St. Rocco Church in Cleveland was the setting for the annual Ave Maria Recognition event.
Sponsored by the Catholic Community Foundation, the event consisted of a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Nelson Perez and a dinner in the St. Rocco Hall. About 150 people attended the recognition event.
“We have a lot to celebrate,” said Bishop Perez, pointing out it was the feast of St. Boniface, bishop and martyr; the Mercedarians, who staff St. Rocco Parish, are celebrating the 800th anniversary of their founding; a Mercedarian sister recently professed vows and more will make their professions this summer; as well as those who donate to the Church.
“When Mary said ‘yes,’ she didn’t comprehend its full meaning,” the bishop said. “That didn’t happen until much later.” The same is true for those who support the Church financially. Bishop Perez said they may not know how much their donation will mean, but it is important.
He recapped some of his experiences as a parish priest and pastor, recalling when he was first appointed pastor of a parish in Philadelphia.
“I was very excited,” he said, but it was short-lived. He soon learned the large parish with a 600-student school was in debt by more than $1 million, had a slew of unpaid bills and barely enough cash to make the next payroll.
“I visited the chapel and said, ‘Lord, you got me into this mess, now help me get out.’”
About a week later, the parish business manager asked to see him and surprised him with the news that a longtime parishioner had died and left a generous sum in her will to the parish.
“She had no idea what her gift – made out of love for the Church – would mean to that parish at that time,” he said. “She had no clue about its impact, but God did. The parish community was in dire need and she literally impacted the parish. I wanted to build a statue for her,” he said.
“God will provide – somehow,” he added.
He also talked about the host, the bread that is transformed into the body of Christ at every Mass. “It’s food for the soul, for the journey. But do you know where the hosts come from?” he asked. The bishop explained that an order of religious sisters made the hosts and he would stop by about every month to pick up the parish’s order. He said the sisters made each one carefully and prayed over them for those who would receive them that they also would be transformed.
“Then about a week later, I would get a bill,” he quipped. “But that’s how the sisters survived. Even those who made the hosts had to eat. It’s all about the mission,” he said, “just like when the Blessed Mother said ‘yes’ to the angel. You give life to the mission of the Church and who knows what will happen as a result,” he told the donors.
“For that, we thank you,” the bishop said.
After dinner, Patrick Grace, director of the Catholic Community Foundation, also thanked the donors for their continuing generosity.
“We couldn’t do this without you,” he said.
New members of the Heritage Society, including a number of priests, were recognized and received certificates.
For more information on planned giving or Catholic estate planning, visit CatholicCommunity.org or call Mary Lou Ozimek, 216-696-6526, Ext. 4070.