June 14, 2008

Holy Angels’ Orloski Stepping Down Sunday

By Justin Strawser, The News-Item, Shamokin, Pa.

Jun. 14--KULPMONT --When the Rev. Raymond Orloski arrived at Holy Angels Church in 1995 to become the new pastor, tension was high. The former churches St. Casimer and St. Mary in Kulpmont, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Marion Heights were being suppressed and the people of the separate parishes were being combined to form a new entity. The first major event, a parish picnic, was being organized in Orloski's first week as pastor.

"There were representatives of the three former parishes," Orloski said. "This group said 'we did it this way,' and this group says, 'we did it this way,' and the third group says, 'we always did it this way.' And I thought to myself, 'uh oh, trouble.'"

After what Orloski calls a fiasco of a first week, he called a meeting with all the committees in regards to how to better themselves. "That didn't go down well," he said. "This one quit, and that one quit."

Thirteen years later, and on the eve of his last Mass this Sunday, Orloski, 72, of Kulpmont, can confidently say that that Holy Angels is united.

"Right now, they never say this is the way we always did it, referring to their former parish, now they're saying Holy Angels does it this way," he said.

Mary Kay Bartol, Kulpmont, has been a member of Holy Angels since its conception, has directed music for 25 years, and has worked as the church secretary for 11 years. She agreed with Orloski's statements.

"I don't even feel that separation any more," she said. "We are Holy Angels.

Orloski can be described as an articulate man who choses his words carefully as he reflected on the years of his 46 years as an ordained priest, and a man who uses his hands to get his points across. His parish family would tell of his deep faith and his ability to see what a person's seed was going to blossom into. He calls himself a "Coal Cracker" since he was born and raised in Kulpmont. Even with pastoring a church in Lebanon for 19 years, he found himself returning to his hometown in 1995.

There have been many programs created under the caring eye of Orloski, but the most important thing to him as always been the Holy Angels unity. When asked what his best experience has been these 13 years, he didn't mention growing attendance or an overflow of tithes in the offering plate.

"What I'm most proud of is to hear people say, 'this is my parish.' That makes me feel good," he said. "And to see the kids of this parish make something of themselves."

Bartol explained that Orloski has always been about these family values. "It was always Holy Angels family," she said. "Father Ray made everyone feel at home." She said that Orloski has always recognized anybody in the parish that was doing a good job at something.

For reasons of failing health, Orloski asked the Bishop for early retirement. Although the usual age is 75, the Bishop allowed this. Despite retirement, he wants to stay active in the ministry. "Even though I'm retiring, if I am physically able, I will help any pastors in the coal region," Orloski said. "As long as I am able to stay involved."

This Sunday, Father's Day, there will be a recognition dinner at Lazarski's Banquet Hall in Mount Carmel at 4 p.m. It will be his last official Sunday. On Thursday, June 19, the Rev. Andrew Stahmer will take his place.

"We're going to miss him," Bartol said. "Those that chose to go elsewhere, they missed out, they really did."


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