Surrounded by the radiance of Nativity scenes, strings of lights and vibrant poinsettias, Catholics gathered at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Lewisburg and St. George Church in Mifflinburg to celebrate the Epiphany with Bishop Ronald Gainer.

The feast celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah, as the Magi arrive from the east to adore the Christ child.

“The reason you traveled to Holy Mass today was the same reason the Magi did – to pay homage,” Bishop Gainer told the faithful gathered for Mass at Sacred Heart on the evening of Jan. 4, and at St. George the next morning. Ten miles separate the churches, both under Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.

“The Magi brought gifts; you bring your love and loyalty to Christ, and you receive a gift in return – Christ present in the Holy Eucharist,” he said.

The Magi are transformed by their counter with the Christ child. “It is they who initiate the process of paying homage that St. Matthew writes about so often in the Gospel,” he said.

The bishop said that while we emphasize the gifts of wealth that the Magi bring, it is the Magi who receive the gift, that of God made man. “And my dear friends in Christ, there is no greater gift than that,” Bishop Gainer said.

A Caring Community

Located in Union County, in the northern tier of the Diocese, Sacred Heart Church was dedicated in 1935, and St. George Mission Church in 1999.

“What continues to impress me about the people here is their charity,” said Father Mark Wilke, pastor.

The Caring Community, an outreach of approximately 100 volunteers from Sacred Heart and St. George, carries out various works of charity on a weekly basis.

“They write letters to the bereaved, deliver meals to people recovering from surgery, give rides to parishioners for appointments, and visit with folks who are unable to go out. Those who are unable to physically participate help in the work through prayer,” Father Wilke said.

helped everyone in the parish give and receive works of charity.”

The Caring Community began during the pastorate of Msgr. William Richardson and continues to flourish under the leadership of parishioner Eileen Pannell.

“Her dedication to the Caring Community and coordination of the people involved has helped everyone in the parish give and receive works of charity,” Father Wilke said.

“The Caring Community reminds us that it is a gift to be able to receive charity from others. We have a temptation to close off our hearts to help when we need it; we use this outreach as an opportunity to say, ‘These are your friends and neighbors who are willing to help you,’” he said.

Sacred Heart and St. George are home to “a strong community of Catholics throughout the area,” Father Wilke said. The parish is also home to a vibrant Catholic Campus Ministry at Bucknell University and prison ministry at USP Lewisburg.

“We certainly have distinct communities at Sacred Heart and St. George, but strive to be one parish with two churches,” Father Wilke said. “I can’t say enough about the kindness and generosity of the people here.”

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness