PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — All the souls at St. Mary during noontime Mass remembered their shepherd Thursday.

“I think he would be very disappointed in us if he thought we were fearful and worried because he has taught us how to trust God,” says church organist Dennis Johnson.

Bishop David Zubik was undergoing back surgery at UPMC Mercy Hospital at 7 a.m. according to Diocesan spokesman Father Ron Lengwin. “When he went into surgery, he was surrounded by a staff, by some of his staff and hospital staff who were very optimistic.”

“My doctors have said they’re a little astounded because my back is like the back of a coal miner,” Bishop Zubik said Wednesday.

Actually, before becoming a priest, the 61-year-old bishop spent two summers working on a labor gang in a steel mill. That may or may not have contributed to his back problems which have been causing increasing pain in his right leg and foot in recent weeks, but his dad also had back trouble.

Dr. Daniel Bursik is heading up the surgical team performing a double laminectomy, a common open-back surgery.

The bishop has two bulging discs. During the operation doctors will try to relieve pressure on the nerve root that’s causing the pain. The thin bony roof or lamina over the spinal cord and canal is removed to give the nerve more space.

Post-surgery, Father Lengwin was smiling. “We did meet with the surgeon, Dr. Bursik, who said that everything went very successful.”

April Bishop Zubik underwent surgery for a couple of herniated discs. This time, he’s been told to clear his calendar until the end of the month.

“Saying this time he would listen to the doctors and he says, ‘I’m doing it publicly so you can hold me to it,’” says Father Lengwin.

Bishop Zubik will remain at the hospital for a few days and then return to his residence at St. Paul Seminary to continue his recovery.

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