Monday, January 30, 2012

(69) Was the Reformation for Nothing?

Each "reformer" went in a different direction.......Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin, etc.  Then new reformers reformed the previous reformers until today, we have some 35,000 different Christian sects.  If only the Counter Reformation within the Catholic Church had occurred earlier, Christianity would be more unified today.  In any event there is more that unites us than divides us.  May all of the Christian denominations work together in an ecumenical spirit in areas that we have in common........the fight against secularism, sexual promiscuity, abortion, racial injustice, poverty, etc. 

      When we invited students to participate in our newly formed Newman Club, we mentioned that we would have Bible studies.  Billie Shepherd answered the mass e-mail to the students:  "It's about time that Catholics read the Bible.  She had a point.  Evangelicals are better than we Catholics in reading the Bible.  As I continued to include her on our e-mails of minutes and agendas, Billie would often reply with a barb  or a question.  That stimulated discussion, blogs, and e-mail replies with our meeting agendas.

         Below are her latest comments and questions with my answers.  The most intriguing is her third question, Was the Reformation for nothing? 

1) What a saint is according to the Bible. I agree; we should become holy, that is a saint on earth, so Purgatory won't be necessary for us. I answered that quite thoroughly in my November 7 e-mail and Blogs #18, 19, and 20 of .

2)Thanks Paul :) Have to keep you on your toes aay? :) Yes you do. We'll make a Catholic out of you yet (joking). Your comments do make us think about the Lord and stimulate thought. The more we learn about other faiths, the more we learn about our own. The more we understand each other, the more we can work together in this great spiritual/cultural war against secularism. The battle is too large for one faith alone. Let's think more about what unites us than what divides us (Blog #7 on Ecumenism). Come to one or more of our meetings. I appreciate your interest and participation.

3) Dear Readers, Have you read Martin Luther's  95 Thesis? Grace is free, you don't have to pay for it, you don't have to work for it. Was the reformation for nothing? Can you 'pay' someone out of hell? Does hell exist right now? First of all, did you objectively read my article on Purgatory? (See Purgatory is Real; Them Now, Us Soon  Read it with objectivity to understand where I am coming from.

a) Martin Luther pushes for some much needed reforms which came in the Council of Trent and the Counter Reformation. By being patient and continuing to push while continuing to follow his vow of obedience, he might have been a saint today.

b) Yes, grace is free for the asking in prayer and coming closer to God through prayer and the sacraments which Christ instituted for us. The foundations of the sacraments are biblical. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist (John 6) are a rich source (the Divine presence) of grace which our separated brethren are missing. However, one must be in the state of grace and of proper disposition to receive them. Of course Penance (Confessions) requires only the proper disposition. Good works does bring merits which God rewards. Penance and prayer does bring indulgences, but you can't buy them, a gross error at the time of the Reformation.

c) Of course hell exists and there's absolutely no return...... even all the riches of the world will not ransom one because the sinner refused Christ's redemptive grace. Christ is a God of great mercy and also justice.

d) Was the reformation for nothing? Absolutely! Yes, indeed! All 35,000 Christian sects that arose from it are heresies, relative to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Every time there is a serious doctrinal disagreement within a church, a group goes off and forms its own church......even in little Gallia County. The devil feeds on division. 

   You need a Pope (i.e., the Magisterium of the Church) to resolve these disputes. The Reformation is the greatest tragedy to befall Christianity since Christ established it over 2000 years ago, since it caused division and conflict, persecution and prejudice on both sides, even causing wars down to this day. You asked the questions and I gave you my sincere answer. 
        We've been picking up the fractured pieces for the last 450 years and trying to put it back together. In unity there is strength against the forces of evil. From the Bible, we know that it is God's will that “all may be one”. That's why ecumenism is so important and we should continue working for Church unity.

    The Counter Reformation would have eventually come, but I concede that the Reformation accelerated it. Throughout history, God raised up saints to clean up corruption as Christ said in Matthew 16:18-19, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” when He commissioned St. Peter to be the first Pope and the succession continues to this day. 

        I understand that before he died, Martin Luther regretted the Reformation. Had the reforms of the Council of Trent come sooner, I doubt that Martin Luther would have deemed that the Reformation was necessary. Can anyone say that over 5000 different Christian sects is the will of God? In the Gospel of John, Christ pleaded in prayer, “that all may be one”. That disunity is a scandal to all of the non-Christians of the world and probably impedes the spread of Christianity.

      Some people are so anti-Catholic and so oppose the Church because they don't understand it. They are full of misconceptions about it. Scott Hahn, a brilliant Presbyterian pastor and theologian at Grove City College went through a long theological struggle as the eminent British theologian of the 19th Century, before finally converting to Catholicism and brought two or three other Presbyterian ministers with him. He is now a professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and a nationally known author and speaker. A transcript of his conversion story is on and he describes it on .

    Where in the Bible does it say: “By faith alone”? St. Paul clearly refutes that in his epistles as 1 Corinthians 13. And so does St. James in the 2nd Chapter of his letter. Where is “By scripture alone”? In 1Timothy 3:15, St Paul sees the Church as the pillar and foundation of truth as the apostles and early Church fathers handed down.  

    When one goes into the writings of the Early Church Fathers of the first three centuries, they can clearly see what was handed down from the Christ's apostles. Unable to answer these questions, the basis of the Reformation, a number of Protestant theologians returned to Rome, among them the eminent British theologian of the 19th Century, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Thus the Magisterium of the Church in arriving at the truth through study and prayer, uses primarily scripture, but also tradition handed down and revelation which is mainly Biblical.

Friday, January 27, 2012

(68) Eulogy and Obituary for Ruth M. Vanco - Her Secret For Longevity

       As a Eucharistic Minister, I bring Holy Communion to the sick and the shut-ins.  After a while, I get attached to them and get to know them.  Over time they minister to me.......teach and even inspiring me.  Thus I would like to not only honor Ruth Vanco, but also share some of the things she can teach us.  Being calm and unflappable may have been her secret for longevity.

St. Louis Church January 27, 2012

        As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, I had the opportunity to know Ruth Vanco in the last three years of her life. It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to her in Holy Communion, to pray with her, and to help her in a little way for her encounter with the Lord in eternity.

         She seemed to be doing so well, like an Energizer Battery that kept going and going and going. She seemed to be a cinch to reach the century mark. At age 95 Ruth was the oldest person in our parish. Then about three weeks ago she contracted pneumonia and went so quickly, suffering intensely during that time.

       I was supposed to minister to Ruth, but Ruth also ministered to me. She seemed to be happy in her twilight years. I was very impressed by her serenity and a certain beauty in her face, even when she had that fatal bout with pneumonia. She always seemed to be so patient and tranquil about life, never complaining about anything. Nothing seemed to phase her. Ruth had a peace about her and was resigned to the will of God. She said very little, but her beautiful personality spoke for her

           She was able to be independent at her advanced age and live alone until she became sick. Ruth never seemed to feel lonely, always reading and receiving the visits of her beautiful extended family. She was so proud of them........children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I would bring her up to date on how her grandson, Mike was so valuable in the Right to Life movement and how her great-granddaughters, Danielle and Shelby Merry were pillars of our Catholic Newman Club of the University of Rio Grande. Jan was ever so faithful in constantly checking on and helping her mother every day, living just a stone's throw away.

          Ruth was always so kind, calm, and peaceful. She had a quiet faith in God, resigned to His will. Ruth was faithful to Christ and His Church. She was ready to meet her creator. May we do as well.

         I knew Ruth had aches and pains, but she never told me. I shared with Ruth the fact that suffering can be very valuable, meaningful, and fruitful. If accepted in faith, suffering can be a wonderful preparation for eternity. Every saint suffered and even prayed to have more. Many times I would say, “Ruth, you can reap great fruits with your prayers and by offering your crosses to the Lord as a dynamic prayer for your loved ones, for the Church, and for our Country. God knows how much our country needs prayers. In that way you can be most valuable.” Indeed she was!

          I went to the Nursing Home to bring Ruth Communion a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't wake her up. All I could do was give her a kiss. I expected to come back again, but she died before I could. Ruth was ready and will be praying for us. Thank-you, Ruth, for your example and for what you taught us. Good-by until we see each other again in eternity.



November 07, 1916 - January 24, 2012

Ruth M. Vanco, age 95, of Thurman, died Tuesday morning January 24, 2012 at Holzer Medical Center. Born November 7, 1916 in Sunbury, Ohio. She was the daughter of the late Eugene Mills Blazer and Retha Virgie Lloyd Blazer. In addition to her parents, she was preceded by her husband, Joseph Charles Vanco Sr. who she married on September 27, 1939, by 3 brothers, Lloyd, Thomas, and Paul Blazer, by 1 grandchild, and by 1 son in law, Charlie Russell.

Ruth was a homemaker and a member of St. Louis Catholic Church.

She is survived by 6 children: Phyllis Ann Russell of Bidwell, Janet Louise (William Ambrose) Merry of Thurman, Chuck (Cheryl) Vanco of Gallipolis, Tom (Becky) Vanco of Bidwell, Sandy (Denver) Kingery of Gallipolis, and Steve (Sandy) Vanco of Gallipolis; 4 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren, and 1 great great grandchild; and one sister, Bernice Epp of Lebanon, Ohio.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 AM. Friday January 27, 2012 at St. Louis Catholic Church with Father Thomas Hamm officiating. Burial will follow in St. Louis Catholic Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral home on Thursday from 4-7 PM. with a prayer service and rosary at 7:00 PM.
Pallbearers will be: Eric Russell, Bob Merry, Tim Merry, Marc Vanco, Chad Vanco, Joey Vanco, Gene Vanco, and Dave Vanco.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the St. Louis Catholic Church debt fund, 85 State St. Gallipolis, Ohio 456531.

An online guest registry is available at

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(67) Participating in the 2012 March for Life in Washington


       The Right to Life groups of Gallia County (25), Meigs County (12), and Mason County (WV - 2) combined forces to mobilize 43 people to participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC on January 23, marking 39 years since the 1973 Roe v Wade Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized abortion. Invited people also came from as far away as Portsmouth (1) and Ironton (3). They sacrificed two days for this cause, most assembling at 7 am on Sunday January 22 at St. Louis Church in Gallipolis and the rest at 8 am at Sacred Heart Church in Pomeroy. Fr. Thomas Hamm gave the first group boarding a blessing and Fr. Tim Kozak gave all the pilgrims another blessing at his church. At the same time there was another busload leaving from Athens, another member of our deanery.

        At St. Louis Church, a second Sunday collection of over $1,500 plus a hard earned $600 from the Catholic Women's Club of St. Louis Church made it more affordable for the participants. Thank you all so much for your generosity. In that way they had a part in the March. That lowered the price to $50 per person for bus, two meals, and one night at the Days Inn in Manassas, VA 35 miles southwest of Washington for a lower motel rate. The speedy M Train passes nearby and goes into the center of Washington, a great option for next year. 

                                            Karen Stapleton & one of her babies

        The St. Louis Group was dominated by Karen Davison Stapleton, her seven children including in-laws, and nine grandchildren, all less than six years old, including three toddlers and an infant. Throughout the two days Grandma Karen was constantly holding one of the babies, taking turns so as to distribute her love equitably. They behaved like little angels throughout the trip, Vigil Mass, and March. Bernadette Stapleton Lewis, an officer of Gallia County Right to Life, had three of her five children there, including an infant. Mike Merry, President of the movement in Gallia County and a veteran of about 23 marches, was an invaluable guide in assisting John Spencer, who was overall in charge and did a great job. His co-ed daughters, Danielle and Shelby Merry have been participating since they were children. For Naomi and me it's only three times (2008 as a family, 2010, and 2012). Fr. Bill Myers established the tradition in St. Louis Church, having marched about 25 times. Look for Mary Stapleton Angel's pictures on Facebook.

        The Youth. Four members of the University of Rio Grande Newman Club plus its adviser participated. Cullen Harris, a recent convert, is enthusiastic about the faith and will be discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood at Josephinum in Columbus (See Three young men from River Valley High School and a couple of girls from Meigs High School marched as well. These beautiful young women are a great witness to chastity and life. Steve Brown is captain of his football team and will continue his education at St. Thomas More College in Kentucky. Steve hopes to some day form kids as a teacher and football coach.

       The effort was also ecumenical. Five non-Catholics attended and we had some beautiful dialogue that helped us to understand each other better. During the recitation of the rosary in the bus from the motel on the morning of the March, they respectfully listened after we explained what it was (a meditation on five events in the life of Christ with repetitive prayer as background). I had a great dialogue with Carrie Wolfe, pastor of Team Jesus Ministries and she admitted that Protestants have many misconceptions of Catholics. There was a realization that more unites us than divides us. That is a common belief in Christ and the sacredness of human life, created according to the image and likeness of God......that we are engaged in a great cultural war against secularism that threatens to destroy our Country. Thus it is vitally important to fight together than to fight each other.

        The Vigil Mass in the Basilica, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was an option that most of our group took advantage of. Hundreds of priests, deacons, and seminarians of the Roman and the Eastern rites participated in the procession. I could only pray for them as they passed. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, the Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist. Hundreds of Cardinals, bishops, abbots, and priests concelebrated. It lasted about three hours with the procession alone at the beginning and end of the Mass taking almost an hour. Both the Mass and March was televised by EWTN (also

       The great overflow from the main church was put in different chapels of the crypt with television monitors. Even there the singing of the people was enthusiastic and vibrant. It was almost the same as sitting in the main church. Our children slept on makeshift beds made from coats and blankets in the rotunda of the crypt. It did not have television monitors, but one could still hear the Mass by loudspeaker. The priests brought us Holy Communion from upstairs. Many of the Ave Maria students, including our own John-Paul, maneuvered into the main church and squeezed into tiny spaces, some fifteen minutes before the start of the Mass.

       The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a magnificent basilica of neo-byzantine architecture, breaking ground in 1920 and finishing in 1961. However, new chapels as Our Lady of La Vang in Viet Nam in the crypt are being added. There are 70 chapels dedicated to different manifestations of Mary all over the world. Virtually every Catholic country and most of the others have a manifestation of Mary according to its own culture. The basilica is the eighth largest religious structure in the world. Take a virtual tour of the basilica by clicking on the following URL:
and learn more at

        Visit to the National Archives. Monday morning, the members of our group did some sight seeing or went to one of the national museums. I recommend the National Archives, which is conveniently located at the very start of the March on 7th St. and Constitution Ave. It makes history come alive as we saw the original documents that determined the direction of Western Civilization. The first are shown in the Rotunda in special titanium display cases with minimal light, low humidity, and moderate temperature to preserve them. The Magna Carta of 1215 was the precursor of our Constitution ( It guaranteed basic rights, which no king or no new law could violate.

       One can see in the second paragraph of the 1776 Declaration of Independence ( “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. That is followed by the 1787 Constitution and the 1789 Bill of Rights (, which guarantee in the very first amendment the four pillars of freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly which we exercised in the March. However, these basic rights excluded slaves and the unborn, our reason for being here. Each required decades of conflict to obtain justice. The Civil War alone almost destroyed our country and killed more Americans than any war in its history. Even then freed slaves had to continue the fight for their civil rights for another century and more. Women had to fight for their voting rights and equal opportunity, treatment, and pay for the same work.

       Only God knows how many men and women never reached their great potential because they were aborted......champion athletes, brilliant scientists, and world changing leaders. One story involves two missionaries in the Philippines, Pam and her husband. She contracted a tropical disease and was given heavy doses of antibiotics to save her life. Discovering that Pam was pregnant, the doctors urged her to abort the baby which they thought would be severely disabled. As a Christian, she refused and prayed, promising to give the baby to God as a preacher. After almost losing the baby four times, she continued to be firm in her faith and refused to abort. On August 14, 1987 Pam gave birth to a normal baby. He became a football player, won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and is now playing for the Denver Broncos. Tim Tebow uses football as a forum to preach and tell people about God. Now you know the rest of the story. His pro-life story was censored by the network as a commercial for the 2011 super bowl.

        The Rally. It rained through much of Monday morning and the 11:30 am rally. Among the speakers were clergy of different faiths, prominent people of the pro-life movement, and Congressmen. Most if not all who spoke, including Speaker of the House, John Boehner and Bill Johnson from our Congressional District, are Conservative Republicans. Most government offices were closed and pro-abortion politicians were absent, claiming to have “other commitments”. In previous years, most Republican presidents as George W. Bush, would speak from his office in the White House.

        The March. The diversity of people with raincoats and umbrellas was inspiring.......more women than men; more young than old; white, black, and oriental; mothers pushing bundled up toddlers and infants in strollers. Impressive was the participation in the March of many Catholic colleges as Franciscan University (Ohio). Three buses of over 200 Ave Maria University (Florida) students made the trek of some one thousand miles, including my son John-Paul, a senior Math/Economics major. They slept in hallways, gyms, and classrooms of Catholic schools. Even a group from Princeton came. Nuns, priests, religious, and seminarians were ubiquitous. Numerous were Catholic high schools and elementary schools, churches, Knights of Columbus councils, etc. from Pittsburgh to Minnesota and beyond. Many of the youth were exuberant: “Obama, Obama, your Mama chose life”. Pro-life signs were everywhere.......”Abortion kills; Abortion is painful; I regret my abortion; Abortion hurts men; I regret my abortion”; etc.

       The secular press, radio, and television barely cover the event, if at all. If they do, they downplay the numbers as being 60,000 people, when in reality it's in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million. The Rally and March are always orderly and peaceful. Just in case of any problem, the Capitol Police are out in full force. In case of any counter-demonstration, we were instructed not to react and if anything, say “We love you”.

       The toddlers in our group were bundled up in covered strollers during the march and the infant was strapped to his father's (Scott Lewis) chest. The little ones did not realize their importance in the March in providing beautiful testimony, especially considering that the March is all about saving babies. They seemed to be enjoying the experience.
        The fellowship and solidarity in a common cause among the members of our group and the other quarter of a million other marchers on a cold rainy day was beautiful. People did not seem to mind the weather. The rain more or less stopped by the time the March began at 1 pm. Clergy of different faiths were there. Participants were from all walks of life as in our mechanic, dye-maker, insurance agent, school administrators, professor, students from kindergarten to college, retired, plant operator, pastor, nurse, etc.

        They had a vision of participating in a cause greater than themselves. Over 53 million American babies have been aborted since this violent procedure was legalized in 1973. They have a common belief that life is sacred from conception to natural death and taking the life of any human being is murder. The mission was to exercise our rights as citizens and voice our protest to the leaders of our Country that the Roe v Wade decision is a gross violation of human dignity and the law of God. Noteworthy is that Ms Roe is now a militant for the pro-life cause. Even the little children understood that they were doing this for the cause of saving little babies and the toddlers perceived something special.

        Adding to the fervor of the March was the Obama Administration's final decision this past Friday to force all Catholic institutions (Charities, hospitals, schools, etc.) to violate their own teaching and pay for sterilization and contraceptive coverage, including abortifacients for all employees only because some of their clients and employees are not Catholic. The Obama Administration has refused to give the Church a conscience exemption clause. The guy is so arrogant that he's willing to take on the Catholic hierarchy and all of its 68 million members (23% of the voters) in an election year. This is a clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed Freedom of Religion. So the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church are on a collision course. Since one in six Americans receives health care in a Catholic health institution each year, according to the Catholic Health Association, the high rankings are good news for health care consumers in the United States. Expect many lawsuits. If suddenly all those Catholic hospitals should close its doors, we would have a crisis of mammoth proportions. The National Guard could take over the hospitals and a movement to impeach him could start if he wins the election in the Fall. Already Catholic Social agencies are out of the adoption business because they have refused government mandates to allow homosexual couples to adopt children.  Go to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops web site for more information and how to write your representatives in Congress.

        One can reflect during and after the thirty or forty minute walk of about a mile over ten blocks from 7th St. and Constitution Ave. past the Dept. of Labor, the two Senate Office Buildings to the left of the Capitol, then behind it past the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress to 1st St. and Independence Ave.

        The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must also apply to the unborn if they are human life and that's scientific fact. Everything necessary for the development of a human being, including certain personality tendencies is programed in the genetic makeup of the union of an ovum and a sperm. It's only a matter of time until the baby reaches full maturity. If the fetus is not a person, then what is it? An animal? If they are not persons until a certain stage of development, who is to say when? Some could then say that the retarded or the handicapped are not persons or an illiterate slave is not a person as believed by many only 150 years ago. Dr. Robert George, an eminent professor of law at Princeton, masterfully develops this theme. See National Right to Life has a wealth of information at

        In sum, participating in a March for Life makes the abortion debate less theoretical and makes one feel that he or she is part of the greatest human rights movement since slavery and beyond. Having come home and writing about this wonderful experience while feeling a part of an epic struggle, another very sobering experience comes to my mind. That is my visit to Auschwitz, the scene of human savagery at its worst, the systematic slaughter of over a million Jews plus a significant number of Christians by a nation, very advanced scientifically, industrially, and in the arts that let evil reduce a significant number of educated people to savages. As I reflected at a beautiful monument at the end of the tour, a thought came to mind. What about our holocaust? Nazi Germany killed some 10 million people; we killed 53 million since 1973.

       Go to and get ready for the March for Life 2013. Better yet, keep on praying and offer up your crosses so that Roe v Wade will be repealed and therefore a 2013 March would not be necessary.  For those who are on facebook ask Mary Angel to be your friend for more photos.  Her e-mail address is Mary Stapleton Angel” <>

A Beautiful Story

        More than 24 years ago, Pam and her husband Bob were serving as
missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child.
Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink. She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant.

        Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn't think of it as a life, they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

        While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: If you will give us a son, we'll name him Timothy and we'll make him a preacher.

       Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy August 14, 1987. Pam's youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prisons, makes hospital visits, and serves with his father's ministry in the  Philippines . He also plays football. Pam's son is Tim Tebow.

        University of Florida 's star quarterback became the first sophomore in history to win college football's highest award, the Heisman Trophy. His current role as quarterback of the Denver Broncos has provided an incredible platform for Christian witness. As a result, he is being called The Mile-High Messiah.

      Tim's notoriety and the family's inspiring story have given Pam numerous opportunities to speak on behalf of womens' centers across the country. Pam Tebow believes that every little baby you save matters. He's being mocked and ridiculed but he keeps bending that knee!!! PRAISE GOD!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

(66) A Pioneer in Female Dentistry........Dr. Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian


         Today marks the sixth anniversary of the death of my mother, Dr. Stephanie M. Sebastian at the age of 97.  She was an amazing person and I think that you'll enjoy reading the Eulogy I gave at her funeral, the Obituary, and "A Few Postscript and Memories".  My brother, Deacon John assisted in the funeral Mass and gave the homily.  My youngest brother, Fred, was a pall bearer and died a few months later on October 11.  The other pall bearers were Elmer Foley, Bob Foley, Edward Eld, Joe Loya, and her son, Paul. 

          In the photo on the left Mom is the maid of honor at her sister Martha's wedding in 1933 when she was 25 years old.  The photo on the right was taken in 2002, a year after moving into our home, when she was 94.  Jaga took care of her for the last five years of her life.  Mom died four years later under Jaga's watchful eye in our living room.  In the Sebastian family photo with Mom on the extreme right are Paul and Jaga in front of him.  John-Paul (13) is in the back of his grandmother.  Stephanie Mary (11) is left of her big brother.   Naomi (8) is to the left of her mother and Joseph (5) is to the right of her.


By her son, Paul at the Funeral Mass in St. Joseph Church, Duquesne-Pennsylvania on January 21, 2006 after her death on January 17 and at the Memorial Mass in St. Louis Church, Gallipolis-Ohio on January 26, 2006.

        Our Aunt Lilly wrote in her memoirs that she was called an Energizer battery. All the Mihalich girls were like Energizer batteries. They kept going and going and going. They all lived into their 80s and beyond. But even a Mihalich battery can’t go on forever. My wife Jaga’s tender loving care 24/7 helped her to hold on by sheer will power for almost a year after a massive stroke.  The youngest and last of the five sisters died in her daughter-in-law's arms in our living room.

       For the last 60 years, Mom tried to keep her true age a secret. “Paul, don’t tell people how old I am”. But now I can reveal it…..97 because she’s again young and beautiful and sharp mentally as you saw her in the Powerpoint presentation my daughter, Stephanie put together for the viewing last night.

        I am sure that she’s having a wonderful reunion with her four sisters…..Irene (Foley), Martha (Eld), Lilly (Gulyassy), and Ella (Voloszinovich) plus our father, John, grandmother Olga, & grandfather Rev. Vladimir (Mihalich), our uncles Geza (Foley), Aksel (Eld), and Rev. Emil (Gulyassy) and many friends as my mother-in-law Pani Fredericka Gajda, Pani Margaret Loya, Pani Elizabeth Loya, Bonnie Marks, and our wonderful neighbors.

        Mom loved to sing and play the piano. All she needed was an audience of one. I’ll bet she serenaded St. Peter at the Perly Gates with her favorite song: ‘O What a Beautiful Morning”. Even though it’s cold and overcast here, it must be a beautiful day there with the Lord.

       Mom suffered much over the last 20 years, but had the iron will to keep going and offering it all up to God as a very powerful prayer for her loved ones.

Dr. Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian as a freshly minted dentist in 1934 or so (University of Pittsburgh 1928 - 1933).  She's about 26 years old here.  Her dental office was over the First National Bank of Duquesne, PA on the second floor.
       My mother was a pioneer in female dentistry. Excelling as a dental student, the University of Pittsburgh Dental School (Class of 1933) considered hiring her as an instructor until a male chauvinist cried; “Over my dead body will a woman serve on this faculty”. That poor soul must be doing somersaults in his grave.

        Mom loved her patients and they loved her, even coming back for routine work when she was 90. Most gratifying was seeing old patients who came to the wake last night, even at considerable sacrifice and pain in climbing those steps. Some had her as a dentist when they were kids in the 1930s and 1940s. Yesterday, one old timer related that: while a soldier during World War II, army dentists raved at the quality of her work. Mom treated every tooth as a pearl and with her feminine touch did everything she could to save every tooth she ever worked on. She practiced what she preached, taking all her natural teeth to the grave at 97.

        In her day, even women assumed that men did better work. Thus it was very frustrating when she had to fix botched up work of the guys.

        Mom was horrified at how much dentists charge today since she used her dental work to serve people, not to take them. Thus she charged much less than the going rate especially during the depression days and before dental insurance. Mom was happy to do free work for nuns and priests. However, the word got around and a young nun came to her saying, “My Mother Superior sent me to you because your work is free”, not even asking “how much?” She didn’t like to be taken for granted.

        She was a great mother too, cheering us on in success and encouraging us to keep on fighting, loving, and praying during setbacks and discouragement. She was proud during our victories and suffered through our defeats. She prayed us through our lives and certainly is praying for us now, more than ever.

        Thanks for everything, Mom. We love you. A Dios y con Dios which from the Spanish means to God and with God. Good-by for now until we’re all together again in another happy reunion in eternity. Thank you all for coming and we hope to have the honor of your presence at the lunch downstairs.

In 1962 Mom decided to build an addition to her home for a dental office.  She then upgraded her equipment to the standards of the 1960s.  This photo dates from 1970 or so, making her about 62 years old.  That's a spittoon to the left of the chair.  Behind her instrument drawers on the right is her small lab and a small bathroom.  On her right there's a tall waste basket she would open with her foot.  In the foreground on the left is her desk, records, and a phone.  Notice the  switch for the drill just off of her left foot.  After over 60 years her left foot was bent at an angle and her fingers were disfigured.  Severe arthritis had a lot to do with that.  Replacement knee surgery in 1985 or so did not help much.  Mom never did have a high speed drill.  In fact she preferred the older drill to have more control and a better feel when getting close to the nerve.   For that reason Dr. Stephanie avoided numbing up a patient for routine fillings.  She also adjusted the height of the chair with a foot driven hydraulic pump.

Obituary:  Dr. Stephanie M. Sebastian Dead at Age 97
August 30, 1908 - January 17, 2006

Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McKeesport (PA) Daily News,
Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and the Gallipolis (Ohio) Daily Tribune January 2006

            After a massive stroke in April and five stays in the hospital, Dr. Stephanie Sebastian, 97 passed into eternity on January 17.  Born in Rozsadomb, Austria-Hungary (present day Bodrujal-Slovakia) on August 30, 1908, she immigrated with her parents, Olga and Rev. Vladimir Mihalich to the United States in 1921.  She graduated from Duquesne High School with honor in 1928.  Her father was pastor of St. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Duquesne, PA (1926-1943).

            Stephanie was a pioneer in female dentistry, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1933 with the highest score in her class on the State Board Examination and practiced in Duquesne until her retirement at the age of 92.  Dr. Sebastian was unique in that she maintained her dental license to serve her patients for nearly 70 years, a feat perhaps unequaled.  During the time that she practiced dentistry, Dr. Sebastian was active in various professional societies. including the American Dental Association (ADA), the Women’s Club of Duquesne, and the Hungarian Professional Society of Pittsburgh.

            She is preceded in death by her husband, Dr. John J. S. Sebastian (1979), a researcher for the U. S. Bureau of Mines.  She is survived by her three sons and two daughters-in-law, Dr. Paul and Jadwiga of Rio Grande-Ohio, Rev. Mr. John and Kathleen of Hinsdale-Illinois, and Frederick of McKeesport.  Stephanie also has 8 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

            Visiting hours will be at the Skovranko Funeral Home on the second block of Commonwealth Ave., Duquesne from 6 to 9 pm on Friday.  The funeral will be at 10 am the next day, January 21 at St. Joseph Church, West Grant Ave, Duquesne.  In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to St. Joseph Church or to the St. Louis Church (Gallipolis, Ohio) Project Fund.

A Few Postscripts and Memories

            Mom made the highest score in her class of 150 (only three women) in her Pennsylvania State Boards as a 25 year old girl in the University of Pittsburgh Class of 1933.  At the time pre-dental and dental school was five years in the University.  She was rightfully proud of her achievement as a pioneer in female dentistry.  As part of her European mentality of the time where titles were very important, she enjoyed being called doctor and signed all of her checks as Dr. Stephanie M. Sebastian.  My father did the same.

            She started her practice in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, a steel town on the Monongahela River 12 miles south of Pittsburgh.  The country was in the depths of the depression; unemployment was at 24%; and she would charge $2.00 per filling.  Of course that would buy what $20 - $30 would today.  She could not turn anybody away, nor did she have the heart to charge much when the patient's family was hurting.  Thus she didn’t make much money in dentistry.  Only when U.S. Steel introduced dental insurance, did she charge closer to the going rate.  Nevertheless, she was horrified by the amounts dentists charged at the turn of the century.

         Once her three boys started to come along (1938, 1942, and 1952), she reduced her practice to afternoons until 6 pm and Saturday morning till 1 pm.  Wednesdays and Sundays were her days off.  It was difficult when she was pregnant to climb the steps to her dental office on the high second floor of the First National Bank Building on Grant and First Street.  Because of so much standing, she developed varicose veins and had two miscarriages.  She couldn’t hold a baby for more than 8 months.  I myself was a preemie at 7 ½ months.  In her eighties she had to have replacement knee surgery.
Mom's first dental office was something like this.

          Mom's dental office resembled the 1930 vintage dental office in the photo above........the lamps, the electric drill with a foot pedal, spittoon, sink, hand and foot operated hydraulic dental chair, cabinet with drawers for instruments and a table for mixing amalgam with silver powder, a window in front of the chair, etc,  In 1962 she decided to move her dental office to our home.  The First National Bank Building was torn down a year or two later.  
              As a dentist, Mom did it all.  She was her own receptionist and dental hygienist, doing her own cleaning.  She made her own crowns, bridges, and dentures in her little laboratory (about 6 ft. by 15 ft.) adjoining her office until she reached old age.  However, she had someone else take x-rays when needed.  I suppose that was typical through the 60s or 70s.  The dosage was much higher than it is today when x-rays are routinely taken every year.  As she got older Mom would farm out difficult extractions to an exodontist.  At the end of the day after taking care of a waiting room full of kids, she would mop the floor by herself.  Mom was even her own accountant, keeping track of her expenses and receipts to calculate her net income for the tax return which she also did.

            She would take calls and appointments at home at almost any hour, even driving to her dental office for tooth aches and other emergencies.  Often it was not simply “take an aspirin and call me in the morning”.  For the sick and invalids she would take a portable foot powered drill and do dental work in the patient’s home.

            Mom did not have the benefit of the high speed drill.  She preferred not to use pain killers because she could better sense when she was getting too close to the nerve.  The dentist controlled the drill with a foot activated switch.  After years of bending her leg to operate it, her left leg actually became deformed.    

            In 1962 she contracted a carpenter to build a dental office on the balcony over the garage adjoining our three bedroom home (built in 1941 for $7,000).  She dreamed of doing that for years. She replaced her old equipment with the latest of the 1960s.   That gave her considerable flexibility in scheduling patients according to their convenience and hers too.  She kept her porcelain for fillings in an old refrigerator in the basement.  Around supper time she would heat up the food or light the oven between patients.  Seldom did the food get burnt or overcooked.

            Mom advocated brushing teeth after every meal, but if that was not possible she believed an apple was a better than nothing substitute.  She should have added a glass of water on top of that since fruit has some sugar.  She herself used baking soda (NaHCO3) to brush her teeth. 
            Mom kept up her Pennsylvania dental license until her nineties when she would do routine fillings and cleanings for her old patients despite her crooked arthritic fingers.  Mom loved her profession and she loved her patients.

        Mom wasn’t all Dentistry.  She loved to play the piano, including the classics, Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.  She would love to sing while playing.  I remember many an evening when she would play the piano in the living room and sing me to sleep in my bed upstairs.  Her soprano voice was so good that she sang the National Anthem at Hungarian functions.  She did much of her own sewing by hand and on her sewing machine, did the laundry, the housecleaning, etc.  Of course, she had a maid from 1938 to 1945 and then Grandma Mihalich treated us like her own until 1962.  Mom loved to read the great books and only watched television for the 7 pm CBS News with Walter Cronkite.

Mom always was a very faithful Catholic.  I don’t think that she ever missed Mass on Sunday until her debilitating massive stroke at the age of 96.…….perhaps in her 80s when the weather was bad.  Her son Fred drove her, since she didn't drive much any more.  Despite a three foot snowfall during Thanksgiving 1950 and the following day, we walked a mile to church on Sunday.  Mom would fervently pray a decade of the rosary every night.  She was active in the parish, was a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, the Duquesne Women's Club, and was a member of the parish council of St. Joseph Church for a time.

Mom would never be late for anything.  My father was the opposite.  Thus Mom would go to the early Mass and Dad to the last Mass available in Duquesne or Homestead at noon.

Having lived in Austria-Hungary (present day Slovakia) through World War I, struggling to make it as an immigrant family of a Byzantine Catholic priest, and the Depression, Mom was on the frugal side yet generous with what Dad left and her own savings.  She was a saver and taught us how to save.  Today that frugality is helping to get our kids through college.  Of course, Jaga made it possible by taking care of Mom for the last five years of her life.  A nursing home would have quickly eaten up her savings.

At the same time Mom liked to shop and dress up as fitting for a professional woman of her time.  She enjoyed wearing her mink stole and some jewelry without being extravagant.  I never saw Mom in slacks or jeans; she even wore a dress around the house.  In the summer she would wear shorts and sun bathe in the yard.

Mom suffered greatly in much of her life and knew how to bear it.......two miscarriages, bad arthritis in her fingers and legs, the aches and pains of aging, a rocky marriage with its ups and downs, the setbacks of her sons, the mental illness and breakdowns of her youngest son, Fred.  Through it all I never saw her cry.  She bore everything patiently and offered it up to the Lord as a dynamic prayer.

Dad was a brilliant research chemist/chemical engineer and ambitious, a high achiever.  Thus he would often talk about higher positions and was involved in different ventures.  That took him to Waynesville, North Carolina for  a mica mine venture (1943-45), the Illinois Institute of Gas Technology in Chicago (1945-47), and the United States Bureau of Mines in Morgantown, WV until his retirement in 1969 at the mandatory age of 70.  (he died ten years later).  He wanted Mom to move with him, but that meant transporting her heavy equipment and restarting her dental practice in a strange place.  She would not move until Dad would decide definitively to stay in one place.  Since Morgantown was less than two hours away from Pittsburgh, he would come home only on weekends, giving us at least some family life.  On the other days Mom was in essence a single mother in managing the household.  Dad was faithful and sent her two checks a month to maintain the home and family.  He was very kind and charitable in helping others.  Dad taught us many lessons for life and to strengthen our Faith, but was strict and had a temper.  Grandma Mihalich was very dedicated to us.......helping with household chores and taking care of the three children, but did not get along with her son-in-law.

It was an unusual dynamic that brought problems and some conflict.  They would forgive and continue on.  The graces of the sacrament of Matrimony kept the marriage together and got them through the rough spots.  Thus Mom's life was full of achievement and joys, sorrows and crosses.  She continued on with faith, fidelity, love, and courage.      

A lasting memory was traveling all over Europe together in my Volkswagen Bug and a borrowed tent in 1962 when she was 54 and I was in the Army.  Our month long trip took us through France and the chateaux country; Pamplona and San Sebastian, Spain; Monaco; Italy from Turin, Florence, and Rome to Pompeii and Naples; Innsbruck, Austria; Germany from Munich to both sides of the Berlin Wall.  Unforgettable was the almost glowing face of St. Pope John XXIII full of goodness and love at a general audience as he was carried through the crowd on an elevated chair.

Mom prayed me through my student years at Carnegie Mellon (1960), 2 ½ years with Allied Chemical, 14 years as a lay missionary in Peru (1965-1982), teaching at Franciscan University of Steubenville (1980-1983), Wheeling Jesuit University (1988-89), and the University of Rio Grande (1995-2005) as well as the long road to my doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh (MBA) and Kent State University (1994).  Thank you, Mom for everything and keep praying for us.