Marathoner, SSJs help immigrants


    Ajla Glavasevic and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwest Pennsylvania have teamed up for a cause close to their hearts.

At 27, Glavasevic finished the Erie Marathon Sept. 11 to help raise money for the new Sisters of St. Joseph Initiative for Immigration Fund. The goal is to collect $10,000 to finance legal assistance for the increasing number of immigrants in northwestern Pennsylvania.

At press time, Glavasevic—who is an attorney with ‎Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace in Sharon—raised $2,610 through the fundraising site

“My goal is to let immigrants know about the options available. Legal services do exist and there is a way that we can alleviate the financial stress and pressures,” Glavasevic says.


Ajla Glavasevic enjoyed a recent practice run along Presque Isle Bay. (Photo by Mary Solberg)

Glavasevic, who at age 6 immigrated to Erie with her family from Bosnia and Herzegovina, understands the plight of displaced people. The genocide and war in the former Yugoslavia had claimed at least six members of her extended family.

“This has been a driving force. I know the sacrifices that many of these people endure when they come into this country,” she says.

Growing up in Erie, Glavasevic got to know the Sisters of St. Joseph through her best friend, Meredith Pompeani, who is the daughter of Stephanie Hall, the religious community’s public relations director. Over the years, Glavasevic attended many events sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

They share a common vision of peace and social justice. So when Glavasevic approached Hall about doing a marathon, ideas started rolling.

Hall and the SSJ leadership team brainstormed about ways to combine the community’s peace and justice outreach with Glavasevic’s legal expertise and passion for immigrants.

“The passion Ajla has…oh my gosh,” Hall says. “She’s a go-getter.”


A group of family, friends and members of the Sisters of St. Joseph community surround Ajla Glavasevic, pictured standing seventh from left, at the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle State Park Sept. 11.                                                            (Contributed photo)

Glavasevic eaned her undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she attended as a Division I track and field captain and scholarship student. In May 2014, she earned her law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. An elite athlete, she spent a year competing as a member of the USA women’s bobsled team, through which she met her fiancé, who is a member of Austria’s men’s bobsled team.

Since January 2016, she has practiced law with Jones, Gregg in the areas of immigration, domestic relations, criminal and employment law.

Erie, she says, is the fifth largest resettlement community in the nation, yet there are no attorneys in the region strictly devoted to practicing immigration law.

“I think immigration law will be growing 100 percent. How long that growth will last will depend on the policies and laws that are implemented in this country,” she says. “If we become more isolationist, there could be changes in deportation. If we become more open, we will see an influx of refugees.”


To donate to the Initiative for Immigration Fund, search Ajla at      

For those who want to send a contribution by mail, checks may be made payable to the Sisters of St. Joseph, earmarked for the Initiative for Immigration Fund, and mailed to:
Sisters of St. Joseph of
Northwestern Pennsylvania
5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA  16506


Ajla Glavasevic finished the Erie Marathon. (Photo by Stephanie Hall)

HOPE in the CROSS: Hungarian immigrant spreads peace through woodwork


People stop to pray nearly every day before the eight-foot wooden cross in front of Tashawna Harden’s house at 2307 Holland Street in Erie.

Two years ago, Harden’s cousin Tyshaun Thrower was shot and killed just north of Harden’s home in one of Erie’s most violence-prone neighborhoods. The cross stands as a magnet of hope, surrounded by flowers and stuffed animals left by people who knew the 20-year-old victim.

“You see people here anytime of the day or night. They talk to the cross just like they’re talking to Tyshaun. Or they pray,” Harden says. “The cross brings peace. It brings people together.”


Harden, 23, has come to love the cross in her front yard; it seems to keep her cousin close. But an unlikely consequence of the tragedy is that she and her extended family have developed a friendship with Erie resident Frank Juhasz, a Hungarian immigrant in his 70s, who made the cross and offered to place it at the murder scene.



Frank Juhasz stands with Tashawna Harden and a wooden cross he made to remember Tashawna’s cousin who was murdered in 2014. (Photo by Mary Solberg)

A member of Erie’s Son of God Prayer Group at Holy Rosary Church, Juhasz was moved to tears when he saw people gathered to pray at E. 23rd and Holland streets just days after Tyshaun’s murder on Oct. 24, 2014.

“It breaks your heart what’s happening in the city,” Juhasz says, standing next to Harden one recent summer afternoon. “When someone drives by the cross, they can’t help but think of Christ and that he died for us. We should flood this town with crosses.”

Juhasz and the Son of God Prayer Group have installed several pressure-treated crosses throughout Erie. Some of them stand at 20 feet; others are 18 feet and 14 feet. Juhasz made them all.

He spent his career rebuilding industrial machinery, having owned and operated the former Juhasz Industry in Erie. On a business trip to Lithuania in September 1993, he first became inspired by the powerful nature of the cross when he made a personal pilgrimage to the site known as the Hill of Crosses.

Years later, Juhasz started to build his own.

“When you see a cross, it represents God. It represents your faith,” Juhasz says. “I know Christ was crucified on one of those. It reminds people to get hate out of their heart. If you love Christ, then you have no hate. That young man would not have been killed if there was no hate.”

Besides the cross in front of the Harden home, there are others that encircle the neighborhood. An 18-footer is located across the street next to a playground. Another one is outside Missionary Baptist Church at E. 21st and Holland.



A large cross created by Frank Juhasz of Erie is displayed at the busy intersection of East Avenue and Buffalo Road in Erie.

About 18 months ago, Juhasz asked Parris Baker, pastor of Believers International Worship Center, if he could install a 20-foot cross—complete with a barbed wire crown of thorns—on the community’s currently vacant property at East Avenue and Buffalo Road.

Pastor Baker agreed. As program director of Gannon University’s Social Work Department, he and his congregation are searching for any and all ways to curb the violence that has plagued city streets. They are working closely with police, doing ride-alongs with patrolmen and conducting diversity training.

“The cross is a powerful symbol; it has a galvanizing effect and reminds people of the answer,” Pastor Baker says.



NFP, chastity directors appointed to posts


Kate Whiteford

Kate Whiteford

Cathy Dornisch

Cathy Dornisch

Two women have been appointed to lead Natural Family Planning and chastity education in the Diocese of Erie.

Kate Whiteford, formerly a religion and math teacher at St. Peter Cathedral School, Erie, has been named director of the Office of Chastity Education, while also serving as curriculum assistant to the Catholic Schools Office.

Cathy Dornisch, a native of St. Marys, has accepted the part-time position as coordinator for Natural Family Planning.

Both assumed their duties this past summer after the retirement of Barb and Ed Burkett, who taught NFP in the diocese the past 32 years. The Burketts oversaw both NFP programs and chastity education.

Upon the Burketts’ retirement in July, Bishop Lawrence Persico expressed his appreciation for their devotion to the development of NFP and chastity outreach.

“It is very clear that one thing that stands out is their determination and their love for this ministry. It shows not only in the way they teach, but how they live their lives,” the bishop said.

Whiteford, a parishioner of St. Peter Cathedral, comes to her new post with a strong background in education and spirituality.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in Tennessee, having majored in interdisciplinary studies. She later received her master’s in curriculum and instruction from Gannon University. For five years, she studied theology as a Dominican Sister.

Dornisch graduated from St. Vincent College, Latrobe, and earned her master’s in counseling from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

She and her husband, Andy, learned Natural Family Planning from the Burketts in 2001. Over the years, they have done public speaking on NFP, sexuality, chastity and contraception.

Cathy and Andy Dornisch have four children and are members of Sacred Heart Parish, St. Marys.

As director of chastity education, Whiteford will oversee a broad range of programs in parishes and schools. The office supports individuals and families in their efforts to live out God’s plan for a healthy, holy sexuality. Natural Family Planning is a key element of that outreach.

“This is an exciting time for the church,” Whiteford said. “There is so much beauty in the way God created our sexuality, and I am honored to be able to serve the church in this way.”

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.”

1_Divine Spirits

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.