Deacon Bill - for 30 years, a true disciple
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Dr. Ed Girard, left, religious education director, prepares to present Deacon William Pitts, center, with a framed "Papal Blessing" from Rome in honor of Pitts' 30th Anniversary of Ordination to the Deaconate, as the Rev. William Campion watches on.
Name the engagement, and chances are Deacon William Pitts was a part of it.
That's because for three decades, Pitts has been a mainstay with the Sacred Heart Church in Palmerton.
Joined by family, friends, and current and former colleagues, Pitts was recognized recently for his 30th Anniversary of Ordination to the Deaconate.
The Rev. William Campion, pastor of the church, said the purpose of the mass was to recognize "30 years of dedicated service for our deacon."
"Our gospel today brings us all to focus on discipleship," Campion said. "Today, we offer thanks to a person who has given himself as a true disciple."
Campion then asked the congregation to think about the artistic style of George Pierre Seurrat, a French impressionist of the late-19th century.
While his paintings are few, Campion noted they are displayed in such places as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Philadelphia Art Museum, The National Gallery in London, The Musse d'Ors in Paris, The Royal Museum in Belgium, and his most famous painting, entitled "Study for a Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (1884-85), which is displayed in the Institute of Art in Chicago.
Campion then referred to Seurrat's artistic style, pointillism, which he said is "one tiny dot after another juxtaposed in an array of colors blended together to produce what the world today refers to as artistic masterpieces."
"My dear friends, today the church looks at one of God's masterpieces - not yet complete - a work still in process but yet something beautiful to behold, and that work of the Master Artist, Our God, is before us in the life of Deacon Bill," he said.
Campion said Pitts was the youngest of seven children who helped work on the family farm in Danielsville. He then attended a one-room school house from first through eighth grade. From there, he went to Palmerton Area High School, where he met his future wife, Irene Machalec.
After high school, Pitts worked at the Lehigh Dairy, and then served our country in World War II, as Irene left her job to be with him until he returned home. Pitts then sold insurance for Nationwide.
Their life, Campion said, was enriched by their son, John.
"I am also told how good you were to your parents and Irene's parents as they faced illness and death," he said. "I remember you saying you were blessed to have the best wife and in-laws any man could have, and I believe that they are surely looking down from heaven on you today."
In time, Campion said Pitts went to Nativity High School to find out what he had to do to become a deacon. Encouraged by Irene, Pitts applied to be accepted as a candidate, he said.
In 1982, Pitts and 34 other men were ordained by Bishop McShea as our first class of permanent deacons, Campion said. At that, Campion then introduced several of Pitts' deacon classmates, Gene Wyra and Ray Wilkinson, who attended the mass.
"For 30 years, you have been assigned to Sacred Heart Parish, and you have touched more people then you know," he said. "When I asked people to give me a word that describes Deacon Bill, over and over again, people said devoted, compassionate, humble, quick-witted and one of your classmates said he is a talker, perhaps we could say friendly and gregarious."
Campion told Pitts that in his five years with him, he has seen Pitts "as a "servant" of God's people, doing Baptisms, assisting at weekend liturgies, preaching, leading vigil services for the deceased, bringing Communion to shut-ins, visiting the sick and being active in ecumenical happenings; are but a few of the many ways you have shown yourself as servant, and on behalf of so many whom you have touched and for which today we say we are grateful."
He said he would be amiss if he didn't mention Pitts' faithful companion, his pet dog Benji.
"So today, we step back and look at the dots placed on your canvas," he said. As we step back to view the image on your canvas (with the blendness of colors given by family friends, classmates, co-workers, bishops, priests, parishioners, and Benji too), we see the beautiful image that is of you, a reflection to all of us of Jesus, the Good Shepherd as one who has taken care of the sheep.
"In the name of all who are gathered here with us at the altar, I offer you congratulations, prayers, and good health and happiness for years to come. God Bless you."
Afterward, Dr. Ed Girard, who is studying for the Deaconate, and currently serves as religious education director, presented Pitts with a framed "Papal Blessing" from Rome.
Upon acceptance of the painting, Pitts told the audience he was "flabbergasted."
"I see people here that I really, really never expected, people who came out of their way," Pitts said. "Thank all of you for coming; I really appreciate it."
Pitts then thanked Girard, who he said "hopefully is our next deacon", and thanked Campion "for all of his kind words."
He explained that after his wife, Irene died, over seven years ago, he went into a slump. Then, he received an encouraging phone call from Campion.
Unfortunately, Pitts said Irene couldn't be with him on this day.
"She was truly the wind beneath my wings from our first day together until the day she died," he said. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of you parishioners; I'm overwhelmed seeing you all her today."
Pitts then thanked those in attendance for all their support over the years.
"I'll never forget you," he said. "I can only think that you gave me more than I gave you; thank you very much."