Chilly, rainy weather didn’t deter about 200 Holy Name Society members, guests and priests from attending the 63rd annual Bishop’s Award Banquet on Oct. 28 – Priesthood Sunday — at Holy Spirit Parish Hall in Garfield Heights. The group welcomed Bishop Nelson Perez as its special guest. The bishop spoke briefly and helped present the evening’s awards.
The event also celebrated the 30th anniversary of Father Thomas Haren, pastor of St. Monica Parish in Garfield Heights, as spiritual director of the Cleveland Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies. He was appointed to the position on Dec. 1, 1988 by Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla.
The group also learned of a special Christmas project being sponsored by St. Monica’s Holy Name, “Help Put Christ Back Into Christmas.” They tried the project several years ago as a parish initiative and when someone inquired about it this year, they decided to revive it and offer the signs to any other interested Holy Name groups for wider distribution.
“One of the best ways to honor Christ is to respect him at Christmas,” Father Haren said. Holy Name groups can order yard signs carrying that message that people can purchase and display in their yards or at their businesses. The signs are 16 inches by 22 inches and feature a silhouette-style drawing of the Nativity. Cost is $3 per sign. They come with a metal stake that can be secured in the ground. For more information on the signs, call Tom Vaughan at 216-663-8837. Orders must be placed by Nov. 10.
The Medallion Circle Awards, the evening’s highest honors, were presented to Father Doug Brown, pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood, and Marie Webster of St. Matthew Parish in Akron. The award was established in 1963 and it is presented to religious and laity for dedication and excellence in working for the honor and glory of God through the Confraternity of the Holy Name.
Father Brown received the silver award, which is presented to priests and deacons. Webster received the bronze medallion, which is for laity.
The Distinguished Service Award, which was established in 1991, was presented to three longtime Holy Name Society members who have served as officers, chaired projects and provided meaningful service to the organization. Honorees were Joseph Leone, Queen of Heaven Parish, Uniontown; William Kozak, St. Mary Parish in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood; and William Skladany, St. Monica Parish, Garfield Heights.
Two special diocesan awards, the John M. Kovach Award and the O. Robert Miller Spirit Award, also were presented at the banquet.
The John M. Kovach Award is for members who have served the Holy Name Society in at least three of the four levels of the organization — parish, deanery, diocesan and/or national. Stephen Melchioris from St. Bridget of Kildare Parish in Parma, is the 2018 honoree. A former member of St. Ignatius Parish in Cleveland, Melchioris has been involved in Holy Name for 37 years and has served at three of the levels.
The O. Robert Miller Spirit Award is presented to Holy Name Society members who have been with the organization five years or less. It was established in 1991 to recognize enthusiastic, newer members.
This year’s honorees are Patrick McCune and Bradley Herchick, both from St. Bridget of Kildare Parish in Parma.
Bishop Perez told the assembly that he was pleased to be with them to celebrate, noting that the Church of Cleveland couldn’t do what it does without dedicated people like those in the Holy Name Society. He compared the Church of the 1950s with today’s Church, pointing out how many more religious – both priests and religious sisters – there were back then. “At my childhood parish, we had seven priests,” the bishop said. “Imagine that.”
He said there were roles for the priests and religious sisters but not for the laity. However, since the Second Vatican Council, things have changed. “You do incredible work for the Church,” he said. The bishop also complimented the group on the Put Christ Back Into Christmas initiative “I’m so glad you’re doing this,” he added.
Bishop Perez also mentioned the seminary, where 96 men are in formation for the priesthood. Most are from the Diocese of Cleveland; some are from the Diocese of Youngstown, some are in formation for the Capuchins and other religious orders and some are from dioceses outside the country, like Daegu, South Korea.
“Our seminary is at capacity and most of the seminarians are ours,” he said. ”We are so blessed. This reflects a vibrant Church in Cleveland of which you are a part.”
The bishop also touched on the clerical sex abuse scandal, noting that much work has been done in the diocese and beyond, but much more still needs to be done. “The Spirit continues to guide and mold the Church into the likeness of Christ and we’re not done yet.” He said the Church must remain grounded in the Lord in order to get through this situation.
But there are two types of church Bishop Perez explained: church with small letters – the people who come and go – and Church with a capital letter meaning the mystical body of Christ.
“That Church – the mystical body of Christ — has been the constant throughout time while life happens around it. That’s where we need to be rooted. A true missionary knows that Jesus walks with him, breathes with him and works with him. Without him, we lack vigor and compassion.”
The program also featured a prayer by Deacon Joseph Litke from Holy Family Parish in Parma, assistant spiritual director of the Cleveland Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies; recitation of the pledge of allegiance led by Victor Nemec, vice president of St. Mary (Collinwood) Holy Name Society and recording secretary of the diocesan union; remarks by Edward Briggs, president of the diocesan union; remarks by Father Haren and a blessing by the bishop.