Welcome to Saints Peter and Paul Parish!


8:00 AM
10:00 AM

Saturday Vigil:
4:00 PM
8:00 AM Monday, Tuesday, Friday

6:00 PM Thursday

8:00 AM Wednesday - Communion Service

Holy Days:
As scheduled

Thursdays at 5:00 PM
Saturdays at 3:00PM

400 South 4th Street
Philipsburg, PA 16866
(814) 342-1700

Fr. John Gibbons Administrator
Deacon Jerry Nevling
Jerry CravenDirector of Religious Education
Mary TocimakAssistant Director of Religious Education
Laurie WasilkoOffice Manager
George Wasilko, Director of Maintenance

May 21, 2020


Greetings from Fr. John,


First, I want to say I miss seeing you at mass during this most difficult time. I also want to thank many of you for coming to the church to pray and for the prayers you have directed toward the end of this crisis. The church is open from 8AM to 7PM daily. This weekend, May 23-24, I will be video taping a mass and posting it on our website.  www.sspeterandpaul.us.  I will also be posting my homily on the website. After watching the mass online, I encourage each of you to come to the church this weekend to pick up a bulletin, pick up a plastic soldier, and a bulletin with highlights of my 10 years as a priest. You can also drop off your offering and, most importantly, to receive a Eucharistic blessing.  I will be in the back of the church and Deacon Jerry will be in the parking lot, whichever is preferable to you.  As a further precaution, I will be wearing gloves and a mask. The hours are Saturday 4-4:45PM, Sunday 8-8:45AM and 10-10:45AM  I hope to see many of you then.  Although the obligation to attend mass on Sundays has been dispensed, the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath is still in place.  I have tried to allow you do so by watching mass online, however, you and your family should make every effort to come to the church and pray.


Bishop Mark has released his 4 phase plan to reopen the churches.  We will be able to celebrate our weekend masses starting the weekend of June 13-14th.  I will be hearing confessions on Thursdays at 5PM and Saturdays at 3PM.  Please check the bulletin or the website for the various activities in our parish.  Financially, we are keeping our heads above water thanks to your continued support.  I truly thank you for all your contributions during this most difficult time.


Please know that I pray for all of you daily.  May God continue to bless you and your families.


Sincerely in Christ,


Fr. John

MAY HE REST IN PEACE Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Bill Culp who passed away this Tuesday, May 19th. May he rise to new life when Jesus comes in glory and may God grant him eternal rest.


1)  How did I know I was being called to the priesthood?  When I was a parishioner at Christ the Redeemer, I was involved in many different ministries such as Lector, CCD teacher, Eucharistic Minister, Sacristan, and leader on Men's and Youth Retreats.  I was also working full time as a sales person.  The greatest joy I had was working at the parish.  One day, some of the men on retreat asked me when I was going to become a priest.  I had never considered that before their suggestion.  However, the more I thought and prayed about this, the more it became apparent that I was being called by God and that I needed to answer the call.

2)  Why did I become a priest at age 55 and not sooner?  My life experiences of being married, having worked in sales and marketing for almost 30 years and other life experiences were necessary for me to be the priest God wanted me to be.  Without these previous experiences, I would not be the priest I am today.

3)  Why the Diocese of Altona-Johnstown?  First, you need to know that you have to have a Diocese sponsor you before you can be accepted into a seminary to study for the priesthood. There are two seminaries that specialize in preparing older men for the priesthood.  One is the Sacred Heart School of Theology, run by the priests of the Sacred Heart.  These same priests were at Christ the Redeemer, my home parish in Houston.  Once I felt called to the priesthood, I met with Cardinal DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to get sponsorship.  He turned me down because he felt I should be closer to my family in the Philadelphia area, especially my aging father.  I then applied to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia but they also turned me down because of my age.   Their age limit for seminarians was 40 and I was 50.  I then called Sacred Heart and they suggested I contact the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and apply there.  I did and I entered the seminary in August of 2006.  The seminary took 4
years and I was ordained on May 22, 2010.

4)  How have my previous life experiences helped me in my priesthood?  I truly believe that God calls when He knows you are ready, not when you feel you are ready.  My 21 years of marriage, 54 years sitting in the pews and my 30 years of business experience were all needed for me to be the priest I am today.   My marital experiences are invaluable in preparing couples for marriage and in marriage counseling.  My business experience helps me to run the parish and the marketing helps me to develop ways to bring others to the church.  My experience sitting in the pews allows me to better prepare my homilies and other services so that you grow closer to Christ as a result of attending that service.

5)  What were my expectations about the priesthood compared to the reality of priestly life?   During my time at the seminary, my goal as a priest was to help others to grow and develop their relationship with Christ.  When I was first assigned to the Cathedral in Altoona, and then to Bellefonte, I reported to a pastor.  I had to do what they wanted me to do.  Once I arrived at Ss. Peter and Paul 5 years ago, I was now able to develop the ministries I wanted as a priest. Because of the great staff here, they allow me to be the priest I always wanted to become.  Everything I do as a priest has the goal of allowing each person to grow closer to Christ.  I love serving all of you and during this difficult time, I miss being able to be with you.


6)  What are some of the greatest joys and difficulties in my ministry as a priest?  The greatest joy is just the opportunity to be Christ to others and do whatever that day brings.  Each day is so different and that is one of the great joys.  The most difficult services that I provide are funerals, especially burying my father. 


7)  What are some of the most unusual questions or things that have surprised you in your priesthood?  One confession, a young person told me that since their last confession six months ago they had been perfect.  They insisted that they hadn’t committed any sins.  My response was to have them pray for me so that I could be more like them.  Another serious question came from a bride-to-be at the Cathedral.  Her text was something like this: "Hey Padre, should I wear flats or high heels under my wedding dress?"  Somehow, bridal shoe selection was not covered in my education at the Seminary!!  My response was slightly raised shoes but no heals. There are too many steps at the Cathedral and didn't want her to trip.


8)  What do I miss most about my secure life?  Having weekends off and missing family gatherings during the holidays. 


9)  If I had to do it over again, would I still become a priest?  Yes!!!  I love being a priest.


10)  What are my dreams and goals for my next 10 years?  Making it to my 20th Anniversary!  I never take my day-to-day life for granted. I try to live each day to the fullest.  I want to continue to bring more people back to the church and grow Ss. Peter and Paul.   I hope to add a few more ministries such as outreach to shut-ins, more community service projects for our youth and more prayer services such as evening prayer for special feast days.  We continue to use our Parish Hall for social and community activities and need to find more uses for this valuable asset.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be the priest I always dreamed of becoming 10 years ago!

                                                                                      Fr. John

MAY HE REST IN PEACE Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Joe Shedlock, husband of Barb Shedlock, who passed away on April 29th. May he rise to new life when Jesus comes in glory and may God grant him eternal rest.

Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Joseph Barnyak Jr., husband of Kathleen Barnyak, who passed away on April 22nd. May he rise to new life when Jesus comes in glory and may God grant him eternal rest


Covid-19. Coronavirus. These are terms with which we have all become familiar in the last few months, in the last few weeks.  Covid-19 strikes fear in our hearts and in our minds. We have learned new terms such as social distancing. We find ourselves going back to the basics, learning how to entertain ourselves in our own homes without the normal entertainment opportunities. 


Theories about this virus abound. Is it something that was destined to happen at some time similar to the great plagues of the past? Is it a conspiracy to take out the United States, to make us dependent upon our government so they can take over our healthcare system, our lives? Is the government truly working for our good? Is the media fueling the chaos with its reporting? Is it truly as bad as they lead us to believe?  So many questions and so few answers. But there is one common theme amongst us:  FEAR. 


I don’t know what will happen. I hold out hope that our government will pass the stimulus bill that will provide funds for small business to continue to pay employees but they can’t seem to get past their partisan politics and come together for the good of the country 


Fear.  It is alive and well in my heart, in my home. Yet, I hear God say “Faith over fear. Oh, those sweet words whispered by my Father! Yes, our faith must be strong enough to carry us through this pandemic, through the chaos that swirls around us. Our faith must carry us through the unknown as we navigate these waters. We must again learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) 


So, how do we walk by faith and not fear in this new world? 


He has been so incredibly faithful. Never once have we had a need He didn’t meet. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He was faithful yesterday and He will be faithful today.


I will choose to remember His faithfulness, His character that promises to always care for the needs of His children.

Focus our minds on the truths of God’s Word. So often, I find my mind wandering, focusing on the circumstances around me. That’s when my heart gets anxious, when I allow fear to overtake faith.

God’s Word brings peace. When we focus our hearts and minds on the Father, on His words to us, we find His perfect peace floods our hearts and minds (Isaiah 26:3). When we meditate on things that are lovely and noble and true and right and excellent and praiseworthy, His peace that surpasses all understanding overtakes our lives and chases out all fear (Philippians 4:6-8). When we choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we find God’s good and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

What does this look like in a practical way? When I find myself thinking about the circumstances around me, I must repent and turn to God. I can pray and ask Him to renew my mind. I can choose to quote scriptures in my head or say them out loud, scriptures that encourage faith over fear. I can think about God’s past faithfulness in my life and recount the stories of how He has cared for me. I can change the things I think about so that my mind is encouraged in the present.

Maybe we need some notecards with scriptures placed in strategic places. Maybe we need to carry those cards with us so we always have them available. Maybe we need an accountability partner to remind us to think the way He wants us to. Whatever it takes, replace the fear with the truth of God’s Word and His character.

Seek a new perspective. The media would have us believe we are all doomed, life will never be the same. It’s easy to get so bogged down with the news that we are being fed 24/7/365. We hear the media’s perspective, but is it the only perspective?

I’m trying to find the good in this chaos. I’m trying to find ways this sheltering in place can bring good things because we known all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It gives me time to slow down and focus on God and family. It’s a time where I can learn to put financial security in its proper place rather than making it an idol in my life. It’s a time to focus on my hopes and dreams rather than being consumed with work and the cares of this life.

While this is definitely a time of uncertainty and change, I am firmly convinced my God is still in control. As we navigate these waters of chaos, I encourage you to remember how He has always been faithful. I encourage you to turn your heart and mind toward Him and the promises in His word. I ask you to look for a new perspective, His perspective, in the midst of your circumstances.

We will see His faithfulness again. We will live to see the Promises fulfilled on the other side of the wilderness.

Father God, this is a time of such fear and uncertainty. We know you are not the author of fear but of peace. As we walk through these tumultuous storms that are impacting every part of our lives, help us to remember you are the same forever and always, you never change even when the world crumbles around us. I ask for an extra dose of your perfect peace for every person reading these words. I pray you would show us your perspective in the midst of the storm. Give us the courage to face the storm and walk through it until we see your promises fulfilled on the other side. You are God and you are still in control. And for that, we praise you.


TO: All Clergy

FROM: (Very Rev.) Alan E. Thomas, VG

RE: COVID-19 Restrictions

DATE: March 17, 2020


    In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, Bishop Mark requires that priests and deacons of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese observe the following directives, effective immediately.

Suspension of Public Masses
    Churches and other public places of worship in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese are to remain open for private prayer. However, effective immediately, there will be no public liturgies of any sort. That is, there will be no public daily Masses or weekend Masses, no public novenas, communal stations of the cross, ecumenical services, or other public worship until the current COVID-19 crisis has passed. The purpose of this is to retard the spread of the coronavirus. The Bishop will be reviewing the situation daily and will alert priests and deacons immediately when Masses and other public worship can be resumed.

    The Bishop authorizes and expects priests to celebrate a private Mass each day during this crisis. This should be done in the rectory or at a private chapel. Priests should celebrate a single Mass in place of Saturday evening and Sunday Masses. The Bishop directs that, in light of the unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves, multiple Mass intentions should be coalesced in the one Sunday Mass. Provisions regarding the accounting of Mass stipends continue to pertain. That is, priests may keep the stipend of one Mass intention per day. All other stipends from additional intentions should be forwarded to the Diocese in keeping with canon law and diocesan policy. Coalescing Mass intentions into a single Sunday Mass includes the pastor’s pro populo obligation. The Mass will continue to be broadcast at 11:00am on Sundays. The Bishop will be the presider at this liturgy and these broadcasts will be available on the Diocesan website and social media.

Christian Initiation of Adults
    Because this crisis is coming at the very time when the Christian Initiation of Adults would reach its apex, the rites regarding the reception of adults into the Church will be suspended until after the crisis has passed. These rites may then be celebrated at parish weekend liturgies once weekend Masses have been restored.

Easter Triduum
    Because it seems unlikely that public Masses will be permitted until after Easter, priestsshould begin making arrangements for the private celebration of the liturgies associated with the Easter Triduum. It would be advisable for materials to be placed near the entrances of churches so that the faithful can take these home and participate in some way in these important liturgies.

    Priests should retain and make use of the existing paschal candle as well as the oils blessed last year. The Bishop will authorize new Paschal candles to be blessed and holy oils to be distributed once restrictions have been lifted.

    Baptisms of children and adults may be held during the restricted period, but they should be limited to members of the immediate family only.

    All currently scheduled confirmation Masses have been postponed. The Bishop plans to reschedule confirmations after the crisis has passed. These confirmations will most likely occur in a specific location in each of the five deaneries. In order to accommodate the greatest number of people, multiple confirmation liturgies in some deaneries may need to be scheduled.

First Holy Communion
    First communion liturgies should be postponed until after the crisis has ended.

The Sacrament of Penance
    In terms of the celebration of penance, the Bishop requires that all penance services be canceled until after current restrictions on crowd size have been lifted. He encourages priests to offer specific times when the faithful can come for individual confessions. Priests should make use of the confessional barrier between themselves and the penitents, and provide ways for surfaces in the confessional to be disinfected after each penitent, if possible. Should the crisis escalate to the point where there is a grave danger of death for many, the bishop will authorize the use of general absolution. Priests will be made aware of this if the necessity arises. In the meantime, the ordinary form of the sacrament of penance should be observed.

    Priests and deacons are encouraged to contact couples who are planning weddings in the next several months to determine if these plans have been altered. It is possible, and even likely, that venue changes and cancelations may already have affected couples with scheduled weddings. Because most weddings are not scheduled earlier than mid-April, it should be possible to give more accurate guidance in the next couple of weeks.

    Funerals may continue to be celebrated but only for immediate family members. The time of the Mass should not be published. It is acceptable for families who wish to avoid coming to a parish church to have a funeral liturgy outside of Mass celebrated at the funeral home. Vigils should be conducted at the discretion of the families and funeral directors in keeping with the requirements of public safety.

Pastoral Care of the Sick
    The Bishop directs that priests and deacons follow these protocols with regard to the visitation and pastoral care of the sick. Those who are hospitalized should continue to receive visitation and sacraments as permitted by hospital policy. Thus priests and deacons who serve as hospital chaplains and in emergent coverage should continue these functions. Priests and deacons should visit parishioners in nursing facilities and rehab units only in danger of death. Similarly, priests and deacons should visit parishioners in their private homes only in danger of death.

Pastoral Care in General
    Priests and deacons should continue to meet on a one-to-one basis with parishioners for appointments and pastoral counseling.

    The Diocesan Pastoral Center will be closed for two weeks or until the current situation abates. Email and phone calls will be answered remotely. Similarly, Catholic Charities will be closed but it is possible to leave messages for Catholic Charities staff.

    Until the Diocesan Education Office receives instruction from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, all graduations are temporarily postponed.

    By direct order of the Bishop, all social gatherings are prohibited until further notice. This includes parish gatherings, meetings of parish groups, fish fries, and other fundraisers. These measures are required in order to avoid person-to-person contact and the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore, because it is impossible to observe the necessary sterile procedures and because of the possibility of gatherings of people in excess of what is required for public safety, all takeout meals for fundraising must also be suspended immediately.

Financial Considerations and Payroll
    All priests and deacons are encouraged, with the assistance of their finance council members, to consider what are the most essential tasks required in their parishes at present and which employees are necessary for these tasks. In order to deal with the projected shortfall in income which will be occurring in many parishes, it may be necessary to make use of temporary layoffs as a way of dealing with financial obligations. In the case of such layoffs, these employees are eligible to apply for unemployment compensation. Telecommuting (working from home over computer or phone) is recommended as a way to continue to have employees work for the parish. With Matt Stever’s assistance, the Bishop hopes to publish directives about ways in which financially-strained parishes should go about meeting their current financial obligations.

    It is recognized that certain employees are essential to parish functioning at this time and should continue working, if possible. Consult with Lynette McEvoy with any questions about whether an employee should report for work.

    The Catholic Ministries Drive will continue.

    For those parishes which have already established online giving, priests and deacons should encourage parishioners to continue their giving in this way. Effective March 18, 2019, it will be possible for parishes without online giving to receive offertory online through a new Diocesan portal at www.dioceseaj.org/giving. Priests and deacons should inform their parishioners about this way of giving. For parishioners who are not computer-savvy, priests and deacons may want to encourage the use of US Mail as a way of continuing to support their parish.