It was a chilly, rainy Monday morning but the nearly 500 students at Lakewood Catholic Academy in grades K-8 warmly welcomed Bishop Nelson Perez to their campus on Dec. 3. The children filed into the gym and sat quietly waiting for Mass to begin.
Brian Sinchak, LCA president, asked the students to give the bishop “an LCA welcome.” In addition to the students, faculty and staff, several LCA board members, parents and friends of the school also attended the liturgy. Sinchak welcomed all to the school as they prepared to celebrate the first Mass as a school during Advent.
During the homily, Bishop Perez asked the students to tell him some reasons that LCA is a special place. One student told him it is “prayerful,” which impressed the bishop.
“Wow,” he said, noting it’s rare that a student would share that as the first thing that is special about the school.
Other students told him they like the great teachers, the fact that they get to pray, Taco Tuesdays for lunch and some of the experiences they’ve had at LCA.
Bishop Perez told the children he wanted them to do something for him when they got home that night: to give their parents a hug and to let them know he asked them to do so.
Then he switched gears, asking the students if they knew what Advent meant. He explained that it is a time of “hopeful waiting” for the coming of Christ. Jesus came into the world just like us except in one way, he said, asking the children if they knew what it was.
“He had no sin. He was totally holy,” Bishop Perez said. He also tried to explain God’s presence by comparing it to Wifi – something that is all around us that we need to connect with. He said we can connect with God through prayer and by being kind.
“God’s presence is here every day in the Eucharist and in each of us. What we do to each other we do for him,” he said, adding that St. Francis Xavier, whose feast was being celebrated that day, shared the news and love of Christ with others.
The bishop asked the students to do one more thing for him.
“I want you to tell someone that you have something to tell them. You figure out who it should be, then tell that person, ‘God loves you.’ Tell that to someone who needs to hear those words,” he said.
After Mass, Sinchak took the bishop on a tour of the three buildings that comprise LCA.
Bishop Perez also ate lunch and had a discussion about Catholic education with board members, administrators and some of the pastors whose parishes support LCA.
The school was opened in August 2005 as a consolidated Catholic school that was formed by the merger of St. Clement, St. James and St. Luke schools. In 2010, the newly merged Transfiguration School, formerly SS. Cyril and Methodius, joined LCA.
LCA earned a Green Ribbon School designation in 2017 from the U. S. Department of Education for its efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness and ensure effective sustainability education. It also is an International Baccalaureate School in conjunction with St. Edward High School.
The school’s 8-acre, lakefront campus dates back to 1891 when it was the home of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine after their arrival in Cleveland from France. The building housed St. Augustine Academy, an all-girls high school, from 1921 until it closed in 2005. When the property became available, LCA began its operation there.
The campus also includes a preschool program for children from age 3 to kindergarten and the Holy Family Learning Center.
For more information on LCA, visit lakewoodcatholicacademy.com.