The Serra movement first came to Pittsburgh via Seattle and Milwaukee. At the end of the 1930's, there were only seven Serra Clubs in existence. The Pittsburgh club got underway in 1943 and when it was formally recognized, it received Charter #20; which means that among the 623 Serra clubs in existence in the world today, Pittsburgh's club can truly now be considered 'patriarchal'.
How the Pittsburgh Club got started was simply by a string of associations. Frank Bruce, who headed the Bruce Publishing Company in Milwaukee, had become a Serran. Joe Breig, a Pittsburgh newspaper columnist who used to review Frank's books, became his friend. So Frank reached out for Joe's help to gather a few men with whom he might meet and explain the workings of Serra in Pittsburgh. Joe rounded up 8 men, including prominent Pittsburghers Art Rooney and Leo Vogel among others, and on June 29, 1943, they met with Frank Bruce in the old Fort Pitt Hotel. In the months that followed, they interested others to join with them. But it took a year and a half to get some stability and finally meet the requirements for a Serra Charter, which was awarded on February 9, 1945, over 70 years ago now.
Over the years, the Pittsburgh Club has hosted a long series of luncheon programs that have offered brilliant, incisive, informative, challenging, and stimulating speakers. Reaching out to keep their vocation objective visible and beckoning, Serra has developed projects geared towards stimulating the curiosity and inquisitiveness of students from grade school age to university level. Serra has also launced other programs to enlist adults in support of potential vocations and has also worked to provide financial and other aid to seminarians. By still other means, Serra has endeavored to express its admiration and its gratitude to priests and religious, both young and old.
Since the establishment of the Diocesan Vocations Office in 1948, Pittsburgh Serra has responded to multiple requests for assistance through the implementation of its programs. So in a great many respects, the mission statement of the Pittsburgh Serra Club is nearly identical to the work now being done over the last twenty or so years by the Bishop's Latin School Alumni Association. Diocesan Director of Vocations, Father Joe Freedy, a Cardinal Wright Award winner himself; serves as their organization's chaplain, so as you can see, there is much overlapping between our two organiztions.
Many alumni may also fondly recall being invited to attend Steeler games back at old Pitt Stadium with tickets that were provided by Serra Club member Mr. Arthur J. Rooney. True, the Steelers weren't too good back then, but this was just another small example of how the Serra Club has always performed kind gestures for those considering a vocation as well as providing educational financial support for those in need.
2015 John Cardinal Wright Award Winners
Rev. Thomas Lewandowski, BLS '75
Pastor of Christ the Light of the World and St Joseph's in Duquesne
The following article first apeared in The Pittsburgh Catholic, June 30, 2000, the week following his ordination.
By Chuck Moody, Staff Writer
During the five years he was on the road as a cross-country truck driver, Thomas Lewandowski repeatedly heard the call to priesthood. Father Lewandowski, 43, was one of six priests who were ordained June 24 by Bishop Donald Wuerl. "The time when I was on the road, that’s when the call to priesthood became more and more evident," he said. "It was there all along probably, but I apparently just didn’t want to accept the gift. I was asking questions such as, 'Why me? I’m not worthy.'"
While on the road, Father Lewandowski said he had a lot of time to think, meditate and pray.
"When you’re driving, you come to a sense of yourself with the time to think,” he said. "Also just the people who I encountered, I felt that things were very evident that God was calling me even then. He was working through strangers and people who I just met once just by what they said. I just came to a greater sense of God’s presence around me in people and also in creation. I saw a lot of sunsets and sunrises, and they were very beautiful. I just came to a greater sense of God during that whole time."
He is the son of Blanche and Edmund Lewandowski of Duquesne and a member of Christ the Light of the World Parish.
"He will be an excellent priest," said Father Dennis Colamarino, pastor. "He has a sensitivity towards people. He is a good worker. He has a vision of church, which is caring and compassionate. It’s people oriented. His varied background, having been a truck driver, helped him maybe be more sensitive to where people are at. He is not ‘clerical’ in the good sense. He does not use power or control to be above people."
Father Lewandowski said all of the priests he met throughout his life have influenced him including the Jesuits he encountered while attending the Bishop's Latin School in Pittsburgh. After later graduating from Wheeling Jesuit University, he worked as a busboy/dishwasher; did warehouse work and drove a truck for eight years for the Flavoripe Company in the Strip District before entering the seminary in 1993.
“I’m very happy with where I’m at,” he said. “When I was on the road as I was thinking, meditating, I was looking for something about myself. There was like this void that I was searching to fill. I just couldn’t fill it. Once I accepted the gift of priesthood and I just said ‘yes’ to it, well then that void became full. I can say honestly that I am a completed person, a fulfilled person. this is where God wants me to be at this time.”
Fr. Lewandowski had his initial assignment at St. Basil's in Carrick. Other assignments along the way included Immaculate Conception in Washington, Pa, North American Martyrs in Monroeville, and St, Camillus in New Castle, PA. Later he was appointed as an administrator to assist Fr. Dennis Colamarino at his Duquesne parishes after Fr. Colamarino had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Since Fr. Colamarino's recent passing, Fr. Lewandowski has recently been named pastor of those parishes (Christ the Light of the World and St Joseph's in Duquesne) by Bishop David Zubik.
Returning to his home parish, "Was a gift," Lewandowski had said at the time. "It was awesome to have Father Dennis as a mentor. He was a strong witness of how to live and love and how to die with dignity and still be joyful no matter what,” he said. He was the epitome of what it means to give of yourself."
Fr. Dennis was certainly a legend in the Diocese, having served 32 years in Duquesne as well as being nicknamed, affectionately, "The Bishop of Duquesne" by many of his admiring fellow priests due to his unusual length of years there. But now, with these gigantic shoes to fill, it will be Fr. Tom Lewandowski's turn to lead the people of his hometown parishes in Duquesne, a daunting task to be sure, but certainly one which he is most capable of performing.
So what does he do now in his spare time during the summer? "In the past four years, I have been empowered by God to deliver five tractor trailer loads of goods each summer to the Fr. Beiting Appalachia Mission Center."
He may now be a priest, but apparently inside he's still a truck driver at heart. Being "on the road again" will obviously always be a great pleasure for this former tractor trailer operator now-turned priest!
Fr. Lewandowski will be blessed to have his father, Edmund, 92, in attendance for his award as well as his older brother, Dennis, also a B.L.S. graduate and from the Class of '72. His mother, Blanche (2004) and another brother, Anthony, are now deceased.
Ms. Angela Gaughan,
Director of Youth Ministry & Social ServiceOutreach,
St Bernard Parish
Angela Gaughan, a non-Latin School honoree, presently serves as the Director of Youth Ministry and Social Service Outreach at St. Bernard Parish in Mt. Lebanon where her energy, enthusiasm and love for God help youth and adults grow in their faith and reach out to others.
Angela, the daughter of the late Harry and Frances Gaughan, was born and raised in Mt. Lebanon, PA. She is a 1984 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, where she excelled in and out of the classroom. She attended Seton Hill College (now University) where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Angela taught for 3 years at Brookline Regional Catholic School and for 6 years in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, where she saw first-hand the hardships and suffering of children and families struggling with the impact of poverty and violence. After leaving classroom education, Angela served as the Program Director of Mom’s House (currently Angel’s Place) on Pittsburgh’s North Side and their Brookline House for 3 years.
From there she served as a Youth Minister at St Albert the Great and a Coordinator of Religious Education at St Alexis in Wexford and earned a Master’s in Religious Education from Duquesne University in 2010.