Free dental clinic comes to Erie

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Erie’s Dr. Stephen Radack, center, volunteers at a free dental clinic in Allentown, Pa. (Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Dental Association)


As the saying goes, a dentist gets to the root of the problem.

Two Erie dentists who are parishioners of local Catholic churches are doing just that next month. Dr. Stephen Radack and Dr. Ronald Helminski will be among many dentists, hygienists and other medical personnel volunteering at a two-day, free dental clinic at Gannon University in Erie.

The problem they’re tackling is the great number of people who need—but cannot afford—regular dental care.

“When there is a choice between taking care of your teeth and putting food on your table, then some people have to put food on the table,” said Dr. Helminski, a lifelong member of Erie’s St. Hedwig Parish, now  merged into St. Stanislaus Parish. “If there is something I can do to make their life easier, then you’ve got to do it.”

Dr. Helminski and Dr. Radack, a parishioner of St. Luke in Erie, will join the non-profit MOM-n-PA dental mission on June 16-17 at Gannon’s Recreation and Wellness Center, 130 W. 4th St. Doors open at 6 a.m. each day, with patients treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

MOM-n-PA is the Pennsylvania division of Mission of Mercy, a non-profit, faith-based community organization that provides free healthcare, dental care and prescription medications to the uninsured and underinsured.

Because it receives no government funding, MOM can provide healthcare without any pre-qualifications. Patients attending the free dental clinic at Gannon do not need to prove their poverty or residency; they do not need to show an insurance card or identification.

Dr. Mary Jane Taylor, wellness director at Gannon, believes the MOM-n-PA dental clinic is in keeping with the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the mission of a Catholic university.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and people will be treated with kindness and respect,” Taylor said.

MOM-n-PA organizers expect the turnout at the Erie clinic to be similar to those held in other larger Pennsylvania cities the past four years. Volunteers treat up to 1,000 people per day.

Dr. Radack is co-leading the effort with Dr. Joseph Kohler, who attends St. Peter Cathedral, Erie. Radack started volunteering with MOM-n-PA when he was president of the Pennsylvania Dental Association.

A few years ago in Allentown, Pa., Dr. Radack saw people sleeping outside overnight waiting for the dental clinic to open. He treated one man who had large cavities in his upper front teeth.

“It screams out at you when you first look at that, but I was able to restore those teeth. It made a huge difference to him. He was able to go out and move on with confidence,” Dr. Radack said.


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Dr. Ronald Helminski at his Erie office. (Contributed photo)

Many dentists, nurses and practitioners from throughout the tri-state area already have signed up for the Erie clinic. Organizers are seeking more help, including non-medical people to serve as laboratory technicians, translators, patient ambassadors, and set-up and clean-up crews.

Dr. Helminski is volunteering at his first MOM-n-PA event. As a dentist in private practice the past 34 years, he believes that everyone deserves good dental care, even those who cannot afford to pay for it.

“People trust their bodies to us. That’s a pretty sacred trust,” Dr. Helminski said. “We have been given this privilege and we need to pay it forward.”



June 16-17—Gannon’s Recreation and Wellness Center, 130 W. 4th St., Erie. Doors open at 6 a.m.

Those interested in volunteering can visit or call the Gannon Recreation Center at 814-871-7770.


EXPRESSIVE THERAPY: HYS dedicates new arts center


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Harborcreek Youth Services resident Nick, foreground, plays a guitar riff for music therapist Sam Krahe and Catholic Charities Executive Director Ann Badach.

Story and Photos by Mary Solberg| FAITHLIFE

He’s only 17, but Nick Smith (not his real last name) says the past year has been the best of his life. He credits Harborcreek Youth Services (HYS), a psychiatric residential treatment center for young people.

“It saved my life,” says Nick, whose last name is withheld to protect his privacy.

Located in Harborcreek not far from the shores of Lake Erie in the Diocese of Erie, HYS is home to about 65 mostly young men who have been court-appointed or placed because of mental health issues or a history of personal trauma. It operates under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie, offering not only residential care, but behavioral health services, foster care and specialized family therapy.

“This is home right now, I definitely think if I wasn’t here, I’d be in a lot more trouble,” Nick says. “I’ve been here for a year and two months and it’s been the best year and two months of my life.”

On May 11, Nick had even more reason to celebrate as HYS dedicated its new Father Jim Fahey Therapeutic Arts Center. More than 100 guests from the Erie community—including church, education and judicial representatives—were on-hand as Bishop Lawrence Persico blessed the site.

The Therapeutic Arts Center aims to reach troubled youth through various expressive therapies, including art, music and movement. Its goal is in keeping with the vision of the late Father Fahey, a diocesan priest who served as a past administrator at HYS.

Art, music and movement therapies are considered a vital treatment approach for those who have experienced both acute and chronic levels of trauma, severe emotional problems and other social skill development issues.

“This gives the boys a lot more opportunity for different kinds of activity and therapy,” says John Petulla, executive director of HYS and the main mover behind the three-year effort to build the Therapeutic Arts Center. “Talk therapy is good, but the expressive therapy is important, too.”

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John Petulla, executive director of HYS, shows Bishop Lawrence Persico the new art studio.

Sam Krahe, a music therapist at HYS, coordinates three groups of music classes three times a week. Although the center just opened, the buzz is positive among the boys, he says.

“It’s a lot easier to write something in a song than to talk about it,” Krahe explains. “If you can creatively put something in lyrics or arrange the music to get your emotions out, it’s easier than just talking. It’s a great starting point to jump into traditional talk therapy and discussion and counseling.”

For Nick, playing the guitar or banging on some drums have helped.

“In my opinion, it’s an outlet for emotions and trauma,” Nick says. “If you don’t want to sit there and explain it to a therapist, if you don’t want to sit there and tell your mom exactly how you feel, then put it in a song, record it and do something with it.”

Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor spoke at the dedication ceremony, expressing his appreciation for the longtime relationship Mercyhurst has had with HYS.

For many years, Mercyhurst’s criminology and criminal justice programs have offered students experiential learning opportunities at HYS.

In 2015, the Mercyhurst University-Harborcreek Youth Services Partnership was established to help build the Therapeutic Arts Initiative.

Mercyhurst students now assist HYS residents in exploring their treatment goals through music and art therapies. Another goal is to add dance and movement therapy.

“Through music, art and movement therapy combined with counseling, we are making great strides in helping these young people discover self-worth, emotional expression and social skills,” Victor told those gathered for the dedication ceremony. “What could be more motivating or more inspiring?”

To learn more about the Father Jim Fahey Therapeutic Arts Center or to donate to the Therapeutic Arts Initiative,
go to


Celebrating a Life: Renowned Christian musicians to honor parishioner with a combined concert

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Joyce Kulyk posed in this selfie with her late husband, Mark Kulyk, for whom the concert is dedicated. (Contributed photo)


   “We are many parts, we are all one body, and the gifts we have we are given to share. …”

   If you’ve been singing in church since the 1980s, you’ll most likely be able to finish this refrain from the popular liturgical song, “We Are Many Parts,” written by Marty Haugen.

   It ends: “May the spirit of love make us one indeed, one, the love that we share, one, our hope in despair, one, the cross that we bear.”

   Love, hope and the cross represent the Christian journey lived out by the late Mark Kulyk, a longtime musical leader and parishioner at Holy Cross Church in Fairview. His love of Haugen’s music, and that of two other renowned liturgical musicians—David Haas and Stephen Petrunak—will be shared at a concert featuring the three men May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Cross.

   Before his death to brain cancer last November, Kulyk, 60, had challenged Kathy Felong, the parish music director, to organize a concert featuring Haugen, Haas and Petrunak. He had long wanted to see the three men perform together, given their important contributions to liturgical music in Catholic churches over the past three decades.

   Felong knows Haugen, Haas and Petrunak through her involvement in the National Association for Pastoral Musicians (NPM) since the early 1990s. She has sung in concerts by Haas and Haugen and co-authored with Petrunak a series of method books for church guitarists. Petrunak is the newly named president of NPM.

   Surprisingly, all three were able to accommodate their schedules and commit to the upcoming concert. More than 300 tickets have been sold so far; tickets also are sale for a pre-concert reception with the musicians.

   “I think Mark would be thrilled to see the response of the people, knowing what a gift of faith the concert will be,” Felong says.

       Haas, Haugen and Petrunak did not know Mark Kulyk personally, but their music deeply touched him, says his wife, Joyce Kulyk. The couple worked for 25 years with Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

   “When their music came out, it was the new post-Vatican II sound,” Joyce Kulyk says. “The psalms they chose for their music were very singable and their words were more relatable to the liturgy and the Gospels. Mark had a positive feeling that it drew together the congregation. It was a unifying kind of feeling.”

   In a recent telephone conference call, Haugen, Haas and Petrunak told FaithLife that music ministry is about sharing gifts, believing that through their songs people in the pews are moved to action in their own faith. For Haas, it’s “humbling.”

   “We are servants. We trust that the Spirit will do its work,” says Haas, who has produced more than 50 collections of original music, including such songs as “We Have Been Told” and “Blest Are They.”

   For Haugen, music is a shared language that Mark Kulyk obviously spoke as well.

   “People still feel connected to our music,”  Haugen says. “Music comes at a time in our deepest moments.”

   Petrunak’s recordings are available through GIA Publications, including his most recent release, “With Hope and Healing.” He says music can enliven parishes, much like at Holy Cross.

   “We’re coming to honor a person’s life who sounds like an amazing man to his family and to his faith community,” Petrunak says.

   Before his death, Mark Kulyk knew the concert was going to happen. As Joyce Kulyk says, “He’ll be there.”


To reserve tickets, go to or call 814-474-2605. Cost is $15 per adult; free for children 12 and under. Tickets also at the door, unless sold out.

‘Woman Clothed With the Sun’: 100th Anniversary of Fatima

Pope Francis gestures toward crowd at beginning of  general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

CNS photo

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the first of a two-part series on the centenary of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima and celebrations in the Diocese of Erie.  

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Mary to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.

   The Blessed Mother appeared to Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her cousins Francisco, 9, and Jacinta Marto, 7, once each month from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917. Her messages emphasized the importance of the Trinity, the Eucharist, penance, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the need to recite the rosary for peace and the conversion of souls.

   Although apparitions began in 1917, the children experienced their first supernatural encounters the year before. They saw an angel who encouraged them to pray and to make sacrifices for the reparation of sin.

   The angel’s appearance prepared them to see the coming vision of what Lucia described as “a lady clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water lit by burning sunlight.”

   At least 4 million people a year visit Fatima, with more anticipated for the centenary.

 [Several events and special Masses are scheduled in parishes throughout the Diocese of Erie. See that list in the April 30 edition of FaithLife.]


Father David Poulson, spiritual director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, Erie Diocesan Division, discusses the impact of Fatima.

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Q: What does this 100th anniversary mean to you and the larger church?

Father Poulson: The thing that’s always attracted me about the message of Fatima is that over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen the things Our Lady prophesied being fulfilled.

Our Lady had predicted the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, the spread of Communism, wars and persecution of the church, and the church and the Holy Father would have much to suffer. Several entire nations would be annihilated.

But in the end, she said, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph and Russia will be converted and a period of peace would be granted to the world.”

That promise of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and a period of peace being granted to the world was something that always inspired me to do what Our Lady had asked, which is mainly to offer up the sufferings involved in carrying out our daily duties and to offer those up to the conversion of sinners and to pray the rosary every day for peace in the world.

Q: The world’s not yet in that period of peace.

Father Poulson: No, it’s not. I don’t think anybody any more places their hope in human means to bring about world peace.

We really need Our Lady’s intercession and God’s intervention to bring it about.

Q: The secrets revealed at Fatima can be scary. Do you agree?

Father Poulson: Aspects of the messages are scary. They were scary to the children…the vision of hell, for example. But it’s all avoidable by people living a life that is faithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of Jesus, keeping the Commandments and living a life of faith and prayer.

Q: What would you say to people who are skeptical of the apparitions at Fatima?

Father Poulson: The children themselves asked Our Lady to perform some sign so that everybody would believe. That’s why Our Lady did the “Miracle of the Sun” on Oct. 13, 1917. [The miracle was viewed by 70,000 or more people in the pasture area known as the Cova da Iria and was reported to have been seen from as far as 25 miles away.]

Q: Then it’s a matter of faith?

Father Poulson: It always is. The advantage that we have in the 21st century is that we can look back and see that what Our Lady prophesied has happened step by step in the order that she predicted. We have even more reasons to trust in this message than the three children had.

Q: What is the message for the 21st century?

Father Poulson: Our Lady came to warn us about world wars, communism and the persecution of the church, but at the same time to give us hope that people’s souls can be saved and peace in the world is free for the asking. All we have to do is pray for them.


Calvary Cemetery expands mausoleum

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Urns begin to fill the new niches created in the Calvary West Mausoleum on West Lake Road in Erie.                                 (Contributed photo)


    Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

   For those who operate cemeteries, Franklin’s quote is an important reminder to always think ahead when it comes to space for burial and/or inurnment.

   Calvary Cemetery, one of four cemeteries operated by the Erie Diocesan Cemeteries, recently completed expansion of one of its two mausoleums. A total of 168 niches, or columbariums, have been added, according to Linda Chrzanowski, family services representative at Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum on West Lake Road in Erie.

   Niches are 12-by-12-by-12-inch boxes designed for the respectful and public storage of cremated remains. An urn is placed in the niche behind glass or marble.

   “There’s always a need for space,” Chrzanowski said. “People are choosing cremation more now.”

   Per person, the cost for a standard ground burial in a full casket at Calvary is about $5,000, compared to about $3,000 for cremation and ground burial. The average cost to put cremated remains in one niche in a mausoleum is roughly $3,000.

   Keeping in mind the continued need for expansion, Calvary officials last year recognized that its mausoleum on the west side had space that was not being used.

   Two 16-foot folding doors that separated the chapel from the mausoleum could be removed to allow room for more niches.

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A crew from Schutte Woodworking of Erie works on the niche walls at one of Calvary Cemetery’s mausoleums.   (Contributed photo)

   Calvary hired Schutte Woodworking of Erie to remove the doors and create two niche walls, 7 feet wide and 12 feet high. Steve Rimpa, owner of Schutte, said workers also built the openings for the niches. They were conscious of the look of the existing woodwork and color.

   “We tried to make it look as if it basically always looked like that,” Rimpa said.

   Biondan North America, based in Toronto, created the actual niches, as well as the glass and marble for the final finish.

   “We needed the inside space, so this gives people who have a loved one entombed at Calvary West the opportunity to also be there,” Chrzanowski said.

   For Rimpa and his crew, working at a cemetery requires sensitivity. They did not start construction until after Valentine’s Day, when many people visit cemeteries.

   Construction during the regular work week required some adjustments when people came to place flowers or pray.

   “We’d take a break or do a job outside during those times. People were understanding,” Rimpa said.

   Calvary Cemetery was consecrated as a diocesan cemetery in July 1921.

   Other diocesan cemeteries are: Trinity, which opened in 1869; Gate of Heaven, in 1968; and Mary Queen of Peace, which was consecrated in August 1996.

St. Andrew Dinner invites young men to consider vocations

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Bishop Lawrence Persico looks over a seminarian prayer card with Jonah and Tate Hanlon at the St. Andrew Dinner at St. Joseph Parish on March 15.

Story and Photos by Mary Solberg

Thirty-year-old Nick Heise of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Harborcreek was looking for reassurance when he attended a recent diocesan-sponsored vocation dinner.

For several years, he has considered the priesthood, even while dating and working as a carpenter for Building Systems Incorporated in Erie.

“I’m here to feed my curiosity and get reassurance that this is what I want to do,” Heise said as he seated himself at the St. Andrew Dinner March 15 at St. Joseph Parish in Erie.

Sponsored by the Vocation Office of the Diocese of Erie, the St. Andrew Dinner is an opportunity for young men to gather for a meal and listen to priests and seminarians share their personal journeys to the priesthood and/or seminary.

The dinner at St. Joseph Parish drew more than 25, ranging in age from 13 to 30. It was the fifth St. Andrew Dinner held at various locations in the diocese since last fall, according to Father Michael Polinek, vocation director.

“However you heard about this—whether on a Facebook post or wherever—God has you here for a reason,” Father Polinek told those gathered at the March 15 dinner.

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Seminarian Benjamin Daghir shares his personal story.

Heise knew he was there for a reason; he just wanted to get that final push. He listened intently to stories from Bishop Lawrence Persico; Father Michael Kesicki, rector of St. Mark Seminary; Father Nicholas Rouch, vice rector; Father Michael Ferrick, rector of St. Peter Cathedral, Erie; Father Larry Richards, pastor of St. Joseph; and seminarians Benjamin Daghir and Michael Pleva. Each shared their path toward religious life, even their initial feeling of uncertainty.

After dinner, Heise said: “It’s nice to see that some of my story is partially theirs, so I know that I’m not just being crazy. These seminarians and priests are normal people, the same as myself. It makes me know that this is something I could do.”

Bishop Persico told the young men that no one was asking them to enroll in the seminary right away. He said: “All we’re asking you to do is think about it. Is this what God wants you to do?”

Others who attended the dinner included the Hanlon brothers and the Caulfield brothers. Kevin Hanlon brought his three sons: Cullen, 17, Jonah, 16, and Tate, 14. Parishioners of St. Joseph Parish, the Hanlons are encouraged “to look at everything they can possibly do,” Kevin Hanlon said.

Jonah, a sophomore at Fairview High School, is the most interested in pursuing religious life. He was happy when Bishop Persico sat at his table for dinner.

“This is my first time going to one of these, so it is setting the baseline for me. I want to hear what people have to say,” Jonah said. “I’m open to whatever God calls me to do.”

Father Polinek invited the Caulfields—Tim, 17, Peter, 15, and Thomas, 13. A home-schooled senior, Tim said he has considered the priesthood his whole life.

“I always wondered if I should do that, but I haven’t felt God call me one way or the other yet,” Tim said.

The next St. Andrew Dinner is April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace School, 2401 W. 38th St., Erie. RSVP by calling 814-833-7701.

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Father Michael Polinek addresses one of the largest groups gathered for a St. Andrew Dinner in the diocese.

REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: Program director calls on politicians ‘to do what is right’

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Joe Haas speaks at a Feb. 22 immigration vigil outside the Federal Building in downtown Erie. As coordinator of Catholic Charities’ refugee resettlement program, he has seen the immediate effects of changes in U.S. immigration policy.                                           Photo by Anne-Marie Welsh


    Joe Haas, executive director of Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services (CCCAS) of the Diocese of Erie, challenges elected leaders “to do what is right, not what is politically expedient” in the face of uncertain U.S. immigration policies.

   Two executive orders on immigration issued by President Donald Trump since January have been widely criticized at home and abroad, resulting in dozens of legal challenges. Meanwhile, the Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program in Erie already has seen the effects of the travel restrictions.

   In the fiscal year ending this coming September, the number of refugees arriving in Erie is expected to drop to 197, a decrease of nearly 40 percent from the previous year, according to Haas, who also serves as coordinator of the Charities resettlement program.

   He expects to see his refugee resettlement staff permanently downsized by at least half as a result of the decrease.

   The travel ban of refugees from several majority Muslim countries continues to be challenged in court. However, a 120-day freeze on all new refugee arrivals remains in effect.

   The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which oversees Catholic Charities programs nationwide, has seen a number of refugee resettlement programs close due to lack of referrals.

   “Our politicians are tasked with keeping us safe, being mindful of economic costs of service delivery, but also living up to the principles of who we are as a nation of immigrants,” Haas said.

   In his position, Haas sees up-close the effect the executive orders have had on the lives of displaced people. On Feb. 22, he shared his viewpoint at an immigration vigil sponsored by the Benedictines for Peace outside the Federal Building in downtown Erie.

   The vigil was one of many held throughout the country that week, calling for the U.S. to follow Pope Francis’ call to “build bridges” instead of walls. President Trump, after taking office in January, had issued his first executive order calling for the immediate construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

   In his statement at the vigil, Haas said: “Religious leaders of all faiths have condemned this action, not based on politics, but based upon human dignity and living up to who we are as a country.”

   Since its founding 40 years ago, CCCAS, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has helped more than 3,000 people establish a new life in Erie, Haas said. These individuals were forced out of their homes across the globe due to war, persecution or natural disaster.

   “Usually within less than a year, they [refugees] are entirely self-sufficient, productive members of our community,” he said.

   Haas agrees that there is room to enhance and improve the system by which refugees are welcomed to the United States. Yet, he disagrees with the assertion that refugees do not undergo a vigorous review process.

   “Every refugee entering the United States has undergone a thorough vetting process that lasts, on average, between 18 to 24 months,” Haas said.

   Haas acknowledged the work of other organizations in Erie that have committed to helping the refugee community: the St. Benedict Education Center, the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network, the International Institute, the Multicultural Resource Center, and the Erie School District.

   He asked the larger community to pray for those refugees settled in Erie who are separated from family in other parts of the world.

   “Help our elected officials to properly discern how to keep our country safe, but to also allow families and loved ones to be reunited,” he said.