To the editor:
Feb. 21 marked the second anniversary of the death of Monsignor George Yontz, who was pastor of St. Peter's Church in Steubenville from 1995 until his death in 2012. Yontz served God, the church and its parishioners with such great love and humility, even in his last days, when he was so ill and in much distress. He always, as all good priests should, put the needs of his people first.
As I sat in the church I now belong to, at a Mass which was being offered for Yontz the morning of Feb. 21, I pondered on all the wonderful things he had done, and all the times he had helped me and so many others; his kindness, understanding and compassion, his humility, his reverence and love of God; and how he would never refuse anyone's confession at any time. I remembered, too, how he wrote a letter to the people to include in the bulletin each week. He was so warm and so connected to the parishioners he loved. I recalled the last letter he wrote from his hospital bed shortly before the surgery he would not survive. I still have the handwritten copy he gave me that I typed from, and will cherish it always.
I would like to share the contents of that last letter with you here:
"Good parishioners ... how ever to begin to say thanks to so many wonderful people? Hospitals are not the most choice place to write sentiments from one's heart to express appreciation and love to such a wide array of persons, both young and older. I've been away from all you good folks at St. Peters two days, and to me, it seems like an age. Do please continue lovingly remembering me in your prayers. Let us pray that God's will be realized, but my prayer is that I can return to you all at the earliest possible time. Whatever I may be able to do, I'll do so with all my love. Devotedly in our Lord and lady, Father Yontz."
If you did not know the monsignor, this letter should show you quite simply who he was. And if you did know him, it should serve to remind you of what a blessing he was and why he is still so loved and missed.
I would like to add that there has been a memorial brick for monsignor placed at the Veterans Memorial Fountain at Fort Steuben Park on South Third Street in Steubenville. Since his remains are buried so far away, it may be a nice place to stop and ponder a beloved and dear pastor and friend.