By Tony DeGol
The Catholic Register
As a mother of five, Janet Hoff knows children do not always listen to what their mom has to say.
That is when she puts her faith in another mother.
“I feel it is important to show them love, and mercy, and compassion, and to be there for them when they need me, but more importantly, asking that Mary is there for them when they are in need,” said Hoff, who knows the power of the Blessed Mother from first-hand experience. “Mary has always been my comfort in times of loss, in times of sorrow. She has always been there guiding me. She has always been around my shoulder to comfort me.”
Also a religious education instructor at Saint Benedict Parish in Johnstown, Hoff often reminds her students that people can change their lives for the better if they trust in God and follow Mary.
The theme for the 2018 Family Marian Celebration was “Mary, Mother of the Church.”
That does not just mean she is the mother of an institution, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak stressed, but the mother of us all.
She, her husband, and her son (pictured upper right) were among the hundreds who filled the pews of Saint Benedict Parish for the annual gathering on Sunday, September 30.
The event began with members of the clergy leading the Rosary, and Bishop Mark celebrated Mass.
“As followers and disciples we are all on a journey together, and I’m sure you would agree that we’re all in good company because the first of the disciples walks with us on this journey,” stated the Bishop in his homily. “The Blessed Virgin Mary is there to help us more than you and I could ever imagine.”
Mary had a great sense of direction and was good at giving direction, reminded the Bishop.
“She has a sense of direction that always points in one direction – it points to our Lord, Jesus Christ,” he added. “The Blessed Virgin Mary is so credible and so real because she listened to, and she acted on God’s direction in her life before she started directing others.”
One of the manifestations of the way that Mary listened and acted according to God’s direction was in relationship with her husband, Joseph.
“She did not boss him around, telling him what to do,” the Bishop reminded. “She did not cause him to give up his free will. But what is so credible and so real about the interaction between Mary and Joseph is that they listened to each other. They shared their thoughts, their dreams, their worries, and their problems with each other and they worked through them together, and when they acted, they acted together always cooperating with the directions revealed to them by God.”
Whether we are married, single, ordained, or religious, Mary’s example is a model for all to consider, Bishop Mark offered.
“None of us can find the way to the Kingdom of Heaven on our own,” he said. “All of us need support and direction on that journey.”
The Marian Celebration is a tradition that dates back more than half a century. Formerly called the “Rosary Rally,” it was once held at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
Groups represented at the 2018 Marian Celebration included the Altoona-Johnstown Curia of the Legion of Mary, the Benedictine Oblates, the Knights of Columbus, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.
“It is important to realize that Mary is the Mother of God, and we can go to her as our direct link to Jesus,” commented Evelyn Mrsnik, a Saint Benedict parishioner and one of the lead organizers of the celebration.
No argument from Hoff on that statement.
“She has been such a role model,” she admitted. “I can relate to her. She was human, and she chose the role she took. She has been my inspiration and my strength.”
A powerful statement from one mother about the ultimate mother.