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GAINS & GLEANINGS | Shortchanging the people and town that I love is a non-starter

By J. Hogan

"Why get involved in that?"

"Is that really a role for a minister?"

"Shouldn't you just stay in your lane?"

These questions come up often in my life.

Some of my neighbors don't like that I'll be standing in front of my house telling the police what I heard or saw when gunfire erupts or a melee takes place.

Others in our community think I should be quiet about the dismal state of our school district.

I'm sure some of our elected officials and police wish I would shut up about the confession of ineffectiveness inherent in putting speed bumps exactly at stop signs to make the cars constantly speeding through the ignored stop signs at least slow their momentum as they break the law.

And, of course, some wish I'd clam up about Allegheny County Housing Authority – including the ACHA themselves – trying to bury us under even more government-sponsored poverty,

quit fighting it and just stick to the pulpit and advancing the Christian cause.

But I don't. It's not in my nature to quietly let things slide by, especially when they strike me as shortchanging the people and town that I love or furthering injustice.

Fr. Regis Ryan is a dear friend of mine, a long-adopted member of my family, and a man I've known and admired my entire life.

Ryan is great at priestly things, a wonderful, encouraging preacher dripping with compassion and full of love – which is why even in his retirement years, he's still asked by families to do baptisms, weddings, and funerals all the time.

And the powers that be (well, were) wished for decades he would stick to the church tasks and not show up at council meetings and school board sessions to raise concerns.

Photographs of Fr. Ryan being manhandled by police as he was hauled out of meetings made the papers.

He didn't stop fighting. He didn't stop working to improve his town, laboring to bring fresh produce into communities bereft of it, bringing a library to town, and seeing that McKees Rocks got both a health care center and a senior citizen's high rise.

Some hated him for refusing to sit down, shut up and stick to the rectory.

But most of us stood in awe of him.

Even when we might have disagreed with him, we trusted that he'd prayerfully arrived at his position on a matter steeped in that same compassion and love for his town.

His organization, parallel to the church, was Focus On Renewal.

We're still fighting for this place, for that renewal.

You might be one who wishes Pastor Hogan would content himself with his growing church and his call to ministry, but I see it as one and the same.

Fighting for folks' well-being goes hand in hand with hoping for the ultimate goal of their eternal well-being, and what kind of man would leave a cold person to shiver or a hungry one without food to only hope for their eventual heavenly good?

Fr. Ryan ruffled feathers, and his town is better for it.

If I've gleaned some of that capacity, well, I pray you'll understand that, even when you and I see a matter differently, I'm hopeful we both want good outcomes for the people of our hometown.

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.



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