Page 16 - Life and Times

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September 2013
place in Father Berdis’ heart, and he
struggled to keep it open as long as he
could. The school was shuttered in 2011
when now-retired Bishop Donald Traut-
man was “forced to close it,” Father
Berdis said.
Declining enrollment and increased op-
erational costs forced the move, which
also closed the former St. Joseph School
in Sharon, to make way for a consolidat-
ed educational system that’s named
Blessed John Paul II. It currently uses
the school at Church of Notre Dame in
Hermitage, along with classrooms at
Kennedy Catholic High School in Her-
mitage for middle-schoolers.
Because of the Monti school, a lot of
Father Berdis’ job once involved working
with children, something he enjoyed.
Now, he’s a caretaker of the school,
which the parish is trying to sell, along
with St. Ann Church, which was folded
into Our Lady of Fatima in 2008.
After a recent rain storm, Father
Berdis and a few of the dedicated volun-
teers that help him were cleaning up the
basement at St. Ann’s, which had flood-
He’s not afraid to wear a T-shirt and
get his hands dirty, although he also en-
joys putting on the priestly vestments and
singing a formal Mass, which at Fatima
is celebrated with old-school flair.
on the
heels of Vatican II, the ecumenical
council convened by Pope John XXIII in
the 1960s that heralded reforms in the
Although not opposed to those re-
forms, or others that have evolved during
his half-century as a priest, Father Berdis
is decidedly old-fashioned and misses
some of the former translations of
prayers that have been updated in recent
“There were some that were good and
some that were probably not necessary,”
Father Berdis said.
He upholds that the Mass should be a
“beautiful, meaningful celebration,” he
He misses the emphasis on the lives of
the saints that was a part of the liturgical
celebrations of yesteryear and thinks the
church could learn from the way the sec-
ular world makes superstars of people.
“Where are our religious heroes?” he
asked rhetorically.
He’s a strong supporter of morality,
even as Catholic views on birth control
and abortion run contrary to the law of
the land in America.
“The church has maintained i ts
posi t ion, ” and should cont inue to
do so, he said.
“Morality hasn’t changed. Circum-
stances have changed. But the laws of
God are the same as when Moses came
down from Mount Sinai,” he said.
As a preacher, Father Berdis tried to
relate scripture lessons to everyday life,
he said.
“Sometimes you’re successful and
sometimes you’re not successful,” he
said. “If the Holy Spirit touches someone,
praise God.”
He has no plans to retire anytime soon
and will serve until “the bishop tells me
it’s time to pack it in,” he said.
“He’s a priest’s priest,” Hufnagel, the
church secretary for the last nine years,
said. “We couldn’t do it without him.”
Father Berdis feels the same about the
“It’s just serving God’s people. It’s a joy
to share being with God’s people. Shar-
ing their happy occasions,” he said.
He likes attending birthday celebra-
tions and visiting the sick and shut-in.
“It’s just being with the people and let-
ting them know God is there for them,”
he said. “The priest is there in all cir-
cumstances.” í
Joy Leiker/Life & Times file
Father Berdis watches as kindergartners carry their framed diplomas as they leave Mass at Monsignor Geno
Moni School in June 2011. The priest’s passion for the elementary school influenced the bishop to give the shrink-
ing school a reprieve from consolidation, though it only stayed open another year. Father Berdis was a teacher for
17 years, and the school held a special place in his heart.
Continued from page 15
As a man of the
cloth, for Father
Berdis that fabric is
most likely to be a
cotton-polyester blend
work-stained T-shirt
and a pair of denim
jeans as he jumps in
for various
maintenance needs of
the parish. Here he is
picking up veneer that
had fallen off a door
at the former St.
Ann’s Church after
storm water got into
the basement.