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Harborcreek Arts Center Gives Youth New Life

Harborcreek Youth Services resident Nick, foreground, plays a guitar riff for music therapist Sam Krahe and Catholic Charities Executive Director Ann Badach.

He’s only 17, but Nick Smith says the past year has been the best of his life. He credits Harborcreek Youth Services (HYS), a psychiatric residential treatment center for young people.

“It saved my life,” says Nick, whose real last name is withheld to protect his privacy.

Located in Harborcreek not far from the shores of Lake Erie in the Diocese of Erie, HYS is home to about 65 mostly young men who have been court-appointed or placed because of mental health issues or a history of personal trauma. It operates under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie, offering not only residential care, but behavioral health services, foster care and specialized family therapy.

On May 11, Nick had even more reason to celebrate as HYS dedicated its new Father Jim Fahey Therapeutic Arts Center.

The Therapeutic Arts Center aims to reach troubled youth through various expressive therapies, including art, music and movement.

“This gives the boys a lot more opportunity for different kinds of activity and therapy,” says John Petulla, executive director of HYS and the main mover behind the three-year effort to build the Therapeutic Arts Center.

For Nick, playing the guitar or banging on some drums have helped.

“In my opinion, it’s an outlet for emotions and trauma,” Nick says. “If you don’t want to sit there and explain it to a therapist, if you don’t want to sit there and tell your mom exactly how you feel, then put it in a song, record it and do something with it.”

Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor spoke at the dedication ceremony, expressing his appreciation for the longtime relationship Mercyhurst has had with HYS.

In 2015, the Mercyhurst University-Harborcreek Youth Services Partnership was established to help build the Therapeutic Arts Initiative.

“Through music, art and movement therapy combined with counseling, we are making great strides in helping these young people discover self-worth, emotional expression and social skills,” Victor told those gathered for the dedication ceremony. “What could be more motivating or more inspiring?”

*Article contributed by Mary Solberg, Editor, FaithLife.

More Than 100 People Attend Evening of ‘Prayer and Support’ in Connellsville

The Immaculate Conception Parish in Connellsville served as the backdrop for the first Summer Diocesan Drug Education and Prayer Service organized by Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic. The event was held on Tuesday, July 11 and was attended by more than 100 people from across the diocese that listened, learned and shared stories of how the opioid and heroin epidemic has touched them and their family.

Calling it a plague, Bishop Malesic cited that 319 people in the diocese died of an opioid overdose in 2016.

Several parishioners shared their personal stories of loss and struggle that have resulted from addiction.

The sessions will continue throughout the summer in the Greensburg diocese which is comprised of Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

Read and watch more from area news coverage of the evening by following these links:

State Budget Round Up for 2017-2018

Governor Tom Wolf announced his decision to let the General Assembly’s $32 billion FY 2017-2018 spending plan become law without his signature, despite the legislature’s unresolved negotiations for the revenue to back it up. The governor said he hopes that lawmakers “will come together to pass a responsible solution to balance our books.”

The legislature is considering different revenue options including borrowing from other dedicated funds and expanding gambling, but holding the line on sales and personal income taxes. They must find a way to close the $2.2 billion gap.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) tracks many elements of the budget debate, especially those line items that help families and assist the poor.


Thanks to a strong expression of grassroots support, many more students could get scholarships to attend the school of their choice next year. The number of tax credits available for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program in the spending plan will increase by $20 million. The companion program, Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC), which gives the same kind of scholarships to students who live in underperforming school districts, remained the same with no cuts. When the legislature passes the school code bill, the increased tax credits will be authorized.

The tax credit scholarships have been an investment that has paid dividends for students seeking a Catholic or other private education in Pennsylvania. Every Catholic school in all corners of this great Commonwealth benefits from the EITC or OSTC programs.

Each year more than 40,000 families get a scholarship that permits the parents to send their children to a school that best meets their needs. It gives these families a true choice in the right educational path for their children.

Social Concerns

The state constitution requires the state and local governments to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of citizens, especially the poor such as “mothers having dependent children and aged persons without adequate means of support.” (PA Constitution, Article III, §29)

Funding for these human services was cut in some areas, but for the most part it was kept at the same level as last year. Catholic charities and social service agencies often partner with local governments to deliver these services to people in need. For example, local crisis pregnancy centers administer the state’s alternative to abortion program, that supports women through their pregnancy and up to the first year of their child’s life. This state funded program has helped thousands of mothers choose life for their babies.

Health Care

Line items that fund Pennsylvania’s obstetrical/neonatal services, burn and trauma centers, and critical access hospitals remained the same; this is welcome news to PCHA and the Hospital & Health System Association of PA (HAP). The overall impact of the state budget on health care can be complicated. Questions about Medicaid and health care access for the poor remain unanswered as the debate in Washington, DC, continues.

The PCC and PCHA track and monitor many bills and proposed regulations in addition to the state budget. Stay up to date on all issues by visiting, or lend your voice to the debate by sending a message through the Catholic Advocacy Network.

JULY 2017 PCC COLUMN – The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at,, and

How Do You Stay Connected? Do You Follow Your Diocese? Pope Francis Wants to Know

In preparation for the upcoming snyod on youth, faith and vocations, Pope Francis is asking the faithful, particularly young people ages 16-29, to tell him about their engagement within the Catholic Church.

The Vatican has recently launched an anonymous online survey geared to young people as a way to offer feedback on issues surrounding the Catholic faith. The responses will then be used to form the foundation of topics that will be discussed at the synod.

In addition to completing the online survey here, follow this link to get connected to your local diocese today!



Bishop Zubik Releases Statement on Senate’s Proposed Health Care Plan

Bishop David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh recently released a statement urging members of the U.S. Senate to remove a provision in the proposed healthcare reform bill that would severely limit health care access for those most in need.

Calling access to health care a basic human right, Bishop Zubik noted that since 1919, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for a universal health care plan that protects every person at every stage of life.

Additionally, he noted that the Senate bill places at risk:

  • The 2.6 million Pennsylvania residents who receive Medicaid – including 1.1 million children, 730,000 persons with disabilities and 82,000 military veterans;
  • The nearly one-third of all Pennsylvania births now covered by Medicaid; and
  • The more than 260,000 Pennsylvania seniors who rely on Medicaid to cover nursing home and long-term in-home care not covered by Medicare.


The full statement can be read here.



Greensburg Bishop Responds to “The Crisis That is Upon Us.”

Bishop Edward C. Malesic of the Diocese of Greensburg recently held a news conference to outline the Catholic Church’s local response to the statewide heroin and opioid crisis.

Specifically, Bishop Malesic released a pastoral letter calling on people in the diocese to take action against the opioid scourge, by focusing on prayer, education and cooperative efforts with government and social service agencies that are already engaged in the fight against addiction.

An excerpt reads:

Rarely does a day go by that we do not hear about a death that is the result of a drug overdose. The word “crisis” is used to describe the situation as it currently presses down upon us. Our priests have told me of their sadness and frustration at having buried way too many persons as a result of it.

 Read the full letter.


In 2016 alone, more than 300 opioid-related deaths were reported within the four counties of the Diocese of Greensburg.

“This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese,” said Malesic. “It has touched the very hearts and souls of our parishioners in the pews and the people living in our communities; it has affected men and women of every age, profession and state of life. Even more tragic is the reality that every one of those 319 deaths was preventable and did not have to happen.”

Bishop Malesic also announced the schedule for a series of seven Summer Diocesan Drug Education Evenings, to be held around the diocese on the following dates:

Tuesday, July 11 — Immaculate Conception Parish, Connellsville

Friday, July 14 — Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin

Wednesday, Aug. 2 — St. Joseph Parish, Uniontown

Thursday, Aug. 3 — Our Lady of Grace Parish, Greensburg

Tuesday, Aug. 8 — St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Kittanning

Thursday, Aug. 10 — Mary Queen of Apostles School, Greenwald Site, New Kensington

Wednesday, Aug. 16 — St. Thomas More University Parish, Indiana

Each session will begin at 7 p.m.

The sessions will include a presentation about the facts of the crisis, a discussion with a question and answer period, and a prayer service.


Act Now to Support Increasing Education Tax Credits!

Students rally at the state Capitol in support of expanding the EITC and OSTC programs.

Pennsylvania’s constitutional deadline of June 30 to pass a state budget is quickly approaching.

House Bill 250, which would increase tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $50 million (raising it to $175 million) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program by $25 million (raising it to $75 million), overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

Budget negotiations are taking place and this issue is currently being considered, so NOW is the time to remind members of the House to maintain support for an increase and to urge state senators to follow suit by voting for EITC and OSTC increases!

The EITC and the OSTC programs have always achieved bipartisan support and have been acclaimed as two of the best educational programs Pennsylvania offers to students in both public and private schools.

The tax credit scholarships have been an investment that has paid dividends for students seeking a Catholic or other private education in Pennsylvania. Every Catholic school in all corners of this great Commonwealth benefits from the EITC or OSTC programs.

Each year more than 40,000 families get a scholarship that permits the parents to send their children to a school that best meets their needs. It gives these families a true choice in the right educational path for their children.

We need your help to urge all lawmakers to invest in success and support the expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs by voting YES on a state budget that includes an increase in the programs’ line items. Click here to send a message today.

PCC Welcomes Two New Staff

PCC’s newest staff members: Eric Failing, Director of Social Concerns, and Stephany Dugan, Director of Outreach.

Two new faces joined the staff of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), public affairs agency of the ten Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania based in the state capital, Harrisburg. Eric Failing is director of social concerns and Stephany Dugan is director of outreach.

The PCC’s mission is to formulate positions on public policy issues that affect the Church as an institution, but also on issues of morality, health, welfare, human rights, education and the common good. The PCC officially represents the Church before state government and works in cooperation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on federal issues. The PCC also aims to foster a public understanding of the Church’s teaching and concern about all of these issues.

Mr. Failing represents the Church’s concern about pro-life, social justice, and family-life issues and helps diocesan Catholic Charities agencies by monitoring legislation and regulations that affect them and the services they offer. He lobbies the state legislature on behalf of low-income and other needy population groups.

Ms. Dugan manages the Catholic Advocacy Network and the PCC’s website and social media. Her work helps to arm Catholics with the truth and authentic Church teaching behind today’s public policy issues so they can be effective advocates for the Gospel in the public square.

Learn about the latest issues and take action through the Catholic Advocacy Network at



JUNE 2017 column. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at,, and

Life of Cardinal William H. Keeler Honored by State Legislature

The life of Cardinal William H. Keeler was honored and celebrated on Monday, June 12, 2017, by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with the unanimous adoption of House Resolution 345.

The resolution was introduced by state Rep. Frank Ryan of Lebanon County.

Cardinal Keeler, who was called to the priesthood at an early age, was widely known for forging strong relationships with other religious denominations, particularly Jews and Protestants.

A native of Lebanon and attendee of Lebanon Catholic High School, Cardinal Keeler served as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg from 1984 to 1989 and was president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference Administrative Board. Namely, he was instrumental in arranging Pope John Paul II’s historic 1987 meetings with Jewish leaders in Miami, Florida, and with Protestant leaders in Columbia, South Carolina.

He was appointed the 14th Archbishop of Baltimore in 1989, became President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1992.

In November 1994, Pope John Paul II appointed then-Archbishop Keeler to the College of Cardinals making him the third Archbishop of Baltimore to receive the distinction.

In his own words: “I wondered about a way of saying thank you to God and giving back to the church and the gifts that God has given to me. It was as simple as that. For me, becoming a priest was not complicated.” – From The Catholic Review of Baltimore.

Cardinal William Henry Keeler

March 4, 1931 – March 23, 2017