Service is the hallmark of St. Albert the Great School and Parish in North Royalton.
In fact, when Bishop Nelson Perez visited the school recently to celebrate Mass and take a tour, he learned that all children/families from the school joined 2,200 parishioners in the parish’s sixth annual Parish Service Day on Oct 13. Participants were involved in 175 service projects of need throughout Cuyahoga County that day.
“I am so impressed with your service day when you give the gift of your time and talent,” the bishop said.
Besides the strong commitment to service and the fact that school has won two National Blue Ribbon Awards, the bishop questioned students about what else made St. Albert School so great. “Those are pretty awesome, but what else distinguishes your school?” he asked.
Eager students responded with things like the teachers, the priests, cookies, fundraisers, programs, the library, lunch and studying about Jesus.
“That’s it,” the bishop said. “That is what distinguishes your school from others. You can study math, science and other subjects in any school. But in a Catholic school, what is at the heart and what makes it unique is being expressed now as we gather to celebrate Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.”
All the other things they have – every possession – is a gift from God, he told the students. And gifts, especially the gift of faith, are meant to be shared, he said, explaining that Jesus instructed his disciples to share the gifts they received from God when he told them, “Go.” He said they were to spread God’s Good News across the world.
“The more you share your gifts, the better they are. Keeping them to yourself is being selfish and diminishes the gifts,” he said.
The students should be grateful to their parents for the gift of the opportunity to attend St. Albert School. But he said there is a greater parish community that also makes the gift of St. Albert School possible. Also, the principal, Ed Vittardi, the staff and teachers share their gifts so that the students can take advantage of the quality education they receive at St. Albert’s.
Bishop Perez learned that there are more than 800 students in grades K-8 at St. Albert’s, making it the largest Catholic elementary school in both the Diocese of Cleveland and the city of North Royalton. There are another 120 pupils – ages 3-5 – in the preschool. Vittardi said there are waiting lists for both the day school and preschool.
Each month, one student per homeroom is selected by his/her classmates/teacher to receive the “Friends in Communion” award, which recognizes qualities of faithfulness, empathy, sympathy, compassion, service and more. The winners celebrate at a breakfast with Vittardi, St. Albert Parish pastor Father Ed Estok and parents.
In addition to its two Blue Ribbon Awards, Vittardi said St. Albert’s has been recognized for the past four years as a top workplace by The Plain Dealer.
Ninety-nine percent of the day school children are Catholic, with 98 percent from families registered in the parish. Among the cities the school draws from are Broadview Heights, Parma, Strongsville, Hinckley and Brecksville.
Vittardi and student guides walked the bishop through the school, pointing out things of interest including the media center, which was improved with Rooted in Faith funds, and two sponsored projects: University Hospitals’ STEM lab and the new Fox 8 TV studio. Students also talked about the technology, sports and other offerings at the school. They showed Bishop Perez a large screen in the school lobby with a sign welcoming him. Vittardi said at some point they hope to be able to scan all the school’s eighth-grade class graduation photos and incorporate them into the unit so visitors can scan through them instead of having to walk through the hallways seeking a particular photo.
As for the parish, which was established in 1959, Father Estok said there are 4,000 registered households — about 11,500 parishioners. St. Albert Parish is in the midst of a master plan called “Building Faith: A New Generation,” which is proposing a $10 million parish ministry center.
In addition to Father Estok, there are two parochial vicars, Father John Pfeifer and Father Joseph Kim, both of whom concelebrated the school Mass on Oct. 19. The parish staff also includes a permanent deacon, Thaddeus Bizon, a religious sister and several lay people.