris Wolfgong wear theirs for inspiration, not intimidation.

Emblazoned on the back of their motorcycle jackets is the bright yellow emblem of the Knights of Columbus, a longtime Catholic-based fraternal organization dedicated to charity and evangelization. The large cross stitched above the logo further cements the spirit of the riders.

“I feel that when I’m out there riding around with this jacket, this is who I am. I’m not a Hells Angel. We’re here to do good things, spread the word of Christ,” Wolfgong says.

The men are members of Knights of Columbus Council #385 in Oil City, and are the founding members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Knights on Bikes, an international organization dedicated to improving the image of bikers and promoting safety and Christian values.

Established in the U.S. in 2005, Knights on Bikes currently has chapters in 41 states. Besides the Diocese of Erie, only two other dioceses in Pennsylvania have an active Knights on Bikes group. Members must be Knights of Columbus who are willing to spread the Catholic faith under the motto: “In God we trust and ride.”

“In a way, we’re fishers of men,” says Goreczny, president of the Pennsylvania chapter. “It’s a visible sign.”

Wearing their faith so publicly isn’t anything new for Knights, who often don the colorful regalia of the organization at special Masses. Knights on Bikes simply uses motorcycles as another means by which to evangelize.

Goreczny’s bright yellow Honda Magna was spotted this past spring by a little boy traveling in a car with his father. Goreczny was wearing his Knights on Bikes vest.

“The dad told me that his son said, ‘Look, there’s a biker guy!’” Goreczny says. “The dad said, ‘Yeah, but he’s a good guy.’”

The Oil City-based group takes monthly rides together and is looking forward to visiting parishes in the Diocese of Erie. Wolfgong, who serves as president of the Erie Diocese chapter, hopes to organize service projects, while reinforcing the Knights’ dedication to charity, unity and fraternity.

“We’re trying to change the old, negative biker image to something a little more positive,” says Wolfgong, who at age 37 is among the youngest members of the Oil City Knights council.

A retired state police trooper, Burneisen, 53, is vice president of the Knights on Bikes’ Pennsylvania chapter and has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 15 years. The organization, he says, carries moral weight.

“For me, it’s a lifestyle,” Burneisen says. “Even at work, you take on an ethical role in society. Being a Knight helps you be a Catholic role model.”

To learn more about Knights on Bikes in Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Erie, email Matt Goreczny at or call him at 814-657-3609.

Divine Spirit Congregation leaving Diocese of Erie

Sister Colette served as principal for 53 years

By Mary Solberg | FaithLife

   Sister Colette Hilow, CDS, became principal at St. James School in Erie in 1963, the same year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Beatles were preparing for their first U.S. tour.

This past June—more than a half-century later—Sister Colette wrapped up what the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Erie believes to be the longest tenure of any principal in its history.

“I don’t know what happened to all the years,” Sister Colette told FaithLife.

Her departure represents not only the closing chapter of her personal legacy at the east Erie school, but the end of six decades of the continuous presence of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit in the diocese. In June, Sister Colette and Sisters Martha Cadden and Mary Babik were the last members of their religious community to leave Erie.

They relocated to the House of Loreto, the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit in Canton, Ohio. In 2010, the order moved its motherhouse to Canton from Erie, where it was founded in 1956.

“I feel very sad that I had to leave St. James,” Sister Colette said. “I loved it very much and I loved the children and families.”

Sister cropped

Sister Colette Hilow, CDS, principal at St. James for 53 years, reads a book with Abby Ladaika, left, and Sophia Swanseger, both of whom will be second-graders at St. James School next year.

In addition to her 53 years as principal, Sister Colette had taught at the school from the time it was first founded in 1957. She and the other sisters are expected to be honored Oct. 2 for their years of service at the parish and school.

In a recent letter to the school community, Father James McCormick, pastor, announced “with a very heavy heart” the departure of the sisters.

“For the last 59 years, St. James School has been blessed with the presence, ministry and leadership of the Sisters of the Divine Spirit,” Father McCormick said, adding that Sister Colette “led by example, not by decree.”

He announced the appointment of Lisa Norton, a graduate of St. James and a 36-year veteran teacher at the school, as principal for the 2016-17 school year.

Norton said that Sister Colette ran “a tight ship” at St. James, but one in which students thrived both academically and spiritually. Most of the school’s faculty are alumni, and most of the current students come from families that have graduated from the school. It’s a testament to the positive influence of Sister Colette and the Divine Spirit community.

“There are multiple generations here. Sister Colette ran a very traditional school,” Norton said. “The faculty that are alumni wanted to come back and continue that for the children of the future.”

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Sisters of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit are show in this undated photo in front of their original motherhouse on West Sixth Street in Erie.

One of the greatest lessons that Norton learned from Sister Colette was that all children are different and learn in different ways. As principal, Sister Colette was known for visiting classrooms unannounced, just to teach a mini lesson or two.

“Sometimes she would ask the children if they would read a poem or maybe she would give them a little math problem to do,” Norton said. “She visited Lourdes, so she would tell them about St. Bernadette or Fatima.”

Founded under the episcopate of Archbishop John Mark Gannon, the community mostly ministered as educators at St. James and Our Lady of Mount Carmel schools, in Erie, and one school in Ohio. It established religious education centers in Warren, Emporium and Coudersport, and its sisters worked in the chancery and at Gannon University.

“It’s a sad day for the Diocese of Erie because the Divine Spirit sisters have served us so long and so well over the years,” said Sister Nancy Fischer, SSJ, vicar for religious. “The diocese indeed will be different without their presence.”


FaithLife newspaper, Faith magazine capture CPA awards

Two of the top national awards at the June 4 Catholic Press Association meeting in St. Louis went to the Communications Office of the Diocese of Erie.

Mary Solberg, editor of FaithLife newspaper, won first place for individual excellence in the editor category.

Lynne Hsu, the Lansing, Mich.-based graphic artist who designs Faith magazine for the Diocese of Erie, won first place for individual excellence as graphic artist/designer.

The prestigious wins capped off an evening during which the Erie staff picked up 10 honors.

“It’s wonderful for our staff to be recognized,” said Anne-Marie Welsh, director of the Communications Office. “We are always happy for our readers. It’s an important indication they’re receiving top-quality news and features from their diocesan publications. And it inspires us to continue pushing ourselves.”

For the second year in a row, Bishop Lawrence Persico was a finalist for the Bishop John England Award for the Defense of Religious Freedom. He was cited for his leadership with the Zubik v. Burwell case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

In addition, Erie Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister garnered two CPA awards: First place in the category of Best Book by a Small Publisher for Two Dogs and a Parrot: What our animal friends can teach us about life, (BlueBridge); and second place for Best Blog by a Religious/Clergy for “From Where I Stand,” the blog she authors for National Catholic Reporter.

Catholic Press Association recognizes FaithLife newspaper, Faith magazine


  • Individual Excellence, Editor
    Mary Solberg, FaithLife newspaper
  • Individual Excellence, Graphic Artist/Designer
    Lynne Hsu, Faith magazine
  • Best Local Retail Campaign:  Faith magazine
    “Celebrating Sisters”
    Elizabeth Butterfield, Designer
    Anne-Marie Welsh, Concept/Copy Writer
  • Most Effective Use of Small Space:
    FaithLife newspaper

    “Clock Repair” ad for Nick’s Clock Repair
    Elizabeth Butterfield, Designer



  • Best Coverage of the World Meeting of
    Families: Faith magazine

Anne-Marie Welsh, Editor/Writer
Lynne Hsu, Designer
Matt Gambino and Amy Helmer, Writers

  • Best Coverage of the Year of Consecrated Life:
    Faith magazine
    The Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, Anne-Marie Welsh, Writers
    Lynne Hsu, Designer
    Mark Fainstein, Photographer


  • Best Front Page (Broadsheet): FaithLife newspaper
    Rich Papalia, Graphic Designer
    Mary Solberg, Editor
  • Best Reporting on a Special
    Age Group:
    Faith magazine
    “Faith in Action,” Teen edition
    Anne-Marie Welsh, Editor/Writer
  • Best Use of Art or Graphics/
    Best Original Illustration:
    FaithLife newspaper
    “Bishop Logs Miles”
    David Solberg, Illustrator
    Rich Papalia, DesignerHONORABLE MENTION
  • Best News Writing on a Local
    or Regional Event:
    FaithLife newspaper

“Fire damages Emmaus  Soup Kitchen”
Mary Solberg, Writer


Diocese welcomes new priests: Ordinations bring number of active priests to 118



David Carter, left, and James Power, hold new stoles presented to them by Bishop Lawrence Persico immediately before they were ordained to the priesthood June 10. Mercy Sister Mary Andrew Himes handmade the stoles.

A generation separates David Carter and Jamie Power, but they have one thing in common: Both were ordained to the priesthood June 10 at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie.

Father Carter is 62 years old; Father Power is 26.

“I don’t have quite the level of energy that 26-year-olds do, but on the other hand, I’m a little bit more calm than some of them,” Father Carter said.

A native of Baltimore and a convert to Catholicism, Father Carter came to his vocation later in life, having entered major seminary at St. Vincent in Latrobe in the fall of 2012. Previously, he had worked for 21 years in the retail division of Paulist Press, and another 11 years in the bookstore and library at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

Father Power is a native of St. Patrick Parish and a graduate of Our Lady of Peace School, Cathedral Prep and Gannon University, all in Erie. He completed his priestly formation at St. Mary’s Seminary.

“I’m so happy that he [Father Carter] discerned his call in this way and at this time in life that I get to be his classmate,” Father Power said.

Hundreds of people—some from as far away as Ireland and Canada—gathered at St. Peter Cathedral for the ordinations. A heavy Irish brogue was evident throughout the early summer evening as Irish aunts, uncles and cousins of Father Power united with the faithful of the Diocese of Erie.

The congregation erupted in thunderous applause and cheers for Father Carter and Father Power as they followed a procession of clergy leaving the church to the hymn “Rejoice, the Lord is King.” They bring the number of active priests in the diocese to 118.

The celebration continued at a reception at the nearby Gannon University Morosky Center, where well-wishers requested blessings from the newly ordained priests. Besides the large extended Power family, others who enjoyed the festivities were Father Carter’s “honorary family”—consisting of Tim and Patricia Hoffman of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Erie, as well as their son, Father Daniel Hoffman, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Edinboro.

Father Carter’s parents are both deceased.

“We met David when our son [Father Hoffman] was working in the bookstore at St. Mary’s,” Tim Hoffman said. “David was Dan’s boss, so over the years we just kept in touch.”

Father Hoffman vested Father Carter on the altar after he was ordained by Bishop Lawrence Persico.

“Since I’ve known David, he has always been so kind and knowledgeable about his faith. This is a good fit for him,” Tim Hoffman added.

Father Power was vested by Father Matt Kujawinski.

In his homily, Bishop Persico addressed Fathers Carter and Power, reminding them that they are now simultaneously servants of the church and members of the people of God.

“Remember, then, that while you are appointed to act on behalf of the Christian faithful for those things that pertain to God, you—like all of us—are in need of God’s continued presence, life and mercy,” Bishop Persico said.

The Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis for 2016, is a fitting time to be ordained to the priesthood.

Said Father Power: “The most obvious place where mercy fits is in the sacrament of confession. It’s another great instrument of grace that we, as Catholics, have. So what a blessing it is that I’ll be starting to hear confessions, and dispensing mercy, during the Year of Mercy.”

Father Power’s parents, Bill and Carolyn Power of Erie, said their son’s ordination is not surprising. Since he was young, he has expressed an interest in the priesthood, even “playing” priest as a child.

“I am so thrilled. He was committed to this for a long time,” Carolyn Power said.

As of press time, neither Father Power nor Father Carter were given their first parish assignments.

Many members of the parish communities where they served during their priestly formation attended the ordination Mass.

Father Power served his summer and holiday assignments at St. Joseph Parish, Warren. Father Carter served a summer assignment at St. Stephen in Oil City, and a parish assignment at Ss. Cosmas and Damian Parish, Punxsutawney.

Both celebrated their first Masses the weekend of their ordinations. On June 11, Father Carter said Mass at St. Stephen, and the next day at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Father Power said his first Mass at St. Patrick on June 12.


Ultrasound machine blessed


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Father Daniel Hoffman, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Edinboro, blesses the new ultrasound machine for Boro Women & Family Services.

About half of the 20 to 50 women who annually visit Boro Women & Family Services in Edinboro want an abortion.

That’s a statistic Betty Jo Lyons, executive director, cannot accept.

Thanks to a new 3-D ultrasound machine, she hopes to reverse those numbers and instill confidence in women afraid of the consequences of their pregnancies.

“If you’re in crisis pregnancy outreach, you always hope that you’ll have the ability to get someone an ultrasound because it’s tangible,” Lyons said. “When you’re pregnant in the beginning, you don’t feel it or see it. All you know is that a test says you’re positive. When you scan the stomach and the pregnancy comes up and there’s a life, then it’s real.”

Boro Women & Family Services operates only on grants and private donations. It considers itself “life-affirming.”

On May 13, the $35,000 ultrasound machine was blessed at the nearby Rolland Chiropractic Center. Chiropractor Chad Rolland offered his space, he said, to do his part “to help preserve life and to serve God wherever we can.”

Several members of the Edinboro community—including Father Daniel Hoffman, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish; members of the Knights of Columbus; and individual donors—came together for the blessing. It was the final step in a nearly four-year fundraising effort.

Our Lady of the Lake parishioners contributed a significant amount through a baby bottle fundraiser program organized by the Knights of Columbus. Other local faith communities donated, too, along with private donors and the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council from New Haven, Conn., which provided matching funds.

After blessing the machine, Father Hoffman lauded the commitment of those who had a part in its purchase and installation. He called them “courageous witnesses of the culture of life.”

“This is a big step in the right direction,” Father Hoffman said.

Three trained technicians affiliated with Boro Women & Family Services will operate the machine, but they will not provide medical or diagnostic services. Clients are encouraged to follow up with a physician.

“The ultrasound machine gives an image and an estimated gestational age,” Lyons explained. “When a mother says ‘baby,’ then we can say ‘baby.’ It’s important that we do that because otherwise those who challenge us would say that we are trying to intimidate. That’s not our intention. Our intention is to share the truth. The truth will speak for itself. It always does.”


2,000 react to parish restructuring


    About 2,000 parishioners from throughout the Diocese of Erie—and even 148 people who live elsewhere but attend Mass here during hunting seasons—have submitted feedback on the preliminary parish restructuring plan proposed by Bishop Lawrence Persico.

   “It tells us that people truly care about their parishes,” said Deacon Marty Eisert, chairperson of the Pastoral Planning Committee.

   Catholics and their parish communities in the 13-county diocese had until May 20 to respond to the bishop’s initial proposal to significantly restructure parishes.

   Under the proposed plan, numerous parishes will be closed due to mergers with other parishes. The church buildings of these former parishes, however, will remain available for feast days, and weddings and funerals upon request.

   Also under the preliminary plan, 21 churches in the diocese will begin new partnerships with each other. These churches will continue to exist as distinct parishes with their own parishioners, parish church and finances, but will share one pastor, one parish council, one staff and one office.

   The majority of parishes that currently stand alone or are partnered parishes will remain as they are now, with no changes forthcoming.

   Responses were mailed to St. Mark Catholic Center, or were submitted electronically via a form on the diocesan website.

   There were 148 people, mostly hunters, who petitioned the bishop to maintain St. Augustine Church as a mission of St. Bibiana Parish, Galeton. Under the plan, St. Augustine would become a secondary church of St. Eulalia Parish, Coudersport, which means it would no longer offer regular Sunday Mass.

   Another petition, signed by 103 people, requested that St. Hedwig Church be affiliated with St. Stanislaus Parish, both of which are mostly Polish communities. Under the plan, St. Hedwig is to become a secondary church of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish, Erie.

   According to Deacon Eisert, the bishop’s proposal presented in April was not a final document.

   “No final decisions have been made,” he said. “Those final decisions will be arrived at only after a thorough review of the feedback.”

   Over the summer, Bishop Persico will analyze the feedback with the pastoral planning team and members of the Presbyteral Council. Appropriate adjustments may be made. The bishop is expected to announce a final decision on parish restructuring in mid-September.

Supreme Court sends religious liberty case to lower courts: Diocese of Erie responds to new twist



   WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court May 16 sent the Zubik v. Burwell case, which challenges the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement for employers, back to the lower courts.

   The justices’ unanimous decision—explained in a nine-page order—was another step in the long court process undertaken by the dioceses of Erie and Pittsburgh, along with five other petitioners, in their fight over religious liberty.

   The latest decision by the high court was based on information that the federal government and the plaintiffs’ attorneys submitted after oral arguments were heard in March. At issue is how and if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to this coverage.

   The court specified that it is not expressing an opinion on the merits of the cases that are challenging aspects of the federal DSC_0011government’s health care legislation. Also, justices stated they are not ruling on the issue of a potential violation of religious freedom.

   Because of the “gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties,” the court stated that religious employers and the government should be “afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”

   Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico says he is “optimistic” about preserving religious liberty as Zubik v. Burwell takes yet another detour in the court system.

   “We’ll wait until our attorneys review the order and see what steps we now have to take,” Bishop Persico said. “What especially pleases me is the fact that the Supreme Court stated in their order that the government may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for refusing to agree with the government in this matter.”

   Attorney Lee DeJulius of Jones Day, the Pittsburgh-based firm representing Erie and other plaintiffs, said he is happy with the court’s recent ruling.

   “The court recognized that the government admitted it was feasible to protect the diocese’s religious views and required the government to work with us to provide an accommodation that does so,” DeJulius said. “In the meantime, the court made clear that the Erie Diocese remains free from the punishing fines and penalties that are mandated by the Affordable Care Act.”

   This is not the first time that justices have sent a case back to the lower courts in light of new developments. Their opinion on May 16 stressed that remanding the case to lower courts should not affect the government from making sure women covered by petitioners’ health plans obtain FDA-approved contraceptives.

   Oral arguments for Zubik v. Burwell were heard March 23 and the court asked for additional information March 29. Besides the dioceses of Erie and Pittsburgh and the Archdiocese of Washington, other petitioners include the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, Southern Nazarene University and Texas Baptist University.

   These groups argue that providing contraceptive coverage, even indirectly through a third party, violates their religious beliefs.