Students, faculty and staff of the Academy of St. Bartholomew in Middleburg Heights were joined by parents and parishioners at a Mass on March 5 to celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary. Bishop Nelson Perez was the celebrant and homilist. The liturgy also recognized the 20th anniversary of Father Len Bacik as St. Bartholomew’s pastor.
A large statue of St. Bartholomew, the parish patron saint, was blessed by the bishop that day, also.
During the homily, Bishop Perez told the students that Jesus was not appreciated in his own hometown of Nazareth. According to the day’s Gospel, “They wanted to throw him off a cliff,” he said. But God’s love is very visible, he told them. “It’s like Jesus. Your parents love you; they feed, clothe and house you. These are visible signs of their love. And this school is a visible expression of God’s love. God has loved a lot of people in 60 years,” he quipped.
The bishop remarked about how well-behaved the kindergarteners and first-graders were. He also asked if any of the parents or parishioners in the back half of the church had attended school there. “They used to sit up here where you are,” he told the students.
“And your teachers love you. They help you, they teach you and they give you homework,” he added. “Your principal has been here since the 1800s,” he said, as the students laughed. “First she was a teacher here and now she’s principal.”
He also reminded the students that the support of the parish makes their school possible, and their pastor, Father Bacik, loves and care for all. “He’s been doing this for 20 years. He was ordained in the 1800s,” Bishop Perez said, as the students laughed again.
He asked the children what made their school so special. Their answers included good students, it’s fun, they learn a lot, learn religion, have nice teachers, it feels like family, they celebrate Catholic Schools Week, learn other ways than just from books, have smaller classes, have senior buddies and they have good teachers.
The bishop explained to the children that God’s love is incarnational and it can be seen even 120 years from now. He asked them to be kind to their teachers and to let their parents know they love and appreciate them by giving them a hug that night.
“You’re a part of your history,” Father Bacik told the bishop as Mass ended. “As you shepherd the congregation you lead, it’s important that they see you. And thank you for accepting the Holy Father’s call to Northeast Ohio. Thank you for being you,” he added.
The students sang the school song before heading back to class.
Before touring the school, Bishop Perez greeted parents and parishioners and posed for a few photos. He even signed autographs for members of the school choir who sang at Mass.Then he headed to the school building, where a couple of students and Principal Elizabeth Palascak led him on a tour. He stopped in several classrooms and chatted briefly with the Spanish class before heading to lunch.
Representatives of grades K-8 enjoyed pizza, salad and cookies with the bishop and were able to talk to him one-on-one for a few minutes before returning to class. The bishop also took time to have a photo taken with the students.