Parishioners, friends and supporters of the Shrine Church of St, Stanislaus in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood gathered on May 11 to honor Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries with the 2018 Four Eagle Award.
The presentation was made during a banquet at Tremont Cityside Ballroom.
After expressing his appreciation for the honor, the bishop said he “feels good and will help Bishop (Nelson) Perez as much as I can. Take the wonderful gift of love that God shared with us and truly live your faith,” he told those gathered for the event. “Knowing Jesus lives within us is all we need. May God’s blessing be with all of us forever,” he said, closing with his signature line: “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.”
The award was presented by Father Erich Orzech, St. Stanislaus pastor. He said it has been given annually since 2003 to an individual or an organization that has been “especially noteworthy in building up the greater St. Stanislaus community.”
Bishop Gries received a gold and silver medallion featuring a cross surrounded by four eagles. The award is drawn from an old Polish legend dating back more than 1,000 years. The original legend said that any major leader who fell in the middle of battle with the enemy would find his body protected by four eagles that flew from to the site from the four corners of the world.
In 1079, Bishop Stanislaus Szczepanowski of Krakow, the patron saint of Poland, was martyred, dismembered and his body tossed into a pond. The legend said that his remains were surrounded by the four eagles until his remains were removed and taken to a place of honor at nearby St. Michael Church.
“The Four Eagles which showed respect and honor for the fallen heroes of the past this year now honor one who, as St. Stanislaus, fought for the good of all people in his years of service as a priest and bishop, a true servant of Jesus and a true servant of the people,” Father Orzech said.
A native of Maple Heights, Bishop Gries attended St. Wenceslas School and Benedictine High School, where he was an honor student and captain of the 1953 East Senate championship football team. He was voted Mr. Benedictine in 1954, an honor given to the senior who best exemplifies the ideals of the high school.
After high school, he attended St. John University in Minnesota and earned a master’s degree in education from Loyola University in Chicago. He entered the Benedictine novitiate in July 1956 and made his profession of vows as a monk of St. Andrew Abbey in 1957, renewing his vows for life in 1960. In 1963, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Clarence Elwell in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
He taught at Benedictine, coached football, was transportation director, assistant principal and principal. He also assisted at many diocesan parishes as a weekend assistant. In 1977, he was named prior of St. Andrew Abbey and was elected abbot on June 9, 1981. He received the abbatial blessing on Aug. 30, 1981.
On April 3, 2001, he was named auxiliary bishop of Cleveland and was ordained on June 7. He retired as auxiliary bishop on Nov. 1, 2013.
Bishop Gries is honorary chaplain to the Carmona Caravan of the Order of Alhambra, protector to the First Catholic Slovak Men’s Union, chaplain to Legatus and spiritual director of Lifeworks Ohio. He is a member of the Slovak Catholic Sokol, first Catholic Slovak Ladies Association and the Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union.
Previous Four Eagle awardees are Ben Stefanski II (2003); Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (2004); Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell (2005); Franciscan friars, Province of the Sacred Heart and Province of the Assumption (2006); Cleveland Police Department, Third District (2007); Cleveland Ward 12 Councilman Anthony Brancatelli and Edward Rybka Jr., Cleveland director of building and housing (2008); Bican Brothers, Fortuna, Golubski, Komorowski and Mosinski Funeral Homes (2009); Richard DiGeronimo for the DiGeronimo family, Precision Environmental and Independence Excavating and Mel Kurtz for the Kurtz family and Kurtz Brothers, Inc. (2010); Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla (2011); Alfred Geis, owner, The Geis Cos. And Katherine Geis, founder and president, The Geis Cos. (2012); St. Stanislaus Alumni Association (2013); Stanislaw Kardinal Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow (2014); Third Federal Foundation (2015); Eugenia Stolarczyk, Polish radio show host (2016); and Judge Raymond Pianka (posthumously, 2017).
The banquet included dinner, a silent auction and music. Proceeds benefit the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus.