Is Your Parish Safe? Upcoming Workshop to Help Faithful Prepare for Potential Risks


By Tony DeGol

Robert Kunsman believes it is a mistake to think the mass casualty situations we see on the news would never happen here.

“If you look across the United States, it does happen,” the Ebensburg State Police patrol trooper reminded. “Getting a little knowledge of what you might be able to do could save someone’s life.”

Kunsman and others are teaming up with the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown for a Parish Safety Preparedness Awareness Workshop.

It will be held on September 29 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg.

Appropriately, that day is the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. In the Book of Revelation, Michael led God’s army of angels to defeat Satan. His intercession is often sought for protection, especially for police and other first responders.

“God gave this archangel the vocation, the duty, to protect his children on this earth, and to celebrate that protection on his feast day is so vital,” stressed Father Brian Warchola, Pastor of Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg, who is working with the diocese in organizing the event.

The diocese invites everyone to attend the workshop – especially parish ushers and hospitality ministers.

A panel of law enforcement, security, and emergency personnel will explain how to assess possible risks and create a plan to protect parishioners in the event the church is threatened or targeted for an attack.

Admittedly, the idea of a mass casualty situation at one of our parishes is a horrific thought, but one we cannot ignore.

“This is reality now,” Kunsman emphasized.  “This is the world we live in. It’s not a good thing. It’s very bad, but it’s happening, and I want people to come and see what active shooter drills are like and what kind of guidance we can give them if it does occur whether they’re in a store, a church, a mall, a school. It will give them some kind of idea of what they need to do if this should ever occur.”

Father Warchola will celebrate Mass at the conclusion of the workshop at 3:00 p.m. The Liturgy will fulfill the Sunday obligation.

“This gathering is an opportunity for everyone to join in a conversation about safety practices on the parish level and learn how to deter threats and address hazards and risks,” noted Cindy O’Connor, Director of Children and Youth Protection for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Pre-registration is not required, but anyone planning to attend is invited to notify O’Connor at or (814) 317-2621.

[Photo: Ebensburg State Police Troopers Robert Kunsman (left) and Frank Lasinsky pose with Father Brian Warchola, Pastor of Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg, in front of an image of Saint Michael the Archangel. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is sponsoring a Parish Safety Preparedness Awareness Workshop on September 29 – the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel.]