Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will take to the air on Palm Sunday -- not as a flying bishop (those are confined to the Church of England) but as guest host of "Amplify" on KDKA-AM. The show airs at 9 p.m. Bishop Zubik's guests will be five diocesan seminarians.
Bishop Zubik is helping to fill in while the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, who has been Amplify's host since 1975, recovers from heart surgery.
Father Lengwin, 71, has always been known as a bit of a health fanatic, so it was a shock when he was found to have seven blockages in his heart, He had no symptoms, but had gone in for a routine check-up. The surgery was Feb. 14 -- he thinks there's a St. Valentine message in that -- and he is recuperating at his sister's home.
Father Lengwin is a vegetarian whose alcohol consumption is confined to Communion. For years he could be seen running the streets of Pittsburgh. But issues with his back and knees forced him to switch to a treadmill, and then heavy administrative duties kept him away from that. Although he retains the position of diocesan spokesman, he has worked outside the communications department in higher echelons of diocesan administration since the early 1990s. He is now vicar general of the diocese, a very important position that essentially makes him the top administrator and troubleshooter for the bishop.
He missed working out and wanted to get his doctor's permission to start exercising again. After the check-up his doctor sent him immediately to a cardiologist. The cardiologist had him in surgery the next day. Everyone who knows him is grateful and amazed that he didn't collapse with a heart attack.
I was able to visit Father Lengwin a couple of weeks ago, and was very glad to see how well he was recuperating. He was starting to take short walks around the neighborhood. He has long enjoyed tending the garden at his sister's house, which was their mother's before that. He was eager to be out among the flowers, but will hire someone to do the mowing. He wants to go back to work, but the bishop and others at 111 Boulevard of the Allies are telling him to take the time to fully recuperate so he doesn't suffer any setbacks. Two priests who have experience in radio and communications have been doing most of the "Amplify" shows.
I've known Father Lengwin since I arrived in Pittsburgh 24 years ago. Through all sorts of ups and downs, good news and bad, he has always taken my calls and done his best to get me the information I sought. I've never caught him in a lie. He returns reporters' calls at all hours and under all circumstances. That's a rare quality among spokesmen for any large institution, and it's part of the reason that Pittsburgh was never mired in the double scandal of covering up sex abuse cases. I look forward to his return to work, but I too want him to take his time and fully recover.