There was a sea of red inside St. Eugene Church in Cuyahoga Falls as the parish bell choir performed “Ode to Joy” prior to the installation Mass for Father Pete Colletti, the new pastor,
The church was filled nearly to capacity with parishioners of all ages for the Mass on Oct. 24. Many people, including those involved in ministries, wore red clothing as a sign of parish pride and unity. Bishop Nelson Perez was the Mass celebrant and a half-dozen priests and pastors from nearby Akron parishes concelebrated the liturgy.
“Father Pete told me before Mass he had the jitters,” the bishop said. “I reminded him he’d been a pastor before and that he shouldn’t worry about tonight – he has the next 20 years to worry about,” he said, as the congregation laughed.
Father Colletti, who was ordained in 1984, most recently served 13 years as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Independence. He replaces Father Neil Crosby, who served 17 years as St. Eugene pastor before his death in May. The bishop said Mass was being offered for the intentions of the parish as well as for the late Father Crosby.
Bishop Perez thanked Father Colletti’s parents for making the event possible, adding that while Mrs. Colletti was at Mass, her late husband was watching from heaven. He noted it wasn’t the first time Mrs. Colletti attended a pastor installation Mass for her son. “Just think if he becomes a bishop,” he quipped. “God help us,” she responded, as the congregation laughed.
The bishop reminded Father Colletti of the role of a pastor, reflecting on his own two stints as pastors. “I told the parishioners it wasn’t about me. I came with the ring of a phone and I’ll leave with the ring of a phone.” And that happened twice when he was named pastor of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, once when he was elevated to auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York and again when he was named bishop of Cleveland.
“So don’t answer your phone,” he said to Father Colletti. “Too late,” Father replied, laughing.
The bishop said a parish is the most immediate expression of Church – of the mystical body of Christ. “The celebration of the Eucharist lies at the heart of the parish community,” he added. He also explained that there are two kinds of church – the one with small letters that consists of people who come and go over time and Church with a capital letter that is the constant presence of Christ.
“We all come and go,” Bishop Perez said, noting that most people who helped establish St. Eugene Parish in 1963 probably are no longer around, yet the parish is thriving. He credits the parishioners who heeded Jesus’ words to the disciples when he told them “Go” and spread the Word.
“The future of the Church will depend upon you and how you share the faith. Your faith is a gift and you must give what you have received as a gift. That is the future of St. Eugene Parish,” Bishop Perez said.
The installation included the bishop formally presenting Father Colletti to the parish as the new pastor, his affirmation that he would follow the Church teachings and guide the parish. He also greeted members of the parish staff, Parish Council and Finance Council. Both the bishop and Father Colletti also signed documents formalizing his appointment as pastor.
After Mass, the congregation headed to the parish hall for a reception featuring hundreds of cookies provided by parishioners.