Many Catholics began their celebration of St. Patrick’s Day at Masses throughout the Diocese of Cleveland on March 17.
St. Colman Parish on Cleveland’s West Side hosted one of the larger gatherings as parishioners joined with families, honorees, marching units and club members from the West Side Irish American Club to fill the church once again for a pre-parade Mass. St. Colman has hosted the WSIA Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass for decades.
At nearby historic St. Patrick’s Church on Bridge Avenue in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, another large crowd attended the annual Mass for the parish’s patron saint, followed by the traditional brunch. About 1,000 people attended the event.
In Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood, St. Patrick Parish on Rocky River Drive celebrated the 169th anniversary of the parish’s first Mass, which took place on March 17, 1848 in a farmhouse. Father Jim Ols shared the story of St. Patrick with the congregation, as well as a few personal stories of growing up in an Irish household in the parish where he now serves as pastor.
He recalled how his Irish grandmother, who served as a housekeeper for the priests at St. Patrick’s for many years, was proud to have both a son and grandson who became priests. Ironically, she died several years ago – on St. Patrick’s Day, he said, adding, “She was a woman of great faith.”
Father Ols also recalled talking to a man whose grandfather helped build the existing church in 1898. “He said his grandfather told him how they hauled the sandstone from Berea to build the church. They were a people of great faith and commitment to God. It’s a privilege to be here today to continue to build the Church and parish.”
At the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland, more than 200 people attended the 10 a.m. Mass prior to the start of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to honor the patron saint of Ireland.
Father Sean Patrick Ralph, cathedral administrator, gave a detailed history of St. Patrick from his birth to a relatively wealthy family in Britain, to his kidnapping at about age 16 by Irish pirates and subsequent six-year enslavement in Ireland.
After escaping and returning to Britain, he began years of theological study before returning to Ireland the late 6th century. He ministered there, eventually becoming a bishop, for the rest of his life. The Irish were pagans, but St. Patrick converted the entire island to the Catholic faith. He was noted for using a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
The Breastplate,” St. Patrick’s poem of faith and trust in God, Is believed to have been composed by him for his victory over paganism. There are several variations of the poem, which was translated from an old Irish text, but the following passages are a part of the Prayer of St. Patrick: “Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
After spending the morning at Mass, thousands of people headed downtown for the 175th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was presented by the United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland. The umbrella group consists of about two dozen Irish organizations who select representatives to help plan and implement the parade. More than 9,000 people marched in the parade, which traveled along Superior Avenue from East 18th Street past the reviewing stand on West Roadway at Public Square, before disbanding at Ontario and Rockwell avenues. Large crowds lined the parade route to cheer on marchers from area schools, parishes, organizations, community groups and more.